Twycrosser

Nice and dry again this afternoon. Cloudy though, and colder than I expected. I’d been fermenting thoughts of doing an adventurous apres-work Fondo, perhaps over the Northamptonshire border and back. But a couple of minutes out in the cold air put paid to that idea. I decided to do a Twycrosser instead.

I’d intended to take the San Giovanni turn at Sheepy which would have seen me home on about 25 miles, but I continued on to Ratcliffe Culey on autopilot. Back on 28.26 miles.

I’m used to farmy smells by now. In fact I quite like them but the stench going south a few miles north of Twycross was overpowering. Like being forced to inhale next to a diarrhetic cow’s rear end while it was doing its unfortunate business. I could see some sort of spraying going on in the field to my left so I assume that was it.

I trialled a new torch as a front light. I have to admit I now have something of a fetish for LED bike lighting. This one is stunning – I’m convinced its beam could be seen from the surface of the Moon. A little bit bulky though.

Not altogether enjoyable in the cold and dark, but I’m glad to have got out. Perhaps I’ll do Northamptonshire and back at the weekend. At the moment the forecast says Saturday will be colder, but Sunday will be windier.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4879332172

Hoo Hill and Coton

Another belting, sunny day and if I hadn’t been on call I probably would have had a run out east to Belvoir Castle and back. Instead, I had to stay relatively close to home. I had the idea of doing a sort of Twycrosser, with an excursion down the road I took to Historic Warwickshire on a ride a few months ago.

I took the X again, and did that. I detoured Twycross voar Orton. Not long after I took the unfamiliar road from the crossroads near Pinwall, I realised I’d missed a turn. But I wasn’t bothered as I wasn’t going anywhere in particular and in any case I was starting to get cold feet about being too far from base. I turned back after a couple of miles near a place called St Leonard’s Chapel.

But instead of going all the way back to the main road I took a left turn along a road called Warton Lane. Thought it might be fun to try and navigate my way back along an unfamiliar road. I followed signs to Austrey and was back on a familiar route a few miles later. Found my way to Sheepy and made my way homeward a familiar way from there along Bosworth Road, then up through Barton in the Beads, Odstone et al.

As I approached Measham I had the idea of doing the old westward route through Netherseal. I did that as far as Coton in the Elms then came home through Packington.

Home on 63.29 miles, the second Fondo of February and the third of the year. That brings the February total to 350, 87 over target so I’ve more than made up for the January deficit.

I listened to 6 Music, then the audiobook version of Jews Don’t Count, narrated by the author, David Baddiel, himself. A very thoughtful and well-argued piece about how identity politics tends to overlook anti-semitism. I’m not a fan of identity politics myself but it’s more about the inconsistency, and he does make a compelling case. I got through the whole thing in one go. It’s a short book. Naturally I didn’t agree with everything Baddiel says – he can be a bit of a left-wing troll at times and it would be amazing if I did. There are unnecessary and stupid remarks about Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock in passing, and there’s an anecdote involving David Cameron that he uses to make a point I flatly disagreed with. Nonetheless it’s a worthwhile listen.

Saw a crow having a bath in a deep roadside puddle near Netherseal. Don’t think I’ve seen that before.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4867178372

Diseworth Again

Another nice afternoon. Only did 17 miles yesterday so I thought my old knees wouldn’t mind another modest run out without a day off. I left early and took the X again, partly because I was curious to observe the gear-changing behaviour, and partly because it was fun to ride it again yesterday.

By applying a deliberate light touch, I was able to get it to change gear at the back a couple of times without skipping a cog. Started to think the cable might be too tight. I’ll fiddle with it tomorrow. In the meantime, it’s quite usable.

Annoyingly my Xoss bike computer started to display the battery warning after about 3.5 miles. I stopped it after 4 and used my Casio watch for the rest of the ride, but the first 4 haven’t made it to Strava yet.

Nothing very exciting – up to Diseworth via Belton and down Top Brand.

A man driving a large oncoming van stopped and leaned out of his window to gesticulate at me not long after Diseworth. “I’d turn round and g’back unless you want a puncture”, he said. “Unbelievable!” he continued. “Never seen owt like it”.

I could only imagine that the road ahead of me was strewn with broken glass but in fact it was strewn with tiny bits of twig removed from the hedgerows by one of those tractor-mounted chainsaw style military grade hedge trimmers. I’d seen worse, and I didn’t think it was likely to give me a puncture. It didn’t.

20.86 miles, nice run out in pleasant almost-spring conditions.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4854464020

New Gear Cable Test

Nice afternoon. Sunny, dry and fairly mild. Ideal conditions for testing the gear cable on the X, I thought.

I fitted a new shroud to the right shifter before I set off. It’s a perfect fit as you’d expect, but it doesn’t quite match the left one. The left one has a checked surface for extra grip.

Unsurprisingly, I had to make an adjustment to the new gear cable tension shortly after setting off. I couldn’t get into the biggest three cogs at the back at all. But I made a couple of stops over the first five minutes to fiddle with the adjuster, and all was well after that. Or at least it was changing up and down, slick as you like, exactly like it used to.

But here’s the weird thing. I kept an eye on the rear cassette during  the ride to make sure all was well, and I spotted that every time I shifted up or down, it was shifting two cogs at a time! The thing is – I’m convinced it’s always been like that; I’ve just never noticed. And certainly I don’t see how a new gear cable could cause that. It’s an 11 speed cassette and it’s perfectly usable, but that’s a bit of a mystery. I bought the bike direct from Planet X so it must have been set up that way by one of their mechanics.

Anyway – I didn’t go far. Through Coleorton to the top of Top Brand, across to Belton and back along Ashby Road. Nice run out in the sunshine, albeit brief. Didn’t have much time.

Annoyingly I nudged the bike computer into “pause” mode during one of the thumbwheel adjuster stops and only noticed about a mile later. But I’ve adjusted the distance for the spreadsheet.

17.04 miles, 266 this month. More tomorrow I think, then Sunday. Sunday looks glorious weather-wise but I’ll be on call. I may try to find a victim to cover that tomorrow.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4848670342

Nearly Eastwell

A day off work today. I’d booked it in anticipation of cycling weather. However it was rainy this morning so I used the spare time on wrestling with the SRAM shifter on my Planet X. I had to unscrew a side plate to get the old cable out, but once I’d done that it was fairly easy. I did however split the shroud (unless it was already split) but I’ve ordered another one from Wiggle.

The tiny screws holding the side plate on are a bit cheap and I slightly distressed one of them trying to unscrew it, but I put a touch of grease on it when I fitted it again and made sure not to overtighten. Next time I need to change the rear cable I may just tape the plate in place, it should be secure enough under the shroud.

Got the new cable fitted nicely, clamped down and crimped. I haven’t thoroughly adjusted the tension but I’ll do that some other time. One nice thing is that there’s absolutely loads of range to loosen and tighten in the thumb adjuster at the back, and – given that it was working fine when I took the old cable off – that should be all I need to tinker with to get it working perfectly.

I noticed actually that, on the maintenance stand anyway, before taking the old cable off, I couldn’t actually shift the rear Disraeli into the smallest cog. It must have been set up like that by the mechanics at Planet X and I certainly haven’t ever found myself wishing for an unattainable higher gear so I will just leave it.

So, flush with success at fixing the X, I came back in the house and glanced at the weather forecast. I decided it was good enough for the February Fondo, even though I’d be setting off well after midday and coming back in the dark. After a bit of preparation, I set off on the Tricross at about 12:50.

Pleasantly mild out there and I wore lighter clothing than of late. And a helmet – I decided it was warm enough to go without a woolly hat, although I did regret that when the temperature dropped after sunset. I headed down Heather Lane initially, thinking to do 30 or so miles of the old route westward through Clifton Campville, Coton in the Elms et al – I hadn’t done that one for quite a while. But after half a mile or so I decided that the roads on that route might be a bit muddy following the recent wet weather, so I turned round and decided to do the eastbound route instead. Fortunately the wind was very light so the direction didn’t much matter.

If conditions had allowed me to set off earlier in the morning I might have gone as far as the Lincolnshire border or perhaps further, but since I didn’t know how much juice I had left in my head torch and didn’t want to return home too late, I turned for home a mile or two short of Eastwell. I detoured through Diseworth (where I took this pic) and down Top Brand over the last few miles. Came down through Swannington again, something I’ve only done a couple of times over the last few years because it involves a long slog of a climb.

One really annoying thing was that I’d only recently changed the cleat in my left Shimano shoe, and it was a bastard to get out of the left pedal. The pedals on the Tricross are a bit tight. More than once I had a moment of panic when couldn’t get my foot out immediately and thought I was going to topple.

I could adjust them but I’ll settle for using the Muddyfox shoes, which have more worn-in cleats.

I listened to The World At One on R4, then the Big Finish production from 2002 Spare Parts, in which Peter Davison reprises his role as the Fifth Doctor in a story about the genesis of the Cybermen. Quite chilling, and sad. Then I listened to coverage of the PM describing the ‘road map’ to ease the lockdown restrictions in the House of Commons.

I noticed after a couple of miles that my Casio GPS watch was lagging behind my bike computer on the distance count by 0.7 miles. They were still different by the same amount at the end of the ride, and the watch claimed 64.03 miles. However once uploaded, Strava reports 64.73 miles, which agrees with the bike computer to within 30 metres or so. Odd.

So: back on 64.73 miles.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4832031014

249 miles this month, only 14 short of target for February.

Very satisfying day all round; happy to have got the February Fondo in and even happier to have sorted out the X gear cable, despite the collateral damage. But a new pair of shrouds wasn’t expensive.

Sharnford

I wanted to do the February Fondo this weekend. The forecasts for Saturday and Sunday have both changed a few times this last week. Eventually, when it started to look like it was going to rain both days, I booked Monday off, since that was slated to be dry. Eventually that changed to rain as well.

So after a rainy morning, I set off at about 13:45 today hoping to do the requisite 62.14 miles. This afternoon seemed to offer the best opportunity of the three days.

An immoderate wind was blowing from the south, so I set off in that direction. I thought I’d go down to Stoney Stanton and then find my way onto Fosse Way and keep going.

I didn’t quite get as far as Fosse Way, however.  The headwind had been pretty irritating all the way down, but after Sharnford it was intolerable – I was struggling just to keep moving forward. It was raining by this time, as well. I’d done 22 miles at this point. It’s not often I give up on a long ride, but I just couldn’t see myself battling a gale for another 9 miles, so I ran up the white flag and turned back.

The difference this made was extraordinary. I actually didn’t have to pedal for a couple of minutes, until I came to a hill. Soon it stopped raining as well, so I was thoroughly enjoying making my way back home, until I glanced down at my front wheel between Earl Shilton and Kirkby Mallory and noticed that it was travelling right on the very edge of a bit of a cliff edge down a few inches to the ditch on the side of the road. No excuse. I must have lost concentration.

I pondered briefly whether it would be safer just to guide the bike into the ditch and the sticky mud, or try to pull it back from the brink and risk toppling, when the wheel made that decision for me. It slipped over the edge and I came a cropper. I couldn’t unclip in time so I just went over sideways and clattered against the road.

I picked myself up, more embarrassed than injured, and took stock. The bike looked OK. I’d hurt my elbow and my hip, and the fleshy part of my right palm near the wrist, but it was just superficial damage. A young lady driving a car behind me pulled up alongside to check I was OK. I assured her that I was fine and thanked her very sincerely for stopping, but to her great credit she wouldn’t pull away until she was certain I was alright.

I used a disposable facemask that I had in my pocket to remove the sticky mud that was now caked onto the front wheel, and chucked it in the hedge. Sorry. It just wasn’t going back in my pocket. If I’d thought about it I would have used the sandwich bag I was using to carry a sausage roll to take it to the next bin, but I didn’t.

I had no problem riding the bike when I set off again and for a couple of minutes I thought the bike had escaped unscathed, but I noticed that rear upchanges were intermittently sluggish or reluctant. Clearly the collision with the road surface had knocked the rear Disraeli inboard a bit. I inspected it when I got back to the garage and it looks OK apart from cosmetic damage. I might be able to get away with adjusting it, or possibly bending it outboard a touch. But probably the smart thing to do at this stage would be to replace it, it’s done five figures of miles now. I’m just glad I was on the Boardman and not the S Works or the Cannondale. And of course that I didn’t seriously hurt myself.

Listened to footy on 5 Live. Burnley vs West Brom. It was dire and I was about to switch to Gilles Peterson on 6 Music when Mike Dean sent Semi Ajayi off which I thought might liven the game up a bit. But it didn’t really.

Back on 45.29 miles.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4820193823

When I told ‘er indoors about my mishap, she kicked off in a big way about me not wearing a helmet. I’ve done all of this year’s 429 miles in a woolly hat. But to be honest I wasn’t really in danger of knocking my head and I haven’t changed my view on that.

Newbold Verdon

Another respite from the rain this afternoon. Rain this morning, but the roads were dry by late afternoon.

Having taken delivery of a spare inner tube for the Tricross yesterday and checked that the rear tyre was still nice and hard, I decided to take it for a spin to ensure all’s well. I could only afford the time for 25 miles or so. Shame because it was quite pleasant out there, sunny for the first hour or so and mild. I thought I’d do some of the southbound route and come back, since a moderate wind was coming from the south.

I took a detour from Ellistown along Beveridge Lane, just for a change really. I went down as far as Kirkby Lane and looped back up through Newbold Verdon. And as usual I came back via Battram. Very nice run out, back on 25.52 miles. 139 this month and I think I should be able to hit my target for February (263).

Picked up a little bit of light rain near Bagworth, but only for a couple of minutes. I had the impression that the new inner tube rolls better than the old one, but that’s probably something I imagined. Can’t imagine it would make a noticeable difference on a heavy-ish bike.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4809168131

Desford

I surprised myself by fitting a new rear inner tube on the Tricross during my lunch break. And I was tempted to take it out after work but I didn’t now have a spare. Or I thought I didn’t – looking through my Amazon orders this afternoon it turned out I ordered three about a year ago, and I’ve now only used one. But anyway I didn’t have one to hand to take with me, so I took the Boardman.

A moderate wind was blowing from the south so I thought I’d go down to Desford or maybe Kirkby Mallory, and come back up. I did Desford and back. Something of a false start as I decided to head out through Donington le Heath before reminding myself that it tends to be a bit floody that way when it’s been raining (or snowing). So I backtracked after the first couple of miles and started again. Down through Ibstock this time.

Much milder weather despite a stronger wind. All the snow has gone. Unfortunately I dressed over-optimistically lightly and was colder than on Saturday.

Back on 25.99 miles. Not brilliantly enjoyable after sunset really when it was a little bit dank but it didn’t actually rain. The roads near Battram were quite wet though, looks like I may narrowly have avoided some precipitation. I’m just glad to have been able to go out for a ride again.

I have a really cool new head torch with a motion sensor – when it’s on standby you can just wave your hand in front of it to switch it off and on. This is really useful for a route like this with stretches of well illuminated road, when you can save power by just relying on a flashy blinker. But for some reason it doesn’t work with a gloved hand! I solved this by pulling my sleeve back a touch to expose a bit of wrist behind the glove on my right hand, and that worked fine.

I’ve just Googled this and apparently some automatic soap dispensers are considered racist, because they only work on white people’s hands. So perhaps white cycling gloves are the answer, or a bit of reflective strip. I’m not suggesting black people should have to do this to wash their hands, just to be clear.

Anyway – 25.99 miles, 114 this month.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4792974304

Up and Down

I wanted to take the Tricross out today – it’s become my go-to winter bike, I think because there’s something comforting about its robust, tank-like construction in adverse conditions. But I checked the tyres for hardness as usual shortly after opening the garage door, and the rear was completely flat. I hadn’t noticed anything amiss on its last run out so I assume it must have picked up a slow puncture.

Annoying, but that’s why I’ve got two winter bikes! And hopefully the Boardman will keep me going until conditions in the garage are a bit more conducive (ie less cold) for inner tube replacing activities.

I set off shortly after 11am. Bloody cold out there but as usual I had wrapped up like an astronaut. I was on call so I did the usual thing of going north, back down close to home, south, back up. Not too far from base. Up through Coleorton to Tonge, a couple of miles from Donington – then back down to Ashby, Packington, down to Twycross and Sheepy, back up along Gibbet Lane, Shackerstone, Heather, Ibstock.

Really very pleasant, especially for the first couple of hours when the sun was out.

It was supposed to be -3C out there but it didn’t seem too bad. My feet and fingers were a bit cold but I’m sort of used to that now. I only encountered ice on the road a couple of times and was able to find a strip of exposed road through it each time.

While going up Top Brand I saw a bird of prey hovering about 70ft above the road, perfectly stationary in the wind. It seemed to be focusing on the field to my right. Looking for rodents? A kestrel, I think.

I bought the solar version of the Garmin Instinct just before Christmas and took it for its first run out today. I haven’t set up the display to show time of day at the same time as distance yet, but apart from that it was fine. Seems to have a longer battery life than the standard Instinct as well, only partly due to the solar assistance I suspect.

38.15 miles, nice run out.

15 C forecast for next Saturday! And sunset at 5:27pm. More than good enough for the February Fondo if it stays like that, despite an expected 13mph wind. I’m sure the forecast will change anyway.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4781927413

Long Whatton

February, like January, has so far been a dismal cycling month. Just one run out before today, on the 1st. However although it was very cold out there this afternoon it was at least sunny – and more importantly, the roads looked clear and it wasn’t due to snow or rain.

I mounted the Tricross at about 3:30ish and headed eastward, since a moderate wind was supposed to be blowing from the east. I couldn’t go too far because I was on call, and because it was too cold to be out on a bike for hours.

I did wrap up very warm, though. In fact just walking to the garage in all the layers of clothing I’d put on felt like a bit of a workout.

I did a fairly unadventurous route – up through Coalville and Belton, Long Whatton, back down Top Brand. I did 20.66 miles.

I encountered a few icy patches but managed to find a strip of exposed road between them each time, though at one point this involved riding on the wrong side of the road.

Good run out. The temperature dropped a bit after sunset and my fingers and toes started to suffer. But I’m very pleased to have got out on a bike. I’d started to feel like one of those people who put their bike away for the winter and only get it back out in March. Each to their own, but I’m not one of them.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4772630084