8 Apr 2010

The Slow Thaw

1st March 2010 has brought a continuing, slow thaw. 34F 1c. Two inches of wet, new snow and gales from the tail end of the storm which ravaged Europe. The permafrost of the last three months has turned into a soggy quagmire. A bit tired today but 22 miles is a good start to the new month.

March 2nd 38F, 3C. Sunny with gusty wind to 15m/s. Blew me right across the road when I passed a gap in a hedge going downhill. Survived 15 miles to tell the tale. Looked at the bottom bracket but the bearings seem fine. It may be the knackered chain making the clonking noise when I pedal. Silent when I stop pedalling or pedal backwards so it's not the back axle bearings.

March 3rd nearly 40F! A strong headwind 15m/s made me feel very tired so I came straight home after shopping. I'm wondering if I'm over-training or just run down from a virus? My heels are deep purple and hurting so I'm trying some special cream. I have never had problems with my heels before. They feel dry around the edges and hurt when I walk but not on the bike. I'll try the cycling shoes again now it's safer to walk. 10 miles.

March 4th 29F. Sunny but very cold, blustery wind. I was having a pleasant ride when the thread stripped in the bottom bracket axle of my left crank ten miles from home! It took me an extra half hour to get home having to stop every hundred yards to re-tighten the screw. I called in at a couple of garages to borrow their 14mm socket wrench but the screw just wouldn't hold despite the thread looking perfect.  I'd changed the chain before I left and this had all but stopped the noisy clonking. I had also returned to the standard Trykit gear hanger. Moving the changer under the axle may have given better chain wrap but it slowed the gear change when I finally fitted a decent chain to play with. This also cured the chain jumping around the rear sprocket. I tried to change the bottom bracket set when I got home but the first two I removed from other bikes were continental threads! So I wasted half an hour and had to borrow an axle and cups from the only British frameset I own. The 531 butted Claud Butler. I was once stopped in the street by an eccentric bike fanatic and told it might have been pre-war. As I'd bought it secondhand from a bike shop (and paid far too much for it) I may never know. Perhaps somebody records frame numbers against years? 17 rather difficult miles.

March 5th 19F. -7C. Sunny and almost still. It's early. So off we go again. 

Repair stop. I have often admired that beautiful oak tree. So today it had its portrait taken. The left crank worked loose again despite the new axle. Fortunately I was carrying a 14mm tubular spanner this time and used an Allen key for leverage. It stayed tight for the ten miles home but may need the tapers cleaning on the crank and axle. I find dry joints hold better here than greased surfaces. Whereas the hubs and stub axles of trikes should be greased to ensure easy wheel removal. I found the new wheels very easy to remove once the axle nuts had been loosened.  They came off just by giving them a waggle at opposite sides of the rim.  The gears were working better today and the clonking noises completely gone. I should have changed the chain long before now but feared the road salt would quickly ruin a new chain. There is a cloud of salt in the air behind every vehicle. I can often taste it as they race past.

 I finally found the limits of my big bike bag today. The Higgins shopping trolley became bag lady's trolley for the day. I had to hang my trainers and second fleece jacket off the bag because it was so full of shopping.  It had been very cold at the start of my ride so I had deliberately overdressed. Then I had warmed up by the time I had reached the supermarket so stripped off the jacket, scarf and waistcoat. The trainers were back-up in case I needed to walk home because I wore my cycling shoes again today. Despite the thaw it will be weeks before all the snow and ice has cleared. It is still very cold at night so the melt water often turns to sheet ice in the shadows beneath high hedges and trees. I felt cold going into the slight headwind and my toes became very cold. Then they warmed up again when I turned out of the wind. I don't seem to be able to win this game against winter cold. 23 miles.

March 6th. More snow. We were caught a long way from home in the car in a blizzard yesterday evening. The windscreen kept icing over lifting the wipers off the glass. It took a couple of hours to get home driving on a few inches of inches of snow in the dark and stopping regularly to clear the ice from the screen. Spent a few hours today clearing snow but the roads were still a mess late this afternoon despite the sunshine. It's 10F right now. About -12C.  The forecast was -6C. This won't help to clear the roads. 0 miles today.

March 7th. Cold, windy, icy on minor roads. GPS logger has stopped working. 28miles.

March 8th 8F -2C. Freezing fog. Trees still covered in frost late afternoon. 15 meandering miles on snow and ice in the lanes through hamlet  and village.

Another day. Another road. Another snowdrift. This must be 11 continuous weeks now with at least 6" of snow lying on the lawn.

March 9th 34F, 1C. Freezing fog same as yesterday. A pleasant, late afternoon ride trying to stay off the main roads as much as possible. 26 comfortable miles without the slightest discomfort in my legs. I must be getting fitter. Normally I would notice some stiffness and and aches after a reasonable ride. Today I felt strong and no sensation of having ridden at all. A lot of Brooks Professional saddles are coming up on eBay(UK) but they all make far more than I really want to spend on a secondhand saddle.

March 10th. Out all day. The faulty GPS logger was replaced without any fuss. 0 miles.

March 11th. 34F. Misty with light drizzle. Very little wind. The left crank repeatedly came loose again. It must have stretched around the axle taper over time. It will have to be scrapped. Though I may try a deeply dished washer first to see if that helps. The axle end is flush with the crank surface where the underside of the head of the fixing screw presses via a large, flat washer. Tightening the screw just presses the flat washer against the axle end without any pressure on the crank itself. 

I was attacked by two different, golden retriever, type crosses today. One of them being my idiot neighbour's dog for the umpteenth time!. It was racing in and out of the two-way, 50mph traffic, on a blind bend, in its desperate attempts to attack me. The other was a huge dog which belonged to a farm machinery repair service station on a quiet rural lane. It chased me for over half a mile as I sprinted for all I was worth!  I was doing over 25mph for most of the chase. It only stopped chasing when it lunged at me and put a foot under the left wheel. The back wheels have saved me from a serious bite several times now. Can you imagine if I'd been very elderly or a disabled tricyclist? I'd have been chewed to pieces! No sign of the owners of course.

I'm going to carry a small personal alarm on a cord around my neck in future. Just as an experiment to see if it deters vicious dogs.  If that doesn't work I'm going to carry an alloy tube in spring clips under the top tube to defend myself. It shouldn't be remotely necessary and I quite like dogs in general.  The police presence is so sparse that it would be completely pointless contacting them. It would be more likely to lead to revenge attacks judging by the knuckle dragger's usual behaviour. 19 difficult miles in a figure of eight. Getting slowly wetter and with regular stops for tightening the crank fixing screw and with fast sprints in between. I'm sure there was no mention of employing vicious dogs in the chapter on interval training. At least I have an active GPS logger to record my routes again.

March 12th 40F, 4C. Westerly wind 10m/s. Changed the crank. Then had to swap the pedal, clip and toe-strap. Very little ice remaining on the minor roads now.  No loose dogs today. I took a riding crop just in case I needed to defend myself. It is very light and won't injure a dog. It rests securely and comfortably under the straps of my bag  ready for immediate use. Pepper spray is illegal in Denmark unless wielded by a policeman.  25 miles enjoyable miles up hill and down dale on the roads recently denied to me by the grip of winter.

March 13th 40F, 4C. Sunny periods, wind picking up to 12 m/s. I bought a new chain today but haven't fitted it yet. I'm fed up with the clonking coming and going. A meandering ride along minor roads full of new potholes. They spent a fortune moving hills and making lakes to build a huge golf course but now let the roads going there literally fall to pieces. There are places where there is nowhere left to ride on smooth tarmac. I have to pick my way slowly through the crumbling gravel and deep, water-filled holes. I'm pushing myself harder on hills to build up my strength and fitness. My legs are no longer getting thinner but are finally beginning to build muscle  mass. Particularly on my thighs. I was too warm again today in a single fleece jacket but it wasn't warm enough to take it off.  So I took the Thinsulate hat off instead. Time for thinner gloves and a cooler hat. Losing the skiing tights might help too. Will have to adjust my wardrobe again as spring has sprung. Winter still hanging on in the shade and on north facing slopes. Woodpeckers tapping in the trees, birds of prey soaring and crying and birdsong in the hedges. Groups of Whooper swans in the fields and overhead. 21 rather bumpy miles.

Sunday 14th March. Cloudy with sunny periods. 36-40F. Unpleasantly windy. I rode to the end of a peninsula called Helnæs. (pronounced Hell-ness) A popular, but totally unspoilt, holiday destination with quite a number of summer houses hidden well away from the narrow, meandering roads. Most of Helnæs is open fields with a few woods here and there.

A narrow, winding causeway separates the choppy, open sea on one side from the stillness of the frozen bay on the other.

The view of the causeway looking towards Assens on the return journey. It is difficult to capture the causeway from the other end because the land is so low lying.  There is a handy viewpoint on top of a low hill right at the beginning of the peninsula. The riding crop is proving useful here as a parking brake.

On the causeway looking back towards the Helnæs peninsula. It was very cold in the wind with my eyes and nose streaming and my hands frozen as I held the camera without gloves. Some snow remains  on the frozen sea on the left. Lots of sea birds standing about on the ice. The sharp-eyed will notice the white lighthouse on the extreme right. It is an impressive sight when seen close-to.

Sculpted by the wind and man. This short hedge is practically the only shelter on this road. With the sea beneath cliffs on both sides only a few hundred yards away the wind was whistling through the trike out in the open.

The trike resting beside the still frozen sea. There are modest houses on the other side of the road. It was once a fishing village but has now been considerably gentrified.  This is the almost closed off bay within the shelter of the peninsula. It is always noticeably smoother than the open sea regardless of weather conditions. The plastic container sitting on top of the bag is to protect my camera from being knocked about.

The chap on the trike is still following me around. I see he has the same orange lenses in his cycling glasses as I have now. What a poser! :-)

I managed 35 miles today but it was very hard work at times because of the wind. I should have taken something to eat and drink because I was getting rather hungry and tired towards the end. Milky coffee and a toasted bun, with marmalade, soon revived me when I got home. Though by then it was too late to help me over the last ten miles into the wind. It's now 2 o'clock as I am editing this post and it is snowing heavily! The temperature has dropped like a stone from just above 40F down to 32F! And now the sun has come out into a blue sky!

March 15th. 35F 1C. Late ride to the shops and back. As soon as I started pedalling I could feel the pain in my legs from yesterday's ride. Only 12 Miles.