Sunday, 15 February 2015

Rogers First Route

I went out with Roger today for the second time, we did 34 miles from Cofton to Earlswood Lake.  I was a little aprehensive because of the last time but resolved to banish any doubts and focus on improving my riding compared to the last time out.

Roger was just opening the doors to the side of the house as I pulled onto his drive and I was greeted with a cheery "nice and early then".  We had a quick chat and we agreed Roger would take me out on one of his routes, which I recorded on my Garmin Touring Plus below.

Rogers Route Number 1

We followed some nice B roads out towards the back roads of Longbridge and then onto the Redditch road to the Man ON The Moon:  Roger had explained that prior to the Moon landings this pub was called the Man IN the Moon and was renamed after the moon landings and was attended by a host of American dignitaries. 

Just before the Man on The Moon, we threw the front chain, the bike was booked in for a service the following week and Roger explained the front chain may need some tensioning, he explained the need to synchronise the pedals on a Tandem, which I grasped fairly quickly.  I refitted the chain and we were off in about a minute.

We turned right at the island headed out towards Earlswood, I was feeling much more in tune with the bike and really enjoying myself.  I felt we had much more of a rhythm and I concentrated on taking it easy and not really pushing things too hard.

One of the funny things I have experienced and Roger confirms is that a few people have asked, "who steers"??  I find this amusing when I explain I am up front...    What is amazining is that you don't need a Sat Nav when you have Roger, he has his entire routes committed to memory and calls out the turns and navigational instructions with an accuracy that I would love from my Garmin!

There was a small shaky moment when heading quite fast down hill that a side wind hit us and threatened to drive me to close to the Kerb and into a fissure in the road about 5 ft long that would have nicely shredded any tyre, fortunatley I steered us clear I think Roger was blissfully unaware!  A little later on I described a hole in the road as a meteor strike it was about half a wheels depth and covered a 3rd of the road...  I wonder how many cars that has claimed!

We stopped off for a coffee at the Manor House Tea rooms in the grounds of the Earlswood Lakes craft centre, well worth another visit at some point.  I wasn't feeling hungry I had eaten a bacon sandwich earlier in the morning so Roger chomped down on a bacon and egg sandwich whilst I enjoyed my coffee. 

Roger & I leaving the little cafe
As we exited the cafe I was greeted by two boistrous pugs who were extreemely curious about my gloves and one tried to make off with one, the other investigated Rogers helmet and then they bounded off for a tug of war with each others leads still hooked on..  The younger a pup appeared to be winning on energy and youth alone.

We had a quick photo taken by the dogs owner, and then a gentleman came round the corner and introduced himself and explained he was also riding a Tandem with his wife who was partially sighted.  She came wandering towards us, we shook hands and I remember thinking how amazing it was that they both still pursued their passion, there are many people who could do with their tenacity!

The whole journey was extreemely good fun, I had that wonderful feeling you get  when flying along quite country roads, almost elation I must have looked a lunatic to other road users as I had a massive grin on my face at certain points.   At one point on a particularly long stretch I could almost hear Toad from toad hall sitting in the middle of the road going "beep beep"...

We had a lot of banter and telling each other stories and then headed back for an enjoyable but uneventful ride home.

We were greeted by Rogers wife, who immediately supplied me with cold drinks, I had a quick tug of war with his blind dog and was pounced on by his cat who has to be the most loving fussy animal I have ever met, I am not a cat person but this one with her strange copper tinge to his tabby fur had melted my heart completely and I felt myself pulled in by her every whim to be scratched and petted on command.

Before I left I measured the exact height of my seat so that I could ensure a quick and easy fit next time 11 cm so nice and easy.   We had chatted far too long "my fault entirely" I was enjoying Rogers company.

All in all a successful day and one we will repeat shortly enough, due to holidays on Rogers side and some commitments on mine it will be a month before we cycle together again but I am already looking forward to it.

Saturday, 14 February 2015


I usually carry a writing book with me on a long cycle to record my thoughts, however this has a few issues:

1. Heavy for a decent size notebook.
2. When it rains it gets sodden!
3. It's difficult to get out and put back every time I want to make a note, getting off the bike leaning on something etc...
4. Sometimes I just feel to tired to write
5. By the time I have thought of something gotton off to write it I have forgotten lol

I had decided to buy myself a voice recorder, however my sister jumped in and gave me an unsued Olympus Digital Voice Recorder VN-3500PC which has turned out to be fantastic.


It is easily accessible I can keep it in my cycling jacket, it's very light and I don't even notice it's there.

In LP (long play) mode it can record aprox 54 hrs of voice, I have tested the quality and it's fine for note taking.  If you take it right up to HQ (High Quality) it will only record 8hrs but good for a permanent record if that's what you want.

this should keep a good record of all my thoughts on the journey and allow me to transcribe them as I go.  One of the other major plus's to this is that once you have set the date and time, each file's name contains that date and time, great for keeping notes in order.

Downside:  The only downsides I have found is that it isn't waterproof in any way so I will have to be very careful.  I am going to try and find a waterproof case for it, I am sure there must be something suitable.

Hindu Temples - Prasadam

Last year sometime, I don't remember exactly when I was leaving for one of my cycling trips starting with a train journey from Selly Oak station in Birmingham.  It was early in the morning and having some time to wait I decided to treat myself to a coffee.

There is a tiny coffee shop at the station and  I had seen it many times as I used to commute from this station to Worcester, I noticed that since I had stopped commuting it had changed owners and it was now being run by an asian couple.

I aproached and ordered my coffee, they were happy for me to lean my bike against their counter whilst I fiddled with sweetners and as happens we began talking and the conversation came round to my bike.  They asked if I cycled often and I told them about my trip around the UK coast.  They immediately suggested I should stop at any Hindu/Sikh Temple as they would feed me for free a tradition called "prasadam".  They also said that should I need help or rest they are a wonderful place to go.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia article on Prasadam: Prasadam

It brought back memories from my school days of a visit to the Guru Nanak temple in Birmingham and a visit with my best friends mother to celebrate Diwali.  I have decided to make it a definite goal of my trip to visit a temple so I am now searching for one neare enough to the coast and to try and arrange a visit there.  I am also going to try and visit a few other religions on the way as I have always managed to visit a few churches on most of my trips.

Now I should state that I am an athiest but I think that a religion that brings people peace and promotes unity is a wonderful thing and I have found truly religious people to be accepting of the imperfect and understanding of others so I think this has the potential to open up some wonderful experiences on my journey.

I am going to make a visit to a temple prior to my trip and I will blog about any experiences I have on the way!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Tigra Bike Console powerplus and I really am becoming a technofile...

I was unhappy with placing my phone into the Ortlieb handlebar bag, it doesn't fit well and feels like I will tear the seethrough window.

I did some research and found a product called the Bikeconsole power plus.  Essentially it is a tough shockresistant waterproof mount for your phone.  It comes with an optional external battery and a very sturdy mounting bracket.

I went for the full option as the external battery unit can be charged and discharged at the same time and it has a secondary output port so you can both charge your phone and another device.

My cunning plan is to therefore hook it up to the biologic recharge cache battery so that the dynamo keeps the biologic charging and the biologic cache battery charges the phone cache battery, the output from which will supply both the phone and either the my garmin touring plus or the garmin Virb Camera. 

My feeling is that with 2 x 2100 cache batteries, the internal batteries on the devices and a constant charge from the dynamo I will be fairly self sufficient powerwise, with the optional top up if I happen to be staying over anywhere!  WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG :-)

Here's the unit opened up note the internal plug for the phone and the
two power cables supplied.

Note the left hand is the output from the cache battery and the R/H
is the input from a power source.  The R/H cable screws in to ensure it stays in place.

Bottom view with the bracket which is tightened with an Allen Key.
Note the two round dials they screw into both the battery and phone holder
this ensures that under vibration or shock the units don't fling your phone somewhere.

Top view of the cache battery

Bottom view of the cache battery

Little tip put a bit of double sided tape onto any anti slip rubber
whilst you are fitting the mount, makes it far easier and
neater when tightening it up.

Unit Mounted on the stem you can see the biologic reecharge cache
battery just above.
Note the internal microusb power connector and the shockproof lining.
Don't forget this is IPX4 waterproof.

My first impression is that it is very solid and sturdy but time will tell, I love the way the units allow you to screw them together as I have had similar phone mount units fly apart!

The power points are well thought out, I will point out that it feels fairly heavy due to the cache battery however this will allow me to ditch one of my external batteries and they are almost identical in weight so a real positive there.

It's late and I am going to be doing the 25mile cycle to work in the morning so i will try and revisit this one at a later date and give some feedback after a road test!  You can see the specs in my kit list!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Blind leading the blind

I recently noticed a request on the CTC forum for a volunteer to cycle on a tandem with a visually impaired cyclist.  I put my details forward and was contacted and arranged to meet him.

A few weeks ago I made my way out to meet him and we went for a walk with his guide dog to the Lickey Hills.  I got to see for the first time a blind dog playing up his owner which was fairly funny, it was a nice walk and a good day for a breakfast!

We arranged to meet a few weeks later, unfortunately I have been suffering a very nasty bout of Manflu which being quite deadly required antibiotics and a lay of cycling as my chest was full of it.

Today was the first day I really felt up to cycling and my chest was sufficiently clear, so we met up at about 9:30.  I took his tandem for a quick tootle, the steering felt very alien and the gears were the bar end type non indexed so it was a real learning experience.  A quick set up of the bike for me adjusting the seat height etc.. it is a beautiful looking bike 531 tubing and maintained to perfection!

I came back and picked my host up and we set off, we had agreed to travel to Kings Heath to meet a friend of mine for a quick coffee and then travel back.  The first road out from his house turns right into a very steep hill, it was a cold morning wet and there was a lot of mud on the road.

No sooner had I turned but the bike began to go, I couldn't recover and the handlebars felt like I was holding onto two unruly snakes.  We had slipped on the mud and caught a bump, we fell sideways and I came down with a fair old thud, my host seemed unhurt.  I on the otherhand had given both my knee and elbow a good whack, I have learned from experience unless you have actually damaged something internal, getting back on and cycling is often the best way to ease things up.

I was half expecting my host to call a halt to the experience as it must take an immense amount of trust, he could not have been very impressed with my cycling prowess.  To my surprise we were back on quickly my host before me (I should note he is 70+).  We set off towards my friends and a free coffee!

It was let's say an experience, at first it felt like I was totally out of tune with the bike and it seemed my host and I were totally out of tune in terms of setting up a sympathetic vibration which felt like a permanent wobble from behind which left me fighting the steering.

The bike felt like I had a hugely overloaded set of rear panniers on the back and I was acutely aware of the lack of response compared to my own trusty steed.  Not one to give in I persevered and by one way or another we arrived in one piece.

When we stopped we had agreed to count 123 and push off together the starts were extreemely wobbly however they began to improved when I realised the source of the problem was me, as I pushed off I was immediately hesitating as I waited for my host to kick in, this was a mistake and sent us into a wobbly start each time.  Once I figured this out our starts became more smooth.

Braking was interesting I have become used to disc brakes and rim brakes take more energy and that coupled with the drop handlebars which I hadn't used in a long time meant my hands tired quickly and i had some numbness issues which were more from my death grip than uncomfort.

We stopped at my friend Martins where we had a free coffee but he was in a hurry, it was boomerang weather and he was itching to get out, he makes and flies his own boomerangs in competition.  My host was amazingly calm as Martin whizzed very light boomerangs around the room and behind him whilst we talked... an experience in itself.  My host asked what the clapping was and Martin explained that was him catching the boomerang he was whizzing round the room... my host never even raised an eyebrow!!!  Martin explained they were very light almost paper thin and would not be able to hurt, he calls them Roomerangs.

The journey back improved slightly and there were moments when the bike felt smooth and my confidence increased.   I asked my host if he wanted to go out again, I was listening to his voice for hesitance but there was none and we have agreed to go out together next week on a longer run.

This is going to be a work in progress I am learning again and it is an entirely new skill set, I will have to become more intune with my host and vica versa.  I am hoping this will be the start of a new friendship and a different aspect to my cycling.

My overall feeling was one of admiration for my host and a feeling of privelage that he had trusted me and given me an opportunity to experience something quite different!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

A new frame & a monumentours mapping decision!

I have been eyeing up a steel frame for my bike for a while...  I have looked at various options and I wanted to stick with a hybrid style geometry/touring setup.  During my research I came across a bike called the Fairdale weekender and one thing led to another and there was a fairdale frame going incredibly cheaply brand new from the shop...  I have ordered it along with a headset and new bottom bracket.

Frame in Black
I want to paint in orange with aluminium embossed
 Here is the only snag.. I am getting made some aluminium letters to go on the bike with the idea of stripping the frame and getting it powdercoated orange with the letters embossing the frame..

Will I have time to get it all done...  Or should I just transfer everything over to the new frame asap...  can't make my mind up!!  Is it worth the extra trouble...

I also came to a monumental decision regarding routing...  I am sick to the back teeth of GPS maps, routing none of it seems to work quite right for me the gps doesn't like sticking to the routes I plan etc...

So I have made a decision, I am going to list all of the places I want to visit in order and locate a conveninet address in that place along my route.  I will print that out and carry it with me as my guide and use the sat nav to route to each postcode in turn.   I found this method the most enjoyable previously so thats the way I am going to do it for the whole trip.

It will leave some mystery to the route, enable me to recalculate on the fly and i won't feel totally reliant!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

The fundamental interconnectedness of all things!

For any fans of Douglas Adams and his less well known Dirk Gently novels you may be familliar with the concept of "The fundamental interconnectedness of all things!", bear with there is a point!

From Devian Art

I noticed a topic on the CTC forum of a user not happy with the mapping on his Garmin Touring Plus.. something which has really bugged me, specifically the fact that no matter what I seem to do it won't stay on an A road!

Well one of the contributors pointed out that you can download the other garmin maps to the edge touring plus, my first instinct was to say NOOOOOOO you can't because i looked before, instead i questioned and did a check, sure enough they now say you can!

I have ordered the new maps and with baited breath await trying them as an alternative to the open street maps!

Well not only may this have given me the solution I was looking for but also another free alternative called Velomaps which another contributer says work with the garmin, this is getting better!  Another user then offered to burn them to DVD for me (the velo not the garmin) and then I had a phonecall with the contributer who turns out to be a keen cyclist of many years and a thoroughly nice guy, I am going out to meet him in Stratford upon Avon, so that's going to be a good excuse for a cycle :-)

Even better during the conversation he mentioned the name of an Author that cycled around the UK someone I hadn't heard of before Nick Sanders, he said the book was no longer in print, however a quick search on Amazon I got the book and another by him for 1p each + £2.90.00 p&p can't beat that.

I will do an update on the Garmin Unit when I have tried the maps out!  So what has that got to do with Dirk Gently...  well I am sure you can work that one out for yourself.