Augmented Twycrosser

Lovely cycling weather today. A light wind coming from the east would normally have suggested a Fondo over in that direction, but since I did one only two weeks ago I didn’t really feel like it. Also I’m away next weekend, so spending all day on a bike wouldn’t have gone down well. I decided to do about 40.

I had two ideas to do something a bit unusual. The first was to head off in the direction of a TV transmitter that’s visible in the distance from the road between Norton and Orton which is part of the “Twycross Bypasser” route. I decided to do that. I thought it would be fun to see if I could get there without consulting a map. But as I approached Orton and it came into view in the distance, I decided that it was probably a bit too distant for the distance I wanted to do today. I headed in that rough direction for a bit anyway, and continued on westward rather than taking the left for Sheepy. I’ve only ever done that stretch a couple of times and I’m not sure why really, because it’s delightful along there. Beautifully quiet and easy to tack on to a Twycross Bypasser.

I’m still not sure where the transmitter is and I decided to leave it for today. Perhaps I’ll try it some other time. But for today I decided to embark upon Plan B, which was to do part of the “Dad’s Army” route. I call it that because on the only occasion I’ve done it before, I spent most of the ride listening to old Dad’s Army radio shows. So I took a left along a road called Kisses Barn Lane thinking it would take me to Sheepy or thereabouts, but in fact it turned out to be a shortcut to the road I wanted (the B5000). So I rolled along that for a bit, enjoying the sunshine and the ambience of the countryside in spring, then I decided to go exploring for a bit. I followed a sign to a place called Baddesley Ensor. Unfortunately this mostly involved climbing up a hill for about a mile, before I decided I’d had enough and turned back to roll downhill to rejoin the time-honoured Twycrosser route.

I was surprised to see that the pub at Ratcliffe Culey was closed. Quite a spacious beer garden, but all the benches stacked under a shelter and no-one at home. I wondered if it had gone bust, but I’ve just checked their Facebook page and they intend to open on 17th May. I’d say they’ve missed out on a fair amount of business this weekend.

Back through Bosworth, Barton, Odstone, Burgoland, Swepstone and Ibstock. Really a very nice run out in delightful weather, glad to have done something a bit different. Back on 42.41 miles. Next time I’m out on a bike I’ll most likely be out and about in Teesside.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5149521453

North of Newark

The company I work for has organised a Great Virtual Ride for charity, the idea being that employees in all the various offices worldwide should perform some sort of activity to count towards a particular distance. For the UK it’s the distance between Land’s End and John O’Groats. Although the idea was for people to do a bit in their spare time through the week and add them up, I put myself down for 100 miles and took today off to do them all in one go.

A light wind was forecast from the NE, and I decided to do Newark and back. I first did that route about a year ago and I believe that before today I’d done it no more than twice, which seems a shame as it’s an enjoyable run out. It takes in plenty of villages with shops, and benches and pubs. And it’s mostly flat. The disadvantage is that the road surface is a bit scrubby here and there, especially near Newark where it’s disgraceful with very deteriorated surfaces patched up with lumpy tarmac applied like giant lumps of dark grey chewing gum. It’s also a bit convoluted with lots of turns and junctions. It requires frequent reference to the eTrex.

And to make matters worse I discovered that the track I’d uploaded to the eTrex was over-compressed. I’d shrunk it using a GPX editor to reduce the size. GPX files are pretty small anyway but the old programmer in me likes to have everything at a minimum file and memory size. But in this case I’d overdone it and the subsequent jagged line representing the track didn’t follow the actual roads very closely. Like this:

Despite that it was a really nice run out, apart from Newark itself which was a bit busy with traffic. I ended up going right through Newark and exploring a bit, to places called South Muskham and North Muskham. Bought some food at a garage south of Newark on the way back and had a very pleasant lunch, including a strong iced coffee and a Bounty bar.

The return leg seemed easier, with a bit of a tailwind. But the headwind on the outward leg wasn’t overly troublesome. The temperature was supposed to be 3C when I left the house this morning but if it was, it was a tolerable 3C, although I’d wrapped up warm. I took off a layer from my legs after about 25 miles and thought I’d probably end up taking off a layer under my jersey as well, but although conditions warmed up nicely in the sun, I didn’t need to.

Passed quite a few open pubs with punters in their beer gardens, nice to see. I didn’t bother myself. Listened to my most recent Reacher audiobook, Echo Burning, and 5 Live.

Back on 107.84 miles, the eighth Fondo of the year. 237 done this month.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5126971439

Unusual Twycrosser

Went out to the garage with the intention of going cycling twice this afternoon before being beaten back by hailstones. I finally set off on the Twycross at about 12:50, when I’d decided that it had stopped. About a mile later I was riding through a fog of sideways-flying hail. At least they were small hailstones.

I did an unusual Twycrosser, taking in a quiet little country lane called Redburrow Lane that was recommended to me by a cyclist friend when we were out walking a week ago. It was certainly quiet, but a bit muddy and gritty. Any view there might have been was obscured by tall hedges both sides.

The hail persisted on and off for the first hour but conditions were lovely later on – spring-like and sunny. I did pick up a bit of hail coming north from Bosworth over the last few miles despite it being still very sunny, but since I was riding into a headwind and blues skies with white fluffy clouds were up ahead I knew it wouldn’t last, and it didn’t.

Had to wait for a line of cows to cross the road between Sheepy and Twycross. You can just see them in the pic below.

Sad to see that a pub near Swepstone called the Odd House has changed its name to the rather more run-of-the-mill “Old Crown Inn”. But they had a marquee out sheltering tables and chairs outdoors, so I may go there for a drink tomorrow evening. I noticed that no similar preparations had taken place at San Giovanni at Sheepy, though that’s mainly a restaurant.

Listened to West Ham vs Leicester – a very significant game and Leicester nearly came back from a three goal deficit to level the game late on. But they didn’t.

Really a nice run out, eventually. Back on 31.99 miles.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5109576876

Twycrosser

Rain this morning but the roads were dry-ish by the time I left work. I withdrew the Tricross with the intention of doing 30 miles; the cosy familiarity of a Twycrosser.

A bit windy but milder than I expected. I took a DAB personal radio as usual but there wasn’t a great deal of choice; every BBC station was playing a simultaneous Prince Philip obituary programme. I imagine the Radio 1Xtra listeners were delighted to have an opportunity to listen to Sir Nicholas Soames’ memories of the late Duke from the 1960s.

The usual 5 Live presenters took over after the 5pm news, but even then Prince Philip was the only topic of discussion for the rest of the ride.

I could of course have listened to MP3s or an audiobook, and yet – while I wasn’t really that interested in the Prince Philip content – there’s something of value in listening to real time news during an important moment. There’s a sense of community.

Anyway – nice run out, especially when the sun came out, and despite the wind. I picked up a few spots of rain and it did start to rain properly, though very lightly, about a mile from home. Gave the bike a quick wipe down in the garage. Happy to have had a run out for only the second time this month.

29.66 miles.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5097915285

Eastwell

A cold, cloudy, moderately windy but dry Saturday. I wrapped up quite warm with Long Johns under cycling tights and a few layers on top. The wind was coming from the east for a change so I decided on the classic fondo – Eastwell and back.

I set off at about 09:30 on the Cannondale, a bit later than I’d intended. I hadn’t been out on it for months and spent ages looking for the right Allen key to tighten the handlebar mirror, which had come loose somehow.

Quite a pleasant run out east, although the headwind was annoying and I was too cold. Had a pleasant lunch at the bench at Eastwell.

On the way back I managed to annoy myself by missing the Clawson Lane turn; I’ve done that three times now albeit one of them in a car. So I ended up coming back through Melton Mowbray, rejoining the usual route near Six Hills. Added a few miles, but made a bit of a change I suppose.

I thought I’d end up taking off a couple of layers later on and stuffing them in my backpack, but although I was more comfortable later on, especially when the sun came out for the last 15 miles, I certainly wasn’t too warm.

I stopped at another bench at Belton, about seven miles from home, and had a Bounty bar that I’d bought at the garage shop at Burton on the Wolds, and a tinned Starbucks that I’d brought with me. Very pleasant in the warm sunshine.

Back on 67.41 miles. April fondo done; there shall undoubtedly be another one before the end of the month.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5062372868

Lincolnshire and Rutland

Today was forecast to be the warmest day of the year so far by quite some distance, so I took the afternoon off for a longish ride. I planned a route that would take in a bit of Lincolnshire then descend through Rutland, to tick off the remaining two neighbouring counties for 2021.

The idea was to follow the route I’ve taken to Norfolk a couple of times as far as South Witham, just into Lincolnshire – then pursue a route I haven’t done before, right through Rutland to join my usual route to that county and back at the other end.

I started work at 06:50 this morning so I could leave early and I was away before 1100. Lovely day. I’d got the clothing strategy about right with bare legs and a long sleeve top under a short-sleeve top and a long sleeve jersey. I had to take off the bottom layer and stuff it in my backpack at about midday when I started to feel too warm and was comfortable after that.

I’d uploaded the part of the route from Asfordby across to South Witham then back through Rutland to Asfordby to my eTrex, but I thought I’d probably find my way to South Witham without any trouble and didn’t bother turning it on until I realised I’d missed a turn. But I found my way to Wymondham and the route proper easily enough. I was interested to see that a pub near Wymondham was doing a roaring trade on takeaways, and people were using the tables and chairs in the beer garden. It looked very much like an open pub. I suppose they weren’t selling alcohol to take away, though.

Normally a visit to Rutland involves pedalling half a mile at most over the border then heading home but today’s ride took in eleven miles of England’s smallest county. It really was beautiful in the warm sun; idyllic villages and scenery and very quiet. This, more than anything is why I own a bike (or several). It’s alright doing loops of Twycross and Sheepy Magna and I do enjoy that usually, but exploring new places a decent distance from home in glorious weather is a joy.

To be fair the stretch of East Leicestershire east of Saxby is rather nice as well. Nice and flat. It’s just a shame you have to climb a bunch of hills east of Melton Mowbray to get there.

I stopped at a sort of roadside cabin advertising food and drink near Great Dalby and strolled in, expecting to be greeted by a shop assistant but it was an unmanned farm shop with service provided only by vending machines. There wasn’t a great deal of choice unfortunately – I’d hoped for a cheese sandwich, some chocolate and a bottle of water or orange juice but one vending machine provided only milk (dispensing it directly into litre bottles) and the other only had cake and milkshakes in glass bottles. I bought what I thought was a piece of chocolate cake and a milkshake. The milkshake was really just gloopy pink coloured and very sweet milk and the cake was a strange confection made of chocolate, crushed digestive biscuit and bits of mints and sweets. I consumed all of the gloopy milk and about half of the chocolate mint object at a bench just outside. Wasn’t sure what to do with the glass bottle but I didn’t want to bin it so I just left it on the table. Hopefully someone will recycle it.

Took this pic at the Lincolnshire / Rutland border. I didn’t see a Lincolnshire sign today.

I raised the saddle a few mm before setting off and the riding position is spot on now, I think. It was a nice smooth ride; it doesn’t feel as sharp and agile as the Cannondale or the S Works but it was really comfy. Until the last 30 miles or so by which time I was pretty saddle sore. I think it needs a new saddle, this one definitely doesn’t suit my bum.

I listened to 5 Live until they interviewed the girl who read the poem at Biden’s inauguration and I started to get annoyed. In itself it wouldn’t be so bad but I know they would never bother with an artist who had tried to capture the values of the other side, unless perhaps they were BAME or LGBT and it just seemed to be so emblematic of the one-sided left wing liberal groupthink at the BBC now.

So I switched to 6 Music, but within ten minutes of tuning in to Lesley Anne Hobbs’ show, I was listening to an artist extolling the virtues of taking power from the police, to give it to the “neighbourhoods they terrorise”, ending “all forms of imperialism” and taxing the rich “until they’re impoverished”.

The BBC is something like a running sewer of stupid ideas, now. So I decided to start the next Reacher audiobook. While hitching a ride out of a small Texas town where he’s just chinned a police officer who picked a fight, Reacher is picked up by an attractive woman in an expensive car. She needs his help with something. It’s pretty undemanding stuff but it’s well written for what it is, and it does draw you in. Just the thing for a bike ride.

Anyway – back on 86.66 miles. 425 done this month, well over target. And 1020 done this year which tells me I’m on course to do 4,000 in 2021. That was the sixth Fondo of the year so I’m on course for my target of 24 over the year, as well.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5039709334

Diseworth

Two new quick links arrived from Amazon yesterday. I fitted one of them to the Roubaix this morning. I checked that it was pivoting freely. It was very slightly stiff, but no worse than you’d expect from a newly-fitted link and it wasn’t making the jockey wheels jump on its way round when I operated the pedals by hand.

So I took it out for a test. Also wanted to check that a new mirror was fitted correctly. All good, no problems, no skipping gears. I think the saddle could do with being a few mm higher, I may sort that tomorrow.

Not a bad day – sunny, and the roads were dry despite overnight rain. Quite a strong wind from the west, though, and a bit cold. I made do with 20.46 miles, up Top Brand and up to Diseworth, across to Isley Walton and back down.

Warm sunny weather with a southerly wind forecast for Tuesday – I may take an afternoon off and do Rutland and back.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5019066332

Twycrosser

I examined the dodgy chain link on the Roubaix earlier today, and it turns out that the quick link is actually composed of parts from two manufacturers, ie the outboard half is not the same as the inboard half. It fits together properly but at one end, the shaft is a bit too large for the hole.

Anyway, I’ve ordered a couple of 11 speed quick links and they will arrive tomorrow. It’s not as if I’m short of nice bikes to ride in the meantime.

And with that thought in mind, I withdrew the S Works from the garage after work, having pumped up its tyres and given it a bit of a dusting down at lunchtime. I hadn’t been out on it since September.

I did a Twycrosser. Nice afternoon for it, except that it was a bit breezy. Sunny the whole way round and the bike was an absolute joy, especially with a tailwind. The carbon wheelset makes a big difference, I think.

27.71 miles, which takes me over the March target, to 318 miles. 913 this year, which is 247 less than this time last year. But I’m not bothered about that.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5009782912

Twycrosser

Breezy this afternoon, but sunny. Took the Roubaix out for its maiden voyage. Just 25 miles or so to see if I’d set it up properly. I did a fairly standard Twycrosser, except that I took a detour to the main road at Odstone, because the usual road from there to Heather was closed. Came back home through Ibstock.

First impressions – it rides nicely. Feels sharp and quick, but it’s certainly a comfortable riding position. The shock absorber inserts don’t make a dramatic difference i suspect but it’s a decently smooth ride. The saddle was possibly a little hard and unforgiving. May be just a case of wearing it in, or possibly my 100 mile ride on Saturday had something to do with it.

I noticed a jarring CLUNK coming from the cassette every now and then. I thought it was performing phantom gear changes and tried to adjust it in flight using the thumb adjuster in front of the handlebars, until I realised that it wasn’t actually changing gear. It just felt like the rear gear was slipping for a moment. But shortly after realising that it wasn’t actually performing unsolicited downchanges, I realised that I’d had the same experience before, on the Boardman, with a bent chain link.

Sunset by the time I got back and light was fading in the garage a bit so I didn’t inspect the chain closely, but I mounted the bike onto the wall hanger and spun the pedals. Sure enough the lower jockey wheel was giving a pronounced kick on every cycle of the chain. Definitely a dodgy chain link. Quite pleased really because it will be easier to fix than adjusting a rear Disraeli, although I suppose I’ll have to check that as well after fiddling with the cable tension.

Anyway I shall fit a bar mirror to it, provide it with a spare inner tube and a pump, and take it out again soon hopefully.

26.28 done, 290 this month.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4991942785

Stafford

Not a bad day for cycling – dry, low winds, mild and I was not on call. I intended to do at least a Fondo today but woke up early, got up early and decided to do a 100-miler.

The wind was coming from the west and slated to grow a bit stronger over the course of the day, so a westward trip was decided upon. I thought I’d take the Wales route (or one of them) for 50 miles then come back. I really should have taken the eTrex but I thought I could probably wing it, and I didn’t bother mounting it on the handlebars.

I took the X.

Things went fine until I got to Kings Bromley then took a road signposted to Alrewas – which I hadn’t come to yet, and which I thought was on the route. But I’d already bypassed it several miles previously, so I ended up homeward bound, without actually intending to. I thought it was odd that I’d passed the works at Orgreave (not the one made famous in the Miners’ Strike) on the wrong side of the road.

Anyway I did a U turn when I realised what I’d done, and continued on my merry way. I’d done a pointless 8 miles but at least they were flat. And the aim of the exercise was to do 100 miles, not go anywhere in particular – so I wasn’t bothered.

I decided to take the A513 to Stafford rather than continue on the A51 on the intended route – just to do something a bit different. This was a bit hilly unfortunately, but otherwise pleasant. I arrived at the outskirts of Stafford having done about 44 miles. I had a pleasant lunch sitting on a surprisingly comfortable crash barrier at the edge of some little industrial property then went exploring suburban Stafford a bit, then decided to turn back. The further I went into Stafford, the further I was descending a hill and I didn’t want to bother climbing it. I decided to make up the miles by exploring somewhere else on the way back, maybe near Abbots Bromley or Barton under-Needwood, where it’s nice and flat.

As it happened though I took a preposterous wrong turn near Handsacre. I recovered several miles later after consulting Google Maps by taking a road through Hamstall Ridware to Yoxall. This was unfortunate as it was strewn with mud, stones and grit for miles, but – I got away with it.

I hoped that this error would have added enough distance to save me messing around, but it hadn’t and I ended up tacking on a Twycrosser at the end of the ride.

I made the mistake of letting a queue of cars behind me overtake me past some roadworks controlled by traffic lights when the lights went green near Milford. This ultimately delayed my own transit past the roadworks, to the point that the lights had already gone green at the other end before I’d emerged and I found myself dodging oncoming motor vehicles in a single lane of traffic demarcated by traffic cones. I won’t do that again.

Good run out, I don’t go over that way often. Nice to do some new roads, even as a consequence of navigational errors. But I’ll take the eTrex next time.

100.41 miles, the first 100-miler of the year and a handy shot in the arm for the March campaign, which has been a bit thin. 264 done this month. Another 41 to target.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4980164941