28 Mar 2010

Ever onwards

11th Jan -2C with snow drifting in a strong NE wind. I have swapped my usual soft Thinsulate fleece gloves for a stiffer pair with a tough nylon shell. Another cheap special offer from a local supermarket. These gloves have a rubberised palm extending right up the fingers and thumb. So they offer plenty of grip as well as warmth. No more cold hands! I was quite surprised to see how well Thinsulate scores against home insulation.

The main road wasn't too bad as I headed for the shops but my decision to take a detour back found a weakness in one wheel drive. Wheel spin! Lots of it. The lanes varied from 2-4 " of hard packed snow which had been crumbled in places into a mush by the traffic. Very little tarmac was visible. Every time I hit a deep soft patch it was like jamming on the brakes.  I was trying to keep my speed up around 15mph on this rutted, loose stuff but kept losing momentum. The trike seemed sure-footed in a straight line but the 700 x 23 smooth tyres are not ideal for forward progress in these conditions.  In some places the snowploughs had lifted banks of snow six feet high onto the verges where the snow had been blown straight off the fields. I couldn't take any pictures because my broken (Lumix TZ7) camera screen is still being assessed. Or, hopefully, repaired free of charge.

It was quite hard work on the lanes but a huge relief to escape from the enforced captivity of the house. I think others felt the same because several people have spoken to me outside the supermarkets. The trike seems to act as an ice breaker where an ordinary bicycle is so commonplace in Denmark as to attract no attention. They are mostly pensioners who probably miss having a daily conversation in the bad weather. They recognise something different from the usual adult trike and this sparks their interest.

One of several bike parks near Odense bus and railway station.

Toes a  bit cold despite two pairs of socks and trainers. 12 miles today. Not bad considering the terrible conditions. Riding the main roads, made worse with snow covered bike lanes, just to find clear road surfaces, is really no fun at all. So I didn't persevere. It is supposed to snow all night so I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Snow for a week is just about acceptable but this winter has been going on for far too long already!

Rund om Danmark: The bunch slowing for a village with a blind turn. This image is a scan of a print from my Olympus SLR then downsized for the blog. Photography of such races is best avoided. One misses the action and excitement while concentrating on the camera. It's best to avoid fast stretches too. It is all over before one has time to blink. My wife has saved a drinks bottle hurled towards us by one of the bunch as they roared past but she won't let me use it!

12th Jan: 6" of new snow overnight. Instead of wasting my time trying to ride in it I spent three and a half solid hours clearing the snow from the turning space and the drive. It is quite hard work pushing snow for 50 yards with a curved plywood scraper on a wooden broom handle. No rest (at all) for the wicked! Even after I had pushed it to the place I was going to dump it all I still had to lift  it onto the pile using the scraper like an oversized shovel. I really got some serious exercise clearing those 60 metres (yards) of drive with a good 6" of snow from end to end. Last time it was 16" deep and took us three whole days! This time I pushed it all back to one spot where it could be dumped without blocking the drive. Probably quite a few miles of walking backwards and forwards involved too. I could lie and say I was inspired by all the YouTube videos of Lance Armstrong exercising with weights. Actually, I felt tired just watching him! No triking today then.

A city council sorting yard for lost and stolen bicycles. Less than 1/4 of the total number of bikes are shown here. I believe the usable ones are sent to Eastern Europe by the Fredericia city council. The green container to the left held the scrap bikes. I was not allowed to make an offer on either of the usable tandems which the sorter threw in while I was standing there. "Jobsworth" or just following policy? He certainly wasn't pleased to see me in his territory.

One 1/8th of the stock of a rural village, secondhand bicycle dealer. These stand outside deteriorating all year round and are piled high right to the back of the building on both sides. 

14th Jan 26F -3C.  Cold easterly wind made my eyes water for the first time while wearing the cycling glasses. Overcast, so I'm still using yellow lenses. Only to the shops and back. Just 8 Miles. Bicycle paths, side roads and lanes still covered in snow and ice. Only main roads fairly clear. I wore my winter cycling trousers with the strategically placed rubberised patches and was too warm on the way back. Still good to get out though.

I had my TZ7 camera back from the repairers today. Panasonic accepted LCD screen repair under guarantee. I had 300 images and videos to download and delete. I haven't been able to format the card until now due to a lack of screen menus.

15th Jan 26F -3C. Cold SE wind. The usual detours back from the shops still iced up so I did another loop for 11 miles. Fingers and toes cold and anything above 15mph was very uncomfortable while heading into the wind.  Then I was too warm climbing with a tail wind and had to unzip my jacket to cool off. I'm sick of the sight of snow and ice and having to overdress!

Another 1/8th of the stock piled outside the used bike dealers. The building is similarly packed from floor to ceiling on two floors. It is almost impossible to push through the narrow corridors left for access. A large shed behind the building is also packed from floor to ceiling. The secret behind his massive collection? He charges a minimum of £50 per bike and on upwards into the hundreds of pounds equivalent.

16th Jan Saturday.  -2C. Stronger SE wind and light freezing rain falling. 15 miles on main roads with the cycle lanes still blocked by banks from snow ploughing. Cold headwind all the way back without any shelter from hedges. The white rain felt like needles on my face. My fleece jacket had turned white by the time I came home. Feeling rather tired today.

I nearly ran into the back of a car on a roundabout when the driver suddenly braked hard without warning. Apparently to slam his door shut properly. I grabbed the brakes and just managed to steer between his car and the central island.

17th Jan Sunday.  -3C and overcast. A raw, viciously cold day with the wind 10m/s (25mph)  from the SE. It felt more like -15. Drifting snow lay thick in places even on the main roads from yesterday's gales.

With salt crystals popping under my tyres I headed for a village 10 miles distant to do some shopping. The idea was simply to have a more distant goal to reach despite the awful conditions. To try and increase my daily mileage without being within easy reach of home if I should bottle out. Not a good day for it with the headwind cutting me in half. It seemed to manage to do so for most of the way round.  I should have worn my ski goggles. My eyes watered so much that the yellow plastic lenses were constantly wet and rippling in small waves just below my field of view. They still have the tide mark of salty tears. My hands and feet were really hurting too. Every time I rode downhill it was agonisingly, achingly cold. The wind was blowing straight through my clothing, through me and out of the other side. Leaving my meagre warmth trailing in a thin wake of my own making.

Thank goodness for a tailwind home by a minor road away from the roar of traffic. My nose was still running continuously and the drips freezing in patches on my polyester clad knees. My beard was solid with water ice and frozen snot.  The best bit of the whole trip was thawing my feet out as I walked round in the supermarket at the halfway point. As well as the shopping, I was hoping for a small, plastic food container with a firm, snap-on lid for my camera.  I had decided I needed a bit more protection than the padded vinyl case offered alone. Particularly after the LCD screen had cracked spontaneously. I noticed my toes were purple in the shower.

So, all in all, I enjoyed 23 miles of nearly constant misery and pain. Repeat after me: "I am not a victim. I choose to do this. I am not a victim. I choose to do this." :-)

And now for something completely different: From a past summer to remind me of warmer, sunnier days. An English couple with assorted kids were on a tandem tour and I just happened to arrive in the same car park as they did. There are some long and steep hills at this particular high point of their tour.

Tragically, the best hill (for miles around) has several blind bends on it making it is impossible to capture its full majesty in a single photograph. It has a rather bumpy, paved cycle path alongside to allow cyclists to exhaust themselves without danger from the speeding traffic. The steepest part of the climb is just  below the summit. Just as oxygen debt robs one of all reserves of energy and one's legs are burning in a self-made hell. One emerges from this tree-lined canyon onto an open plateau. To find a fairly level shopping street with several supermarkets. Rather an anticlimax for the tortured cyclist as they gasp for air with leaden legs. I do like a good hill though. Even if I am no longer a suitable match for them all.