30 Apr 2010

Shit happens!

May 1st 2010. It's raining when it should be dry and my knee still hurts from yesterday's collision with the shed door. There are no currant buns and no rolls or bread for toasting. Why are the Danish supermarkets so dreadfully poor at ensuring they have stocks of the basics?  Every visit is a complete lottery with few winners. When I have cycled miles to buy something it is very disappointing to constantly find empty shelves. Will we starve? Read the next exciting episode! (Later) ;-)

My weight is now under 11.5 stone. My hips are finally almost completely free of fat.  Only about 3/4" total thickness when pinched. No extra fat below my belly button at all. About 3/4" total pinch thickness above instead of my former 2"+ thickness "apron" of pot belly,  middle-age spread. My forearms now look half their former girth of only 8 months ago.

In my youth I was around 10.5 stones for quite a few years but I haven't a clue where I have any fat left to lose. Perhaps my bone density is higher these days? It obviously can't be the size of my brain! My lower weight may explain my ability to climb hills more easily than my improved fitness.

I'm now wondering if I should be consuming something extra to combat weight loss and help to build more muscle mass. After losing a lot of bulk on my legs, due to muscle-stripping fat loss, the muscles are now growing larger again. Muscle definition in the calves is much more obvious as well as muscle bulk noticeably increasing. My thighs are also growing more obviously lop-sided. With the typical emphasis on the outer thighs of the keen cyclist and with an "overhang" just above the knees. An no, I do not look like an Olympic sprinter quite yet.

My contacts have mentioned my obvious weight loss even though I was only just over 13 stone at my heaviest. My appetite is slowly improving after years of my feeling constantly rather full. Yet I still don't ever feel really hungry and have still not experienced the dreaded cyclist's "knock". (Where the rider suddenly feels completely exhausted due to low blood sugar)

My diet hasn't really changed to match my increased energy requirements. Though I do have a bowl  of freshly stewed apple with organic yoghurt every day and a larger bowl of home-made organic muesli every morning instead of half a bowl. My wife does keep complaining that I have begun to "hover" at the kitchen door just before meal times.

I still feel that my daily mileage is far too low. With not nearly enough long runs to build real stamina. At a miserable 12 mph I need at least four hours just to do 50 miles! I don't often have four free hours available. Not unless "I disappear all day" on Sundays to quote SWMBO. The only way I can increase my mileage is to increase my speed. It feels as if I am getting much faster all the time but my measuring devices simply don't  agree!

I used to average 12 mph when I was only doing a paltry few miles a day, was overweight and very unfit. Why hasn't my average speed increased with my increased mileage? Should I try thrashing round and around "the block" occasionally to see if I can radically increase my average speed? Perhaps I'm just a slow twitcher rather than a fast twitcher. I'm talking about muscle fibres here. Not bird watching. Which I also enjoy in a relaxed sort of way as I am riding along. 

It rained all morning so I used that as an excuse to rest my injured knee. Then out shopping all afternoon in the car. Home for a thick sandwich of organic multi-grain wholemeal bread, mature cheddar and sliced tomato. Washed down with hot tea then straight out onto  the trike.  Not the brightest idea as I set off to see if I could push my average speed up around an 8 mile circuit.

I was feeling quite dizzy as the blood rushed to my stomach to start digestion thereby robbing my remaining two brain cells of oxygen. I managed 8 miles at an average of 14mph with the trees bending double in the wind before I had to be home again for dinner. The gusts felt like a wall of air was knocking me about. Well, that's my excuse. I was riding a triangular course. One long leg straight  into the wind up a slight incline all the way. Where I could only manage 12-14mph on the drops. Then the wind was at right angle to me on the next leg. The final leg should have put the wind behind me but this leg is well sheltered by trees, houses and high hedges. 14 mph? What a joke! 

May 2nd. 52F, winds light, variable cloud. The temperature stayed about the same all day but felt both cold and warm and windy at different times. Rode to a supermarket to buy the new GPS device and some English beer on special offer. There was only room for 6 one pint cans plus the rest of the shopping. Rode home for a total of 22 miles.

The Ventus G730 GPS logger. The nose pulls off to reveal a standard USB plug. The blue ring lights up brightly. A secure anchor point is provided for the neck strap.

I played with the GPS device while consuming coffee and toasted rolls. Then set off again in the opposite direction, to another branch of the same supermarket , to buy more beer. I managed to get 10 one pint cans in the bag this time as there was nothing else to buy. I can't say I really noticed the extra weight on either occasion. About 12lbs for 10 cans. Knees okay. Saddle okay in the morning but hard in the afternoon. So it's me. Not the saddle. I have modified the bag fixing slightly with two zip ties to the seat stays. Now the bag no longer sways on sharp, bumpy corners.  21 more miles = 43 total for today.

At this point I was going to extol the virtues of my new Ventus GPS G730 device. I ran the disk and loaded the software and driver successfully. Then inserted the GPS dongle into the front USB port to charge its internal battery. The computer promptly crashed! The dongle LED was lit at first but soon went out. I rebooted the computer then tried reinserting the GPS device several times but there was absolutely no response or LEDs lighting up. I will now go through the supplied leaflet and FAQs to see if I can discover the problem. I'm wondering if there is some incompatibility with the I-gotU software which is very similar.Grrr!

The igotU GT-120 has some serious problems with registering speed. I was regularly doing 25-30+ mph on the bike computer today but the GPS device read only 22mph maximum speed for the entire route! I have great hopes for the Ventus GPS logger because it gets a fix every second. My hope is to run both devices side by side for comparison to check their accuracy and functionality. The GT-120 has become very slow at getting a first fix from a cold start recently.

The Ventus is much better presented in both the packaging, technical data provided and construction. The English in the instructions is occasionally a bit "iffy" with a few typos but easily understandable. The device is a bit heavier, is glossy black and almost one and a half times as long as the I-gotU GT-120. The Ventus has a decent, black, quickly detachable neck strap and a sliding, on-off switch. Which is very stiff! I have broken some nails on this switch. It can also cope with multiple rides without getting confused. It is also about half  the price I originally paid for I-gotU. I have no idea how much it will sell for from normal retail outlets. The I-gotU may be more waterproof but has a very poor USB cable with its own proprietary (suicidal) plug.  Simply reversing the special plug kills the GPS device stone dead! That they didn't think to make the plug and socket handed to avoid hara-kiri is completely unforgivable in my opinion.

The Ventus has a standard USB plug firmly attached under a neat, push-on cover and looks rather like a USB memory stick on steroids. (see image above) A bright blue light shames the i-gotU's very weak LEDs hidden right inside the white plastic casing. While they may have chosen this construction to make it more waterproof it almost impossible to see them in ordinary daylight. Which is completely daft because one often needs to check the device is flashing to indicate it had begun to record a route.

Cupping the device in  both hands while trying to ride the trike has caused a few nasty moments. With potholes and large gravel coinciding with my heading blindly for the verge! Clear inserts cast into the plastic case would easily have solved this problem of LED obscurity. Probably at very low cost too.

The big press button on the Ventus is for recording GPS date for photography with a digital camera. On the GT-20 the push button is for switching the device on and off. With a confusing array of flashing LEDS to tell the bewildered owner what is (supposed to be) happening.

We have a new guard dog. He's a real softy unless he's cornered. We call him Sal.

I have now un-installed the Ventus software and driver and downloaded and run the software direct from the Ventus website. It didn't crash this time so hopes are high that 4 hours of charging will give me a second (and hopefully better) GPS device to play with. One odd detail is that, each time I reinsert the Ventus GPS device, Windows reinstalls a driver. It now thinks it's a serial mouse!

Mr Higgins goes IMax. Note how the alien is hiding his pink knees to avoid clashing with the red hazard stripes. I told him that hat was far too tight! Scruffy git! :-)

3rd May. 46F light winds, overcast and rather cool. Tried out the new Ventus GPS logger alongside the i-gotU. Not only did it record the wrong elapsed time (20 minutes out!) but told me I had climbed 8000ft and descended again all in an hour and a half! It has crashed my computer twice more now so I'm giving up on it unless I can get it sorted out soon.  The i-gotU was fine and agreed with the bike computer on my mileage. 16 miles riding in circles to test how they each performed.

If you go down to the woods today...you'll see an explosion of spring greenery. One can almost see the light of summer at the end of the tunnel but only dimly through the undergrowth. I saw two large deer in a lane as I crested the brow of a hill. They ran away into the distance long before I could get my camera out. I need to work on a better way of carrying the camera for quick access. I also missed a great shot of a tractor pulling a giant shit spreader. The brown stuff was shooting out of the back amidst a huge cloud of steam. The back lighting from a low sun was absolutely spectacular. The tractor disappeared behind a hill before I could reach the camera bag. 11 more miles to the shops, later on, for 27 miles total today.

4th May. 46F with a gale blowing. More large deer. Crossing a busy main road this time. Probably flushed out by large machines clearing a long abandoned farmyard of trees. A huge wood chipper was feeding on 8" tree trunks dropped into it by a special tree harvesting machine.

22 miles battling the fierce wind.  Sprayed by two different farmers as I passed their fields! I thought there were rules about spraying and maximum wind speeds but apparently not in Denmark. Winds of 17m/s are over 35mph!

The Ventus GPS device crashed my computer the moment I plugged it in. That's half a dozen time it has happened now. I've had enough. It is definitely going back to the shop! Life is too short to waste on products which don't work and which actively risk my computer. It woke up from auto reboot with a buff coloured, blank screen for quite some time!

5th May. 48F, cool, breezy, cloudy. Full sun was forecast. Took the Ventus G730 GPS logger back and swapped it for a new one. Yet to load the software or test the device. Crashed the computer the moment it was plugged in!!  I was sprayed again by another farmer out spraying in the strong wind. No idea what was being sprayed. No wonder I'm losing weight and getting cold symptoms!

Just to rub it in for Gunnar: ;-) I am now 11st 2lbs, 156lbs or 72kilos still damp from the shower. :-)  38 miles today. Most of it seemed to be into a headwind. I'm still waiting for the weather to warm up. I'm fed  up with wearing jumpers, windproof jackets and winter gloves! My motley collection of cycling jerseys has yet to be warmed by the summer sun.  Despite daily exposure for at least a couple of hours, over a period of at least 3 months, my legs are still officially off-white and pink. (i.e. Not remotely tanned) Where can I claim a refund?

6th May. 46F, cool and blowing a gale. Both GPS loggers behaved themselves but failed to agree, by one mile, on the distance travelled. They bracketed the bike computer with a tyre setting of 2120 for 700x23. 28 miles today, judged by the GT-120. 29.5 by the Ventus G730. The G730 seems to "wander aimlessly" much more when I'm in the shops whereas the GT-120 has almost completely stopped behaving like this. (which it did a great deal at first) I may be able to reduce this random wandering with the options in the supplied software.  It is very irritating to have a childish, wobbly star drawn around my stopping places on the route map. I heard my first cuckoo of 2010 today.

 I was overtaken by a chap out training on a posh racing bike. Can't pass up a chance to measure my speed and stamina but I really struggled to try and keep up with him. He was going well (and effortlessly) at ~24 mph to my previous 22mph on the flat road. That is until he made the mistake of taking to the bicycle path and promptly punctured on the countless pieces of large gravel and glass strewn there!

At first it was a slow puncture so he was able to recover, pull alongside, then ask about local bike shops. Then pulled away on a big, steep hill as I panted along behind him as best I could. His tyre went completely flat at the top so I had to guide him to the nearest bike shop for repairs.

Later, I had a nice chat with a lady outside a supermarket who was interested in the trike. She was a member of a local group of cyclists who enjoyed a weekly exercise ride of about 18-20 kilometres. Rain forecast for the next few days. Right knee aching badly on the stairs. More a result of tidying the shed than cycling, I think.

7th May. 40F, overcast, blowing a gale and raining on and off all morning. Supposed to be a rest day but I still went to the shops. No problems with my knee today. The G730 GPS logger is drawing long, random side trips and counting the extra mileage! 14 miles by GT-120 and bike computer. 19 by G730!

8th May. 40F. Rain. Cold. Not much time for more than a quick shopping trip today. 14 miles.

9th May. 52F. Still felt cool at first. Sunny periods, winds light. Rode to the shore then wandered the lanes. The pictures show a particularly attractive village pond just as the leaves are bursting out of the trees. The ducks came over to say hello but I had nothing to give them.

Outside a village shop an elderly chap dressed as  a Danish farmer came up and started chatting. He seemed to think I was a real Viking for having bare legs when it was so cold. My Danish must be improving. :-)

The G730 GPS logger is still misbehaving by drawing silly squiggles and adding the extra mileage.  I have changed the settings to 3 seconds per fix to see if it helps.  28 miles today (on the GT-120)

10th May. 48-50F. Breezy with sunny periods. 22 miles by GT-120 and bike computer. 29 miles by G730! 8-(

11th. Just time for an early ride to the bakers in bright sunshine. 17 miles.

12th May. 40F, blowing a gale and raining from morning to night. Family members were visiting from England so there was absolutely no pressure to go out. (at all)

The 13th lived up to its name. The chain came off just as I was sprinting away from home in a high gear. I hit the handlebars really hard just above the knee. I rode on for 12 miles to finish my shopping trip but I'm still in a lot of pain 8 hours later. I should probably have returned home and put some ice on it. No sign of swelling or bruising so it may be better tomorrow.

14th May. My leg is still hurting. I have probably just bruised the muscle but there's no discolouration or swelling. It is locally tender to the touch and hurts when I'm climbing the stairs. 43F, overcast and winds lighter today. The chain has come off a few times under exactly the same circumstances. I am wondering if the chain derails on the 46T (biggest) chainring because the teeth are so worn. The problem is that I have quite a number of chainrings for larger PCDs but not for the existing triple. The advantage for a triple chainset is always having a "granny gear" available when one is too tired to push hard up a steep hill. This is vital insurance in such a hilly country. Climbs may be very modest, in comparison with parts of the UK, but the island of Fyn (in Denmark) is very rarely flat.

My luck isn't improving. I rode ten miles to a local town and was ripped off at a supermarket. I only discovered this after I had ridden half way back home when it dawned on me what they had done. So I had to return (on my bike) and ask for a refund of the overcharging. This went easily. Now I am home again I have discovered I have left my jumper in the shop! Then I discovered that the supermarket doesn't accept direct phone calls so I had to go through central office. They rang the shop for me but they said they hadn't seen my jumper. I had to insist they put me through and there it was by the checkouts where I had left it! It was a nice jumper so I didn't want to lose it. I shall have to ride back to fetch it tomorrow. My memory has now become so poor I'm going to have to ask the doctor to check me for Alzheimers. 

This is the third time in three weeks I have been ripped off by a supermarket chain. I'm wondering if there is a scam going on where the checkout operator pockets the cash if they can get away with overcharging. Or whether the shop is instigating overcharging to increase their profits. The system is completely against going carefully through one's receipts while at the checkout. No ink, a very short conveyor belt, nowhere to load one's bag and no recycled boxes available to make the task easier.

There are always long queues at the tills because of a lack of staff. There is constantly high staff turnover with new faces on every visit. It all adds up in favour of the dishonest supermarket or checkout operator! Many supermarkets even have a notice by the checkouts that one must discuss errors before leaving the shop! What a bløødy nerve! My close vision is just a little too out of focus to read the till receipts easily without my reading glasses. When the ink is always fading to pale violet it becomes even more difficult.

The office I was supposed to visit in town was closed because it was the day after a bank holiday! They normally close early on Friday anyway so they had obviously decided not to bother opening today.

Though my knee didn't hurt at all during the ride it is aching now I have stopped.  The i-gotU GT-120 GPS logger keeps going to sleep during a ride. Or is very slow to lock on from a cold start. It is always fully recharged every day. Meanwhile the Ventus G730 seems to be learning not to stray too far from my route. 25 miles. (Or so I hope)

15th Just another day. (Cold, with rain and wind) Fetched my mislaid jumper from the supermarket. An ancient lady who wa sin fornt of me in the supermarket queue asked me if my legs were cold. She had so much shopping I imagines a large lorry was waiting outside. Imagine my surprise to find that she and her friend were loading a bike trailer as I came out! The GT-120 missed three miles by not waking up from a cold start again. Only 18 miles.


17 Apr 2010

Takes your breath away!

17th April 2010. Despite frequent setbacks (including at least two involuntary attempts at drowning. (requiring being life- saved) Several mains electrical shocks. Quite a few nasty accidents involving bikes or motorised vehicles. A childhood beset by bullying due to my diminutive proportions in youth. Being attacked by several other teenagers with knives. They had obviously forgotten all about evolution and still thought they were cavemen defending their territory. Various (once-serious) childhood illnesses and countless double dares. The mods and rockers wars. Twenty years of smoking. Falling several times from high places onto my head. (the only safe place to land according to several doctors) Climbing vertiginous mountains in winter without falling off. Being outside during the Chernobyl and Calder Hall radiation scares. Having a life-long, instinctive hatred of the concept of god and religion without being struck dead by a bolt from the heavens.

Frequent bouts of man 'flu and annual pneumonia. Bravely opening an empty shoebox left on an office windowsill at the height of the IRA bombings. Clambering under several cars to repair them while they were propped precariously on logs. Several tyre blow-outs on motorways. Countless visits to the doctor. The voluntary acceptance of abuse by a Brooks Professional saddle. Several tens of thousand miles of riding a trike or bike in all kinds of weather and traffic conditions (down to -12C and during violent thunderstorms. (etc.etc.etc.etc.) Some of my school chums succumbed to Polio, a hole in the heart and various accidents. Several others from cancer. Who knows how many others have died of heart attacks or road accidents since our paths diverged? Every day is a gift. Yet valued so lightly by so many. Despite the seemingly appalling odds I have survived to the ripe old age of 63, not out. God 0 Chris 1.She obviously has a wicked sense of humour.

Today the Brooks felt comfortable. No explanation that I can think of. I climbed on and it felt comfortable. I rode to a distant shop to buy currant buns and the saddle remained defiantly, yet incongruously comfortable. Does my Brooks Professional now occupy a parallel universe? Who knows?

Cold, 40F, gales from early morning. I tried my new, birthday present, cycling jacket. It was supremely windproof, rattled a bit in a strong headwind and was a teeny bit sweaty. Ideal for those days when rain is imminent but has not yet arrived? A scull cap in polyester was snatched away and laundered before I had time to become acquainted. Probably just as well as the hand warm, washing water turned a nasty brown!

As an offering to ye olde rites of spring I removed the front mudguard and changed the front wheel for the lightest, 32-spoke clincher from my recycled bike stock. Then forgot  to replace the magnetic button which triggers my bike computer... Fortunately I had remembered to start my blue-blobby, GT-120 GPS device. So all was not lost. :-)

The air is rank with the stench of pig shit and industrial grade scent. My clothes smelt of pig shit as I undressed. My hair stank of pig shit as I began to shower. Pig shit permeates my very being, my life and my home. Welcome to Denmark 2010. Africa and India turn their shit into methane. Denmark stinks the place out for the profit of a vanishingly small minority growing heavily subsidised, toxic crops which nobody wants. Welcome to the EU agricultural, gravy train monopoly to hell.

The roads are covered in dried mud from the shit spreader's fields. Every passing vehicle produces clouds of choking brown dust. Meanwhile the Danish government and the Danish Meteorological Institute recommend cycling and subsidise its advertising with the taxpayer's own money. Where do I collect my free gas mask?

Every cyclist is a priceless volunteer for reducing CO2 and massively reduced health expenditure through greater fitness. What do the media talk about? The middle classes buying a few hybrid cars?!!?  All of which produce serious pollution in their manufacture which is never recouped from their later "low impact" in use. What a nonsense! Denmark is now so far behind its obligations to CO2 reduction that the EU is actually complaining and threatening massive fines. Cyclists 0 Idiots in Audis 3 million.

16 miles of reeking pig shit, unwanted gales laced with science-fictional, pan-European, volcanic ash and brown dust clouds. Yet, despite the odds, I survived to tell the tale. (yet again) 

 Mr Higgins goes sightseeing. Note the ominous spray tracks on the field!

April 18th. 50F. Stinking of pig shit again the moment I put my head outside the door. A cold, overcast and windy start. Stripped the magnetic lights off the Higgins first to save weight and drag. Then remembered to fix a magnetic button on the new wheel to drive the bike computer.  Lowered the bag yet again. Roads covered in mud and potholes. Saw a couple of large groups of cyclists out training together. Fortunately I was travelling quite quickly both times so I felt quite proud of my forward progress. I was a bit tired today after yesterday's beer, red wine and far too many chocolates. Saddle still okay. Only 23 miles. 

April 19th. 38-40F. Cold, sunny, windy, stinky, muddy and dusty. Not necessarily in that order. Dropped the nose of the Brooks to a smidgen under perfectly level as an experiment. My saddle pin has rather large angular movements per "click". Certainly not the micro-adjustment I have enjoyed with other saddle clamps.  The intention was to put more weight on my arms to see what effect it had. At first I seemed to spend quite some time shifting backwards but eventually forgot about it. The saddle continues to remain fairly comfortable.

I also spent quite a bit of time on the drops fighting a headwind. My knees may no longer hit my tummy but it isn't very comfortable being bent over so low for long periods. With TT/Tri bars one would be much better supported on one's forearms/elbows. My stem/handlebar extension is probably too long. Or I'm simply out of practice riding on the drops. It still feels a bit cramped around my stomach and hips. My arms feel too straight rather than being nicely bent at the elbow. One's arms need to be bent to provide natural suspension to avoid jarring on bumps. 

Having my forearms pointing downwards does not provide the lowest possible drag of having them horizontal and closer together at the wrists. As they would be in a proper TT tuck. Of course one's torso and head have a much larger frontal area so are far more important than the angle of my forearms. Though I have a couple of tri-bar options in the shed I'm not very keen on having them back on the Higgins for normal, everyday riding. If only this run of windy weather eased up there would be no pressing need to try and reduce my drag too markedly. The wind really seems to have become stuck in a rut. The big blue, shopping bag is arguably a greater contributor to frontal area than the fine details of my riding position. I keep thinking I should rotate the bag 90 degrees and put it on a rack at seat height to reduce frontal area.  Despite all of the above I still managed 26 miles before morning coffee. Marmalade on toasted rolls!  I know, I'm spoilt rotten by my wife. :-)

I keep wondering where all this charging around the Danish countryside (on a trike) is going. I have always been intensely competitive. If I were still in good old Blighty I would probably be warming up for my first, early season, 10 mile, club time trial (after more than a few decades rest) to see how I got on. In Denmark there are no club TTs. Cycling time trials are a very British tradition. Reading between the lines of British transport history it seems that the upper and professional classes pulled rank on the humble cyclist. Forcing massed starts and other forms of obviously competitive cycle racing off the public roads. Leading to surreptitious early morning and evening rides pretending not to be racing against anybody in particular in order to avoid arrest. (for riding furiously!) 

I was stopped by a police car in my youth for riding furiously. I was only doing a 40 mph sprint to try and catch a bus for drafting but they thought it was a bit excessive for a 30mph speed limit. I  tended to treat buses as my natural prey back in those days. Most buses had a black stripe (or three) in the middle of the rear bumper. Or on the decorative strip which passed for a bumper. I never considered it necessary to use the bus as a brake but many others saw the extra margin of safety in this behaviour. Some of my cycling acquaintances used to run 110inch fixed gears on track bikes just for pacing buses and lorries from A to B. Then back home to A again after chasing buses and lorries all day. They were exceedingly fit (and very fast even without a pace) but were never interested in competing in organised cycling. 

Meanwhile, back at the pig farm, the Danes seem not to have suffered such corruption in high places. So they never needed to invent the solo time trial at antisocial hours. This leaves me with no outlet for my increasing fitness and willingness to be publicly humiliated for setting a record, slowest time over a fixed distance. So I can thrash around the block until I go blue in the face but nobody will notice. Or even care if I did. Providing, of course, that I don't run over their kids, their cats or tire their endlessly chasing dogs unduly. As a life-long, square peg in a round hole I really ought to be used to this sort of situation by now. :-)

April 20th. Stinky, 40F, winds light, overcast with rain forecast. It was so cold first thing that my fingers hurt for the first half hour. So much for track mitts in late April! It snowed heavily later! 28 miles.

The Danish cycle paths are now in such poor condition that bicycle commuting has been officially declared an extreme sport. South American mountain bikers are said to be queuing for visas to come to Denmark to practice their skills. Danish mountain bikers are now completely uninterested in going off-road because the cycle path network offer much greater tests of skill and real daring. 

Breaking news: It is hoped that Extreme MTB World Championships can be held in Denmark next year. The organisers hope to save their usual (and considerable) expenditure by not having to build a single metre of off-road course. Relying instead, entirely on official Danish cycle paths for the entire course. 

A new sport of Extreme Cycle Tourism has been invented to take advantage of the terrible conditions on the Danish cycle paths. Contestants are allowed 6 months to cross Denmark in either direction while remaining entirely on official cycle paths. Former Round-the-World cyclists are said to be interested in competing. But many are baulking at the difficulties of completing the course unscathed and within the allotted time. Sponsored teams are said to be planning on having several low loaders carrying up to twenty mountain bikes per team member as back-up. Then there are the added problems of having to compete the entire course in a protective mask. The very real dangers from extremely high levels of airborne viruses and bacteria from pig shit spreading is putting off many would-be competitors.

The world's leading MTB tyre manufacturers are said to be vainly struggling to produce a tyre which can handle the very severe conditions found on many Danish cycle paths. Kevlar was ruled out early on. It being absolutely no match for the broken beer bottles, huge boulders, salt-laden sand dunes, fossilised domestic pets and wildlife, extreme cambers, bottomless pot-holes, petrified fallen tree trunks, vast flint moraines and the almost abyssal depth of many puddles now grown so large behind the untidy dams of detritus. Rumours that beavers have taken up residence in many of these deep pools is complete exaggeration. The salt content is far too high for beavers to thrive here.

Many of the top flight mountain bike builders and component manufacturers are simply refusing to have anything to do with the proposed Danish cycle path competitions. Considering them completely impossible to negotiate on any machine with present suspension, gear and wheel technologies. One top MTB frame builder quipped that he would be better off building microlights. Anything was better than trying to build a bicycle which could last a single kilometre, on a Danish cycle path, in one piece. He didn't want to be named because of the likely impact on his business supplying the world's top MTB riders. Including many who compete at Olympic and World Championship level.

In conclusion, I can but quote last year's winner of both the Trans-Alaskan MTB Race and the Trans-Rocky Mountain Summit Ridges MTB Classic: 

"Hell! No way, Man!" "You'd have to be insane to ride over there!" "I'd rather ride a kiddy's trike, blindfolded, the wrong way down a six lane highway than ride one mile on of those hellish Danish cycle paths!" 

'Nuff said, methinks. :-)
April 21st. 34F and a blizzard had just ended as I headed for the shops. I put on my Thinsulate gloves and hat to show token respect for the colder conditions. My new (birthday) cycling jacket was perfect as a lightweight, close fitting, wind stop. Breathable, but with shower-proof qualities, it feels completely different to nasty, polyurethane-proofed nylon. I remained comfortable throughout my ride.  Even while waiting in the queue at the supermarket. I was probably lucky to have found the only dry window as wintry showers are forecast for the rest of the day.  I do worry sometimes that my pink knees may be clashing with my cycling gear. Perhaps I should be investigating artificial tanning creams? It might stop gravel from sticking to my legs too. :-)

The roads were very wet and I was making bright disks of water droplets high into the sky. (and down the backs of my shorts-clads legs in side winds) Bikes don't offer nearly as much fun as trikes in the wet because there is always something to stop the arc of the spray. Usually one's feet and back! Passing lorries were making so much spray it was like being sandblasted. We'll ignore the fact that they should have been sticking to the 30mph (50kph) speed limit because nobody ever does. 

The saddle was feeling a bit lumpy again today. Not painful. Just too hard. Making it difficult to find the comfy spot consistently. It may be my different pairs of  racing shorts do affect comfort after all. I had left rather late because of the snow storm. So only 17 miles as the trike flies.

April 22nd. Stinky, 49F-ish, cold, overcast but clearing and almost still at first. Too cold for fingerless mitts and my thin, polyester, head sock. I did one of my usual wobbly circles taking in some shops and returned into the wind. Which made it feel even colder! 23 miles in full sunshine.

I see Alan H has been corresponding about the comparisons between recumbent and upright trikes in the Spring issue of the Tricycle Association Gazette. Having tried Alan's recumbent briefly I have to say that they are great fun but require neck muscles rather like Arny's. My short ride was deliberately curtailed due to the feeling that my neck would become so strained that I might no be able to make it back home on the Higgins. How weak or disabled riders would cope without proper neck support I cannot imagine. It may be, of course, that my head is so swollen (and therefore heavy) that it was this which limited Noddy's enjoyment of the tricycling "lower orders". ;-)

It seems odd (to me at least) that no middle height, sporting tricycle has evolved. Midway between the upright and the recumbent is a different class of comfortably seated tricycle. One which might provide much better cornering and slightly lower drag than an upright. Without it requiring a portable crane to lift and lower the average rider into place almost seated on the ground. Many tadpole recumbents trikes are very low indeed. Whether forcing air under the machine is more desirable than allowing it to flow around a higher seated rider is questionable.

No doubt a taller machine would suffer some slight loss of stability in cornering compared with a very low recumbent. A taller fame could use a much lighter framework than the low recumbent which has no great depth to help triangulate its considerable length. A beam has too be deep to be stiff.

My own attempt at building a long wheelbase recumbent proved how incredibly nippy they are on the flat. Again climbing steep hills was a serious challenge compared with an upright. So there may not be much to gain over the low recumbent beyond a better view of the countryside and much increased visibility to motorists.

For fun I tried a kid's, delta, banana tricycle yesterday. I found the lack of traction on slopes a problem though the machine was very low geared indeed. It did give a sense of low recumbent tricycling albeit but with lean steer built in. Watching kids ride these things is a lesson in false invulnerability. They cheerfully traverse 45 degree, rough grass slopes and even ride down them backwards! A couple have come unstuck on the traversing and rolled the heavy machines. Lots of tears but they are soon back playing with their friends.

While I may occasionally reverse into cycle racks just for the fun of it, on the Higgins, I do choose my slopes very carefully. Even a steep bit of camber on a smooth road can feel very unsafe at times. particularly at high speed.  I do remember in my youth, when seeking out 1-in-4 hills (25%) to climb that coming to a halt and trying to turn back downhill was fraught with serious danger of tipping. There were a couple of local hills which exceeded 1 in 4 which I simply could not climb to the top of due to wheelspin even in the dry! Toe-clips and straps were not a good idea (at all) when turning back downhill. Feet down and lift the trike around was far more sensible. That said, cycling shoes were so slippery, particularly when fitted with the large alloy shoe plates of the time, that maintaining a little decorum was impossible. Immaturity, masochism and adrenaline make excellent companions in the Darwin odds. ;-)

April 23rd 38F. Stinky, a black sky and driving rain as I set off. Having my knees stung by icy needles as I left home was a new experience for me. My new (birthday) jacket (no, not my birthday suit!) was an unknown quantity in heavy rain. So I put on the polyurethane jacket until it stopped raining. I didn't want to do the complete ride soaked to the skin. Nor keep the polyurethane jacket on and start sweating.  Which is even worse.

Coming back I had nothing to lose so I tested the new jacket as it started pouring again as I headed into a headwind. I had already taken off my jumper so I was just wearing the jacket over my long sleeved skiing vest. The jacket did very well so now I know I have a reasonable reserve of shower proofing if I should ever forget the polyurethane gear.

My knees have proved fully waterproof. So apart from the slight discomfort of lashing rain they need no extra protection when temperatures are above about 35F. My knees only feel cold when it is raining or spraying up from wet roads. Otherwise I prefer the cooling effect on my legs to avoid my back sweating. I enjoyed a bit of sunshine and a tailwind between the showers and was bombing along at a comfortable 25mph at times. Only later did I turn straight into the wind to get home. 25 miles. Plus 7 miles shopping trip later.

This sums it up nicely! "More science. More value." To whom exactly?

Danish lorry, pig transporters, on their way to German slaughter houses (just to get a ha'penny more per carcase) carry a sign saying "Healthy Pigs Thrive". Thereby completely ignoring the terrible cruelty of industrialised pig production and the obscenity of long distance transport and all that this entails in further stress and cruelty. The transporters are often driven too fast or even recklessly in my own experience. I see them regularly on my travels. There are endless stories of these poor animals not being given required rests or even water under transport. I have seen these huge lorries, with the poor animals stacked and stuffed like slave ships, leave the road and crash due to taking bends at too high a speed. Only this week there was another  story about vets having to put a lorry load of pigs out of their misery after yet another crash left them severely injured. 

April 24th and 25th. Stinking of pig shit, cold, sunny, windy. 21 and 18 miles. My right knee is hurting on and off. Not sure what to do about it. Stop riding to rest it for a few days? Lower the saddle? Stop pushing and increase my cadence? Slow down?  Or just do fewer miles? Or all of the above? The problem is that it hurts only some of the time. So I don't know whether I can trust it. It started off with my knee cap suddenly feeling "loose" one day. Since then my knee has ached occasionally. Today it was worse and it actually slowed me down on a long hill. Normally I feel indestructible within my ability to pedal through the muscle pain barrier or oxygen reserves. But not today. Which is depressing.

I have checked the pedal cleats to ensure I have plenty of float (free lateral foot rotation) when clamped into the pedals. Sometime it hurts when I un-clip which feels like a very unnatural, outward, rotational movement of the foot. This hurts my knees and ankles sometimes. I wonder whether the pain might might be caused by the constant shifting about on the Brooks saddle. Instead of a constantly smooth, pedal rotation I am making jerky pedal movement while I am literally pushing myself backwards. Perhaps I should tilt the saddle back a bit again? Having it level puts more load on my arms and legs to keep me in place on the saddle.

The cable to the computer head support plate broke today. I stripped back a little insulation on the tiny wires and soldered the bare ends together. I couldn't find the hot glue gun which I bought years ago and never used. So I filed a slot through the ribs of the underside of plate and used a good bob of tubular cement instead. Time will tell if the glue works. The computer head certainly does now. I constantly monitor my speed and distance while I'm out. A new computer only costs about a fiver (£5 equivalent)  in the local supermarkets but it seemed a shame to throw money away by discarding it. I like the big screen and clear digits on the one I have at the moment. Many of the more expensive computers I have looked at are more about case styling than a large, easily read display!

I thought this colour scheme was amusing though rather expensive at 500DKK. Not quite a Union Jack but close enough to recognise and certainly eye-catching. Probably too warm for cycling in anything but a hard frost. I am finding any headgear too warm as temperatures get much above 45F. Even my thin polyester head sock is making me sweat once I warm up. I'm stuck in the season between cold starts and rising temperatures later on in my rides. Too cold to start without a jumper and proper gloves most days. Too warm to ride with them on after half an hour if it climbs to 52F. I have several times tried wearing a proper cycling shirt instead of a skiing vest under my jumper and windproof shell jacket. Then it has stayed far too cold to take anything off at all! Including the jumper and Thinsulate hat and gloves!

The same large dog chased me again today snarling fit to terrify anybody! After it gave up the chase and while still completely ignoring its owner's bawling, I stopped and climbed carefully off. Then, with the trike as a safety barrier, I slowly produced my camera and took a snap of the daft mutt. It was still behaving aggressively at that point. I also took other pictures of the approaching owner and the dog for evidence if things went badly wrong. The dog then wandered up and sniffed the trike and myself and we introduced ourselves formally.

The owner finally arrived a good couple of minutes later and eventually apologised after initially blaming me for trying to outrun his vicious dog! The dog seemed far less interested in his instructions than if he'd been a complete stranger wandering the lanes. I remain fairly sure that the dog would have bitten a chunk out of me had he caught me. Sprinting into the headwind against a dog which can easily manage 25mph for a couple of  hundred yards really hurt my knee! The only real consolation is that the owner had to walk very briskly and breathlessly for all of those several hundreds of yards to finally reach us.

This is another problem with clip-less pedals. I have to unclip and possibly expose my bare leg beyond the safety of the rear wheel if I should decide to get off and use the trike as a shield. Even the violent and unpredictable motion of un-clipping could  easily put my foot into the spokes of a rear wheel. Simply braking to a halt and sitting still seems far too risky as a dog approaches at high speed. Particularly while it is simultaneously doing its best to intimidate me with its vicious snarling and barking. Perhaps I should try reducing the clip tension on the pedals. I quickly gave up on carrying the riding crop for protection. It was just too difficult to stow on the trike and yet still offer easy access while I was trying to escape at the same time. Nor could I have physically reached the chasing dogs with the crop anyway.

 Spring has finally sprung in the beech woods. The trees echoed to a very loud woodpecker and the greenfinches' whistling wheeze. (300kB enlargement!)

April 26th The vile stench of pig shit is everywhere. 48-58F. Winds so light that all the windmills were standing still. Which is really quite unusual. A bit cloudy and spitting with rain as I set off but it brightened steadily. After ten miles of taking it fairly easy my knee started aching on a hill and the saddle was hurting again. So I stopped and  lowered the saddle by about half an inch and tipped it back one notch. The pain immediately went away and stayed away.

So much so that I even went exploring a new lane which climbed out of a valley up through the woods. It kept getting steeper for about a mile before the tarmac finally petering out into an incredibly rough track at the summit where it was about 1-in-6 with a 30 degree camber! Easy-peazy on the small (26t) chainring. After that it lumped and bumped between a few small farms but had already turned directly away from home.

Had I been able to check Google Earth (or even a map) I would have discovered that I was very close to a real road which could have taken me home. Instead I enjoyed the snaking ride back downhill almost as much as the climb. All the while hanging well out over the inside wheel on each corner. No knee discomfort at all on the way up so I pushed myself much harder all the way home. Just to see if the pain would return. I had to prove to myself that I could trust my knee to hold up under deliberate strain. No problem at all which is very gratifying. The computer cable held together too. (just)  Though I still bought a new one from the supermarket. (with 20 functions for a fiver equiv) £5GBP. 27 miles today.

April 27th. Stinking worse than ever as whole convoys of shit spreaders dump their foul load repeatedly onto the fields all day. 48F, light westerly breeze building slowly to 17m/s (35mph) and heavily overcast. Brightened later. The jumper came off early and I wore the windproof shell over the skiing vest.  No knee problems even on the long hills I deliberately sought out. Saddle okay. I did  a figure of eight for only 20 miles.

That chap with pink knees was spotted again in this vandalised, roadside mirror. He really ought to get that front wheel trued!

April 28th 52F! Sunny and stinking again. I didn't have much time today so I rode into a local town and back again for 18 miles.

You may be questioning why I am repeatedly writing about the pig shit spreading on a trike blog. I see it as a basic human right not to stink of pig shit just from crossing the few yards from the house to the bike shed. Why should I have to stink of pig shit just because I ride a bike or trike through the countryside? Why should I have to go to work after having a shower wondering whether I still stink of pig shit? Why can I not put cycling clothing out on a washing line without it stinking of pig shit within five minutes of going out?

I see pig shit spreaders and vast tanks everywhere I ride. There is no escape from the stench. We are not some naive townies who went rural. We have been living in the countryside for decades. I lived in the countryside as a kid. Some of my schoolmates were farmer's sons and I went home with them to play on the farm. Nothing prepared me for the recent onslaught of the air being completely saturated by pig shit from morning to night. It is  impossible to open any windows without one's eyes watering and a feeling of nausea.

It wasn't like this when we arrived! It has become a problem due to the massive industrialisation of pig rearing. They produce vast quantities of shit from an industrial building. So the shit must be disposed of. So they spread it on every square metre of cultivated soil. Again and again. There has been no rain so now it just lies on the surface. It lies in long wet stinking streaks along the roads where the spreader leaks. Huge stinking storage tanks are left beside the road to refill the muck spreader without having to return to the pig unit.  Every pig unit has a vast cylindrical concrete pond full of shit which they stir with an "outboard motor" device driven  by a tractor. The smell is so strong that it takes one's breath away. I wont refer to it as pig farming. Farming is where animals live outside and forage on the land. Denmark's fields are usually devoid of stock.The pigs never see daylight from birth to slaughter except when they run up the ramp into the lorries which will transport them to their deaths after a long journey.

On a brighter note a red kite was soaring just above a bushy crop close to a main road. It seemed quite relaxed about my cycling slowly past. I was tempted to stop and photograph it but then it would probably have flown away. It was amazingly brightly coloured. With fawn, black, brown and white patches and an incredibly high aspect ratio. Its wing were still fully outstretched as it landed in a spray track. Its sharply defined, triangular tail was twisting to stabilise its ultra low speed flight. In fact it was so highly coloured I thought it was something more exotic until I double checked. Presumably it was sporting its early season breeding plumage.

Denmark has very large number of birds of prey. Presumably they have no sense of smell and  there are no retarded Scottish gamekeepers ready to poison them with banned farm chemicals! Hunting is much more democratic in Denmark. Mostly just a few guns beating through a copse or unimproved marsh on well fattened pheasants. Many fields have big blue bird feeders tucked away behind a hedge or copse.

Quite a lot of fields still have one wet spot. With scruffy willows surrounding a dark pond. In fact ponds are so numerous that many are marked out as fire fighting ponds with their own sign. Remarkably few villages lack several fire ponds. (Branddams)  Presumably this is due to the very high number of thatched, timber framed houses in the past.  Though many were later "improved" with corrugated asbestos-cement roofing. Which was very much cheaper than thatch and light enough not to require new rafters. 

 Few village ponds are quite so as attractive as this splendid example.

Pheasant numbers are so  high that some minor roads are impossible at any speed without the risk of running one over! Much the same could be said for hares. They are everywhere at the moment. They have the strange habit of running straight away from perceived danger instead of veering quickly off the road. They will run ahead for miles along a lane instead of taking the nearest gate or gap in the hedge to safety. They seem attracted to roads for some reason. 

 A typical Danish hunting scene just off a main road. The dogs have just been sent in. 

April 29th. 56-63F! Overcast and breezy. Took a ride to pheasant alley but saw only two. Saddle okay, knee fine. 24 miles wandering quiet, wooded lanes and taking a few pictures.

A fairy tale castle near pheasant alley. Reputed to belong to a millionaire importer who likes trees. He buys up parcels of land and plants trees. Or so I was told by a local farmer. I really like this building. If you had to build a new, stately home but without wanting to look like new money. Or the builder of a completely tasteless pastiche of some non-existent, historical period. Then this is surely it. Absolutely superb in my humble opinion. I took some closer shots but preferred this one for its landscaping context and to protect the owner's privacy.

Vanity, vanity. All is vanity. That chap with the pink knees goes alien. Or, how an upright trike looks with 20" wheels. Ideal for very low bridges? Hardly flattering, but who cares as long as I am the centre of attention. (as my wife's quipped)  Taken on a steep hill I had to stand to stop the trike from running away. No hands left for brake levers when one is holding a camera. Later I was able to expose my garish cycling jersey for the first time this year without getting frostbite. It should be the hottest day this year by this afternoon. Weird on all counts. :-)

April 30th. Bank holiday. Only 50F and blowing a gale! It rained all morning so I fitted the new bike computer, cleaned the wheels and left quite late. Then I bashed my knee against the bike shed door as was getting the trike out! So that hurt for most of  the 27 miles. The saddle was fine today. I was hanging right off the trike to try and stay on the road because the wind was was so strong at times. I rode for miles on the drops with my head down battling the wind. None of the shops I tried had what I was looking for. The rest were closed. 

Another month  gone by and my daily average is still just under 24 miles. My average speed is still only about 12 mph. This year's mileage is now at 2076. Not a single zero mileage day this month! Given my much greater fitness and obviously higher speeds both uphill and on the flat  I'm wondering why my averages aren't increasing? The bike computer says 12.2 mph is my average. The GPS roughly agrees but this also includes shopping and photography. The computer stops when the trike is standing still. The GPS keeps running. Which is a bit daft given that the software could remove static positions.

A supermarket chain is offering a new, small GPS device for cyclists and sports for about £25 as a special offer. I might buy one to compare the performance of the two devices against each other. The present (GT-120) often states my maximum speed is lower than I have read on the bike computer. It also reads my daily distance as lower than the bike computer. I'm not sure what it makes of altitude because it doesn't make much sense. I am never at sea level but it often states that I am or have been during a ride.

11 Apr 2010

Brooks Pro (the remake)


I am going to try publishing each new post automatically (in reverse order like most other blogs) 

The previous method of deliberately dating new posts into the distant past made logical sense. It reads just like a book. However, most visitors may not have read the warning at the top of the page and will assume otherwise. They will probably assume the newest posts (dated 2008) are old hat and ignore them. I'll leave the original postal format for a while until I decide what to do about re-dating the entire blog to run in reverse order. (ie. Last post at the top. First post at the bottom) 

11th April 2010. I used the wet pad treatment for an hour on the Brooks left cheek. Then applied the G-cramp and rubber pad on top of the damp tissue. An hour later the saddle looks amazingly symmetrical! The left side has finally sunk to match the right. Something I hadn't achieved previously despite 650 miles and the application of saddle oil to the offending area. I have removed the cramp and pads and will allow the leather to dry overnight just to see what happens. If the left side springs back up I shall just have to repeat the process. The leather looks darker where it is still damp but it hasn't obviously discoloured. If it stays depressed, as hoped, I shall apply some more Proofide to nourish the leather.

Here's my source for the wet saddle break-in treatment:

 Brooks Pro

Use the advice contained there at your own peril! I accept no responsibility for your ruined saddle if you get it wrong.

 Mr Higgins goes to the seaside. I should have taken the usual big bag but thought I'd try a more compact one to see if I could tell the difference in drag. I couldn't and ended up bringing shopping home with a carrier bag swinging from the handlebars. Which was just silly. The Brooks Pro still has its gel tea-cosy fitted.

12th April 2010. 40-48F. Sunny. Thankfully the left side of the saddle had dried out overnight with the matching dent still there. In the interests of comfort and continued recovery I put the gel saddle cover back on. I had a ten mile distant appointment and didn't want to risk further damage to my nether regions. I felt more comfortable today apart from new pains in my legs. My knees kept aching today. Coming and going regardless of incline or effort. 22 miles with a strong headwind all the way back.

Another day. Another mirror. This is my impression of  Cyclops the Tricyclist. What you can't sense from the silly picture is the foul stench of ammonia emanating from the industrial pig unit behind me. I wouldn't want to be their neighbour in this tiny rural village at any price. There are many delightful rural properties completely blighted by Danish "pig farms". Can't live there. Can't sell their homes. Trapped, while some subsidised, weekend "farmer" rakes in taxpayer's hard earned money. Without the EU none of this would be happening. These industrial pig shit production facilities have the unique ability to make cattle farms seem almost pleasant.

13th April 2010. 48F and the wind is weaker today. A rest day to give my legs a chance to recover from these odd aches and pains. I was sprayed by a farmer as I passed his field on the way to the shops. Only 10 miles today in watery sunshine. Had a  chat about the trike with a regular at the local supermarket. I was a bit depressed about the pains in my legs. My fear is that I may end up unable to ride through injury or simply wear and tear. It has now brightened up and is nudging 50F.

April 14th 45-48F Sunny. Cool north-easterly breeze. I put the gel saddle cover in the saddle bag for insurance and set off into the low, blinding sun and a headwind. It couldn't actually be called comfortable but the pain of breaking in the saddle seems to be finally over. (Or so I hope) The first ride in over 600 miles where I wasn't constantly shifting position to try and get comfortable. I seemed to forget all about the saddle after a while.

Note the surface wrinkling and matching indentations for the pelvic bones in the pressure areas. It is hard to match the wonderful colour, lustre and variations of a real leather saddle with anything man made.

Quite a hard but pleasant ride with a couple of chats with strolling pensioners.  I was already stopped. Once to take off my jumper when I turned out of the wind and later locking my trike to shop at a supermarket. Even the checkout girl asked me if my knees were cold at this time of year. It must be the sunshine making people cheerful. No unusual aches or pains to report today despite pushing myself hard again. I had a tiring afternoon yesterday clearing heavy branches. I also climbed one of the hardest hills in the area today without too much effort. Having only a short ride yesterday must have allowed my legs to recover from the strain of trying to achieve a 30 mile daily average.  26 miles today and feeling quite fit and positive again.

 The Brooks Professional sunbathing in warm, spring sunshine. It is already looking quite tanned. Note the indentations where the sit bones rest on the broadest part of the saddle. It took a long time but finally it begins to look (and feel) like a real saddle instead of a marble sculpture. The slight surface scratching is due to lifting the bag handle loop over the saddle.

I have also lifted the bag higher to try and reduce drag by placing it more in the wind shadow of my upper legs. Wind resistance is by far the greatest impedance to higher speeds on any pedal driven machine. Frontal area is an important resistance factor in forward movement as is velocity. Denmark is a fairly windy country. Which inevitably means headwinds at some point on every ride. So my efforts to reduce drag from the large shopping bag are probably well worthwhile. 

I am trying to come up with a bag support attachment which will allow me to have the bag as high as possible without it swinging about on corners and catching in the back wheels. What I don't want to do is add more weight. It might be possible to have a simple platform to carry the bag like a normal luggage rack but few standard bicycle racks are light enough. Large, specialist, trike, baggage racks are available, at a high price, but may need braze-on fixing points on the widely splayed, trike seat stays. A streamlined shell behind the saddle may be the ideal but would mean serious problems lifting one's leg so high over the obstruction.

April 15th. 42F. Sunny. Winds light. Saddle okay. Bag becoming a nuisance. Will have to lower it again. Saw a recumbent bike going the other way. He was smiling so I bet he doesn't have saddle problems! ;-)  Spent the afternoon repairing several punctures on kid's trikes. (not mine) Kid's Banana Peel trikes may have the makings of a leaning system for adult trikes. In fact there is a Fun trike for us which could be developed into something a bit quicker and far more sophisticated with much bigger wheels. 23 miles today.  

A couple of interesting web pages full of (potential) inspiration:

Googles billedresultat for http://www.industrialbicycles.com/images/banana%20peel.jpg


April 16th. 45-48F. Sunny, cold and windy. Roaring in the trees. I made the mistake of going downwind first. Then had to do 15 miles straight into the teeth of a 25mph wind to reach my real goal! All on a wide open main road without any shelter at all. Talk about exhausting! The saddle hurt now and then but not badly. The roads are covered in thick mud and the air stinks of pig shit everywhere I go! My clothes stank of it when I stripped off for my shower. 32 miles.


10 Apr 2010

Brooks Professional

16th March 2010. 37F.  I finally found a "brand new" Brooks Professional in a bike shop at a reasonable price:

Brooks Professional: The teaser view:

I had been trying my luck for a Brooks Pro on eBay(UK) and getting nowhere. Those who will post worldwide fetch much higher prices than those who insist on UK bidders only. By the time the postage has been added a new Brooks Pro isn't much more. I suppose those who collect old racing bikes may want a vintage saddle to authenticate the bike's period more accurately. They are obviously willing to pay good money for the privilege.

The new Brooks is as hard as a rock and rather like balancing on a highly polished, marble sculpture of a saddle. At first I wasn't sure where to perch because I was too busy trying to stay on! It took some miles to discover I was sitting too far forwards. Sitting in the correct position actually felt like I was hanging right over the back. Though I could still feel a rim of protruding leather behind my racing shorts when I checked. There really is very little, natural sense of correct location at this stage. Hopefully that will come sooner rather than later when the saddle gives to the pressure of  my sit bones.

The Brooks Professional side view. 163mm maximum width measured across the dark brown skirts with the saddle inverted. Modestly sized, perfectly hammered, low profile, copper rivets are from mid-90s manufacture according to Brooks. Interestingly, the embossed code letters underneath are only there to help Brooks decide on warranty issues. They aren't intended for general consumption or dating by the merely curious. Judging by my own example the code cannot be read as the date in any way, shape or form.  Since saddles are so easily swapped the code would be very unlikely to offer a clear date of manufacture for any bike. Not even if Brooks were kind enough to share the real meaning of your particular code. Not unless your saddle was guaranteed to be original equipment.

The saddle in front (of you) is a Brooks Professional. Beware of wide loads! Note the absence of bag loops, perforations or side creases.

I think later saddles really are black and the copper rivets even larger and more domed. I like this one a lot. Though it must have been lost in the stock room, for quite a while, it was absolutely perfect when it left the shop. Not even a mark from a saddle clamp has ever sullied its chromed rails. Rather oddly the tension nose-piece is copper. As is the colour of the tail badge.

Brooks Professional: The snooty view. Note the total absence of indentation for the sit bones after only 30 miles. The appearance of the saddle changes completely with the camera viewpoint. It is actually slightly wider than my Vetta SL. The camera has considerably distorted the apparent length of the nose.

The odd thing was that the Pro wasn't actually painful. I have sat on some modern saddles which I could not stay on for more than a minute. I own a dozen, rather dated, modern saddles inherited from various recycled bikes. None of them are in great condition but they can't have changed much from new. They just feel completely wrong for the  human anatomy (well mine anyway) yet probably once sold in huge quantities.

My new Brooks Professional saddle enjoying the Empty Quarter for the first time on the Higgins trike. I carefully checked the saddle with an 18" builder's level before tightening the seat post clamp but the Pro still looks a bit nose-up. I can easily adjust this as I become used to the saddle and it to me.

Note the flooding in the background from snow melt-water and the huge cracks in the tarmac.  The copse is standing in deep water. Probably Alder or they wouldn't survive.

I put nearly 30 miles on the new saddle on my first ride. After the first ten miles I felt more grip on my lightly padded, racing shorts.Which was an improvement because I felt rather more secure. Probably just sweat but it worked for me. Just after 20 miles the Pro started feeling a bit hard on my sit bones but not bad enough for me to head straight home. I even continued with my detour to see how I coped. I don't think I would have actually enjoyed another ten miles but it really wasn't bad for a first ride from new.

I can't easily explain why but the trike felt considerably faster for having the Brooks Pro under me. At least in comparison with the Vetta SL. I was averaging 25mph on the computer for some miles. Which isn't bad for my age and slowly increasing fitness level. I presume the stiffness and polish on the leather wasn't robbing me of energy as a modern, padded, plastic saddle does.

I must have put at least 2000 miles on the B17 and Vetta SL combined on the trikes so I must have toughened up my nether regions by now. Neither saddle is remotely like the Brooks Pro in either shape or form. While the Vetta SL was reasonably comfortable I have noticed it was becoming slightly uncomfortable again after about 25 miles. Hence the longing for a Brooks Pro.

I've been reading online about applying wet cloths to the rear of a new Pro saddle to speed breaking in. I'm not sure whether I'm brave enough to try this yet. I'm certainly not using the horse saddle oil on it  because it will make the leather far too soft. I think that was what went wrong with the B17. My attempts it make it look like new made it too soft and stretched the leather away from the rivets. It became rather (er) saddle-backed.

I did 29 miles today. Pushing hard all the way to keep my weight off the new saddle as much as possible. :-)
To end the uncertainty over Brooks saddle identification my fellow tricyclist Alan H. has kindly provided some really excellent images of his various Brooks saddles for comparison. They appear below. Alan holds the copyright to these images so they should not be published elsewhere without his permission.

The Brooks B17 "Champion Special" on Alan's immaculate Longstaff trike: Large copper rivets, perforations, chamfered skirts and a clear shoulder line. I read somewhere that the leather is also thicker and better quality on the premium B17 models. 170mm wide.

Brooks "Champion Special" identification badge with close-up of skirt chamfer.

 The Brooks B17 "Champion Standard" with tubular steel rivets, bag loops, perforations and a shoulder line. No skirt chamfer. 170mm wide. A popular, long-lived touring saddle.

Brooks "Champion Standard" identification badge and unchamfered skirts.

A black version of the Brooks "Team Professional". 10mm narrower than the Standard B17, copper rivets, chamfered skirts but no perforations. Thicker leather makes these saddles stiffer and harder but longer lived. The lack of give made them popular with professional racers in the past. Brooks say their Pro saddles are intended for those who have their handlebar height below their saddle height. I find this to be true so far. Sitting as upright as possible (e.g. when climbing a hill) points the sit bones (at the bottom of the pelvic girdle) straight down into the hard (and still convex) leather. Which can be quite uncomfortable after a while. Leaning forwards to hold the brake hoods offers immediate relief and much greater comfort because the pelvic girdle is automatically tipped forwards. I suppose my own saddle is at least a couple of inches above the handlebar tops.   

 Brooks "Team Pro" (Professional) identification badge.

 Yet another Brooks saddle variation: A pre-softened version of the Professional (Team Pro) clearly marked as such by the factory. Saddle rails can be painted black, chromed steel, copper plated steel, or solid Titanium. (Ti is lighter but usually twice the price of a chrome version of the same saddle) 

I believe the "Team Pro" replaced the Professional and became a choice between black or "Honey". (Light-medium Tan) The earlier "Professional" usually looks dark brown rather than black. The Professional Badge remains the same. The tail badge changes over time.

'The Headbadge': The Evolution of Brooks Saddle Badges

Note that Brooks have always made a large variety of saddles. Offering a constantly changing range with variations on names and themes. Some are unsprung while others have a variety of spiral, suspension springs and matching rails. Some of which are incompatible with modern micro-adjusting  seat posts.

Premium models may have relatively short sales lives or are strictly limited editions at premium prices. Specially coloured leather, rail and rivet material choices are commonplace. Hand cut, chamfered skirts are usually a sign of a premium saddle. Copper rivets are much harder to set and require considerable skill with a hammer. Wastage must be problem where the leather may be bruised by a single blow with the hammer when it misses the rivet. It is this which helps to explain the higher prices for these models. Special colours are also premium and attract higher prices. It is obvious tat Brooks is trying to market themselves to appeal to a very wide audience. They cannot compete on weight so must achieve sales in other ways.  There is a global fad for the so-called "Fixie". (a form of classical track bike with fixed wheel but not of the extreme, specialist form seen on the steeply banked tracks of today) Those who follow this bike fashion are usually avid users of Brooks leather saddles to satisfy the correct image.   

Here's an American website from a highly respected supplier of Brooks saddles: It gives a real taste of what is available.

Brooks Unsprung Saddles at www.wallbike.com

 A scenically-situated, timber-framed, thatched farmhouse near the edge of the Empty Quarter. Beautifully restored and painted it is well above average condition for houses of this type. The hill behind the house has been clear felled letting more light in. A massive old oak stands guard in the foreground.

I jokingly refer to this rather attractive area of countryside as the Empty Quarter from my first attempt to cross it on the trike. I was already tired out when I became lost in the narrow rural lanes when I didn't recognise any village name plates. The day was overcast and I mistakenly thought I was heading for home. As I rode along a twisting lane I found  there were absolutely no other roads off the one I was already travelling along. So I was committed to riding on until I recognised the first village I came to. Only then could I finally head for home. By retracing my own tracks into a freezing head wind! I didn't see a single car or person while travelling in either direction.  Hence the Empty Quarter tag.

This twisty lane is almost devoid of houses as it meanders up and down through the open, undulating  countryside. Much of the area is rather marshy with lots of woods dotted about. Which means the farmers haven't been able to turn it into their usual prairies. This unspoilt area probably looks like much of rural Denmark once did before the farmers drained the endless marshes. Marsh (mose) is a very common name amongst Danish villages and areas of farmland.

April 17th 41F, 5C. Another 31 miles on the Brooks Professional. It felt a bit hard at 25 miles but was better after a while. Definite signs of the convex back sinking very slightly. The glaze has worn off making it a bit less slippery. I had a greater sense of for-and-aft location than yesterday.

April 18th 51F, 11C. Bright and breezy. No jacket or hat needed today. I've fitted the Shimano 550 pedals and a new pair of toe-straps. I would have liked leather but had to make do with black, woven nylon. The latest set of squeaky, quill pedals were just not wide enough for my feet. The Shimano pedals feel very solid and have plenty of clearance from the inner edges of my cycling shoes to the cranks. It doesn't hurt that they look rather smart. I could actually do with a much shorter bottom bracket axle. It would also have been better if the toe-clips had been stainless steel but the original plastic will have to do for the moment. I'm not sure why Shimano made them so flexible.

A cheap pair of black, plastic toe-clips has been serving me well for a couple of years and they are far stiffer and haven't aged rapidly like some metal toe-clips. Particularly when the bottom bracket is so  low on my trike. The toe clips touch the ground almost every time I climb on. The role of the toe-clip is not really to resist powerful foot pressure. More to hold the toe-strap well clear of the foot as one pushes one's shoe into place. The toe-clip isn't stiff enough to replace a well fitted shoe plate but a little stiffness certainly helps when  used without plates. Perhaps the use of shoe plates will overcome the extra flexibility?

The problem is finding the original (very complex, now rare and very expensive) shoe plates. My tour of a great many bike shops did not turn up any originals. I may still end up making some simple (old fashioned) slotted plates on my lathe to fit my Shimano shoes and the 550s. Only a powerful sprinter would need both front and rear foot location. As is provided for in the design of the Shimano 550 pedal and matching shoe plates. I am still missing the ability to pull up on the pedals but don't want to go the whole hog and change to a modern clip-less system just yet.

Another stately home, from 1656, a still frozen lake (and moat) and their own, very pretty, suspension bridge. (on the right across the moat) Is the Higgins having delusions of grandeur? Not likely! You didn't see the struggle we had rolling crossing the incredibly bumpy, cobbled courtyard in front of the great house! The courtyard may be a public right of way, on a very quiet, minor country road, but there is certainly no need to make life too comfortable for the riff-raff. Otherwise they'd only use it as a commuter rat run!

The Brooks is getting slowly better. It still feels rather like sitting on an oval, polished stone, but not painful. Comfort is a relative thing but it seems to come and go. The new saddle is better for being slightly damp from normal use. It starts off feeling rather slippery but improves after a few short miles. The amazing thing is that, despite it being so hard, it isn't so uncomfortable that I have once considered it a mistaken purchase. Of course it is only 3 days and 82 miles, so far. So I have high hopes.

It helps that it looks so good on the Higgins. I love the perfection of its shape and finish and the real leather colour. It is also changing colour (slightly) already. Probably from the effects of sweat and being rubbed by my slightly damp racing shorts as I slide about. I will look for some Brooks Proofide in the bike shops next time I'm in town. It is foolishly expensive over here at £8 (equiv) and one online dealers wants £6+ just for postage! For a tiny tin of wax! I know I won't need much wax so it will last literally for ages. However £14 is a large fraction of the cost of a new Brooks Pro! Still lots of snow lying about in shady parts despite the rapidly rising temperatures. Only 22 rather enjoyable miles today.

April 19th. 50F. I only had time for a short ride before heading for the city to buy some Brooks Proofide wax.  Kjeld's Cycle shop in Odense has some great chaps working there and a superb range of bits and pieces. I'd drawn a complete blank on finding a nice, new mirror for the Higgins at lots of different shops but Kjelds had a whole selection to choose from. I need a mirror to watch for traffic due to the width of the trike and the often poor road surfaces near the verge. I have no desire to be a nuisance to traffic but want to be able to use a bit more road when it is quite safe to do so. Nor do I want to keep looking over my shoulder when the edge of the road is often broken away or slumping.

My present, lightweight, strap-on mirror doesn't protrude enough to allow me to see it (at all) when my hands are on the brake hoods. So most of the time I am completely blind to the rear unless I'm riding on the tops uphill. The old mirror surface has also been steadily deteriorating so I bought a new convex mirror to clamp to the dropped handlebars just below the left brake lever. (riding on the right side of the road applies in Denmark) The mirror is a good size but very lightweight with an articulated, plastic support arm. Designed for a bar end fixing I shall have to make a simple metal, strap clamp for it.

Here's a thoughtful guide to the careful treatment of a Brooks saddle based on thousands of miles of real life experience:

Unofficial Brooks Saddle FAQ

I applied a good coat of the Proofide to the underside of the Professional using my bare fingers. This was recommended in a bike forum post and worked really well. The fingers melt the wax and allow it to be smeared liberally over every millimetre of the leather under surface. I gently eased the stiff, side skirts out from the chromed rails to allow my fingers to wax over the entire inside of the saddle. Using the fingers has the advantage that it sets a limit on how much wax can be applied.

No further addition of Proofide to the leather undersides should ever be necessary. Fortunately a trike doesn't wet the underside of the saddle from a bike back wheel used without mudguards. I finished off with a coat of wax on the top of the saddle. Again using my fingers. Then I put the saddle aside indoors to allow the wax to soak in overnight. The Proofide wax is soft, white and almost completely odour free. Despite being generous in my first application of the infamous Proofide I barely made a dent  in the virgin wax surface in the tin. The wax on my hands was easily washed off with soap but completely resisted plain, warm water. Which is a good sign that it offers quite a degree of waterproofing as well as nourishing the leather.

The Brooks Professional looking slightly darker but still brown after waxing with Proofide. Note how the wax is still sitting on top of the nose area but has soaked straight into the area which has experienced most wear at the rear.
Don't worry about the small size of the Proofide tin or its apparently high cost. It will last for years if you use it as rarely and as sparingly as Brooks intend. You can easily spend far more on any other single component on your bike (or trike). Having read every post and piece of advice I can find online it seems a 6-monthly treatment with Proofide to only the top surface of the saddle is perfectly adequate. This assumes a first treatment with Proofide of the saddle top and particularly the undersides. There is no need for special oils which will tend to soften the leather far too much and probably make the saddle sag. Working the saddle leather by actually riding on it is by far the best way to ensure decades of useful life.

The slipperiness of the Brooks is wearing off rapidly and I can really feel some resistance to involuntary movement after a couple of miles. I lowered the saddle by half an inch when I changed from the very low profile Vetta SL.  Today I put it back up again because it felt as if my legs were too bent at the knees. I will play with saddle height some more. I have still not noticed any discomfort (at all) after getting off the trike and sitting down. During my earlier battle to find a comfortable saddle I often felt the soreness after a ride as I sat at the computer scribbling my thoughts. The Shimano 550 pedals and shoes (still without plates) are also working well together. Only 9 miles today and rain forecast for the next few days. I was looking forwards to a Saturday morning ride but it is already raining. It is supposed to clear up later....

April 20th Rain all morning. Late ride for 12 miles.

April 21st. Sunny periods but blowing a gale. 15m/s is over 30mph. At one point I was standing up on the pedals going downhill at 7mph into the headwind! I don't like the wind. Not even when I can travel fairly effortlessly at 30mph.  I know I'll always have to face the wind later to get home.

I was chased by that damned dog again today. The owner was in the garden but the dog completely ignored his shouts. (of course) I had to sprint above 25mph into the wind and keep going for hundreds of yards! The road they live on is a direct route to the shops which avoids a very open and exposed main road. Where cars always travel well above the speed limit.

The new mirror is better than the old one but is too curved. So the image is very small until a car is right on top of me. Fortunately the (compulsory) car headlights show up to give me about five seconds warning before they pass at 80kph. (50mph) This usually gives me enough time to be able to choose my path through the potholes and cracks before returning to the verge again. I'll have to keep looking for a flatter mirror. (but not a flat one) 23 miles today.

A quiet ride through the woods. The ground is littered with beech nuts and leaves.The bag is only sagging because it hasn't been hooked back over the saddle while I took the picture.

April 22nd. 45-50F. Sunny but windy again. I was too warm and should stop wearing the skiing tights and thinner Thinsulate gloves. Time to put the fingerless cycling mitts back on again.

I keep changing my route daily to provide variety and maintain interest. Fortunately this area is blessed with countless small, interconnecting roads and even smaller lanes. The light is constantly changing. As is the season. No two rides are ever alike. If I'm feeling strong I deliberately seek out a hilly route and push as hard and fast as I can. I never dawdle anyway because it doesn't make me fitter or stronger. There will never be a better day to be out on the Higgins than today. Tomorrow may be a lifetime too late. Every day is a priceless gift. Smile often, if you can. They cost nothing and somebody might need one desperately more than you do. Scowls are given away free everywhere you go these day. They must be worthless or they'd have found a way to tax or ration them by now. 24 miles as the trike flies.

April 23rd. 50F, sunny but very windy. 17m/s. Still some snow clinging on in the shade. The Brooks Pro saddle is wrinkling even more in the sit bone areas. I've done almost 200 miles on it already. 29 more miles today.

No matter how many lines he crosses first there are no medals for he who goes unnoticed.

Treebeard leads the last inhabitants of Fangorn forest into battle against the endlessly greedy farmers. [LOTR]

Denmark has a very low forest cover compared with many other lands. At only 12% it is the same as the UK. Though the UK's forest cover is probably greatest in remote Wales and Scotland. The area where the picture was taken has many inroads into the original forest. Note the total absence of roadside hedges. Soil erosion must be a serious problem in Denmark. We have often seen brown fogs and clouds in the last few years. The farmers obtain a fine tilth for sewing only to have the dry topsoil removed by gales. Hedges are constantly grubbed up and large gaps made for the enormous modern farm machinery.

Yet employment on the land shrinks yearly and many smaller farms are part time projects with the "weekend farmer" holding down a full time job elsewhere. The larger holdings swallow up the smaller, uneconomic farms to turn their smaller fields into vast prairies to be worked by low paid Eastern European labour. Housing estate building on green field sites is extremely commonplace. Often completely destroying the unique character of existing villages with swathes of identical "biscuit cutter" houses.

April 24th. 51-47F. Cold SE wind. 15m/s. Chose a very hilly route with two long hills in succession. At least 6 miles of steady climbing. On the first hill I was averaging 18mph. On the second I dropped to 12-15mph in a strong headwind. The Brooks Pro saddle started hurting after 20 miles. Then a drive side axle bearing started clonking after 25 miles. I was wearing my slim, old Nike trainers because the Shimano cycling shoes are making my toes very sore. Though the correct size they are much too pointed. Leaving no room for my toes. The Nike are much too soft in the soles. Which hurts my feet if I stand up on the pedals. Ain't life hell? :-) Still managed another 30 miles though the last five were rather painful. I'll have to try and find a pair of cycling shoes with roomier toes. Ironically the saddle is showing definite concave curvature over the sit bone area. The shorts I wore today have very thin padding though. Second day without skiing tights and wearing fingerless mitts.

April 25th. Dismantled, greased and rebuilt the Higgins rear axle. No obvious reason for the loud clonking. Might try new cones from Chris Hewitt as mine are a bit worn on the ball tracks. I like the way the wheels come off so easily with the Trykit hubs. A waggle at the rim and they come free.

After hours of online searching and reading reviews I did a tour of town to find some comfortable cycling shoes. Most were far too garish for my tastes. Those I tried were much too narrow, far too small in my nominal size and foolishly expensive for Chinese labelled products. Larger sizes fell off my heels and still hurt my toes. I was shopping primarily for Specialized MTB Sport but even the 47s were not made for my normally wide EU45 sized feet. Like wearing two stiff, pointed shoes boxes. They reminded me of the pointed fashion shoes of the 60s which ruined my feet. 

I ended up with a pair of Specialized Tahoe.  The styling has changed from earlier online images. There is now no Velcro flap across the top of the laces. The red highlights are modestly understated.

Instantly comfortable, they have a roomy round (but not industrially ugly) toe and a stiff enough sole made for real cycling and natural walking. Not for technical ice climbing in the Alps! Supposedly aimed at the more casual market they aren't trying to be anything but touring, cycling shoes. I'm too old to be a fashion victim so if it looks like a trainer at a glance it's fine by me. I'm wearing them as slippers around the house to break them in a bit. I shall miss doing my lost pony impressions in the supermarket aisles. The Shimano road shoes were incredibly noisy even when I tiptoed around the freezer cabinets to avoid the stares of rural, village pensioners.

I could easily have gone over to clip-less SPD pedals at the same time but decided to try the new shoes with toe-clips first.  The Shimano MTB-520 style SPDs don't have a lot of axle length and a pair of size 46s/UK11s cast a rather large shadow. I didn't want crank clearance problems after my recent struggle with quill pedals and toe straps. The Shimano 550s which replaced the quills aren't at all comfortable with my thin-soled, slim Nike trainers. The soles of the Tahoe's are quite knobbly but probably just smooth enough for toe-clips and straps. On a trike there is rarely a panic situation where you absolutely must get your feet free or fall over. (At least not since the first week of riding the narrow track Higgins)  We'll see tomorrow on the first ride if the shoes suit toe-clips. It is not beyond my understanding that clip-less pedals would provide more forward speed from my breathless efforts.  Reviews are bit mixed on the earlier Tahoe with quite a short life reported by some users. I'll be very cross if mine don't last me a few thousand miles of normal riding with short supermarket stops. All my shoes usually last for years. 

Far too late to get a ride in today after fixing the Higgins. 0 miles.

Difficult to capture with the camera because of the hedge. A great swathe of superb snowdrops.

April 26th 52F. The new shoes were fine despite my toes still being sore from the last rides with the Shimano road shoes. The Tahoes  are very easy and comfortable to walk in and are nicely stiff on the trike. The tread seemed to lock into the Shimano 550 pedals and acted as if I had slotted shoe plates fitted. They made my pedalling seem much more powerful though I wasn't consciously lifting on the upstroke. A slight fiddle getting the shoes into the toe clips and straps before take off but very easy to get out again. The Higgins axle has returned to silence again. The saddle was also far more comfortable today. Perhaps it was simply the rest day yesterday which made the difference. 23 miles.

 Snow still lying in a drainage ditch on the 26th March! Almost certain to see April in.

April 27th. 44F. Winds light. Did two shopping rides for a total of 30 miles. Shoes fine. Saddle hurting worse than ever on and off. It is only dented on one side so may be a local variation in the leather.

The patch snow is still there despite heavy overnight rain. The golden retriever was out again so I quickly dismounted before I came close. The dog seemed uninterested in me as I walked past with the trike between it and myself. It seemed to be avoiding catching my eye. Only when I had passed did it stand up and start barking furiously. Then I realised that it was probably tied up. I couldn't see the dog any more for shrubs but it made no attempt to chase me. A good result. The road it lives on is too important a route for  me to take detours just to avoid it. The neighbour's dog hasn't been out lately when I was passing.

April 28th. 44F, overcast and windy. The saddle wasn't nearly so painful today. I wonder whether the saddle would respond to a suitably shaped weight on the sit bone area? More Proofide over the specific area involved?  30 miles today exploring all the small roads through a large wood.

April 29th. 42F, windy. With rain forecast for the week ahead I took the opportunity to visit Alan, the Longstaff owner. Almost a straight line on the map. Out and back. Thanks for the tea. :-)

With a tail wind going I saw 25mph quite a few times. I was counting on the wind falling light for the return journey.  I was wrong but still managed to keep going into the headwind. I punctured on one of the many huge pieces of gravel littering the cycle paths. The cutbacks in council expenditure by central government means the cycle paths are never swept these days. Yet more lip service to fighting global warming. Judge them by their actions. Not by their empty promises. Shoes fine, legs fine and the saddle surprisingly okay for most of the trip. 48 miles is a new milestone on my way back to fitness. Despite the considerable increases in my speeds of late I'm still struggling to get above a 12mph average. Though this includes visits to supermarkets on most rides.

The grimace of owning a Brooks Professional saddle? Or the thought that I have to ride another 24 miles into a headwind? It was getting quite chilly as I left. Thanks for the picture, Alan.

April 30th Cooler and very windy. Roaring in the hedges and trees. Gulls floating over the fields. 24 miles.

April 31st 50-45F. Winds lighter. Feeling strong so rode at 80-90% for first hour. 50-60% home into the wind. My quadriceps are hurting a bit. That hasn't happened for quite a while. 34 miles.

I bought some Shimano M520 SPD pedals in an LBS. Their cheapest double-sided MTB. Now I wish I'd bought the slightly more expensive model with better bearings and prettier axle. (me a fashion victim?) Not that I have any complaints about these pedals. Checking for online pricing (just out of curiosity) I paid more than twice Chain Reaction's Danish prices! I could have had the third model up (M770 XTs) for not much more.  But, and it's a great big but, I get their expertise, endless patience, personal recognition on arrival and a welcome smile from the staff at this particular LBS. No other LBS makes me feel remotely as welcome despite my very limited spending on accessories. Despite the obvious savings I think It would be very bad form to buy online immediately after seeking expert advice of an LBS.

Once my 46's are clipped into the pedals and whirling around nobody can see what model they are anyway. Do I suppose I ought to have the top model because I might break the cheapest with the sheer power of my pedalling? Will I notice a Newton or two in extra bearing drag? I don't think so. It's nice to have the pretty, upmarket stuff but I think these look "techy" enough. At least enough to impress a complete stranger outside a supermarket. I held all three models and the differences between the quality of the bearings was very obvious. The appearance less so to the uneducated eye.

Even these cheapest of the SPD pedals are absolutely superb by the standards of any previous pedals in my decades of experience. Half a dozen attempts from new and I can already click in positively. Clicking out is even easier. Plenty of angular float with a good solid feel at the limits of rotation. Plenty of crank clearance even for my size 46 Specialized Tahoe shoes. (thanks for the useful advice on clearances, Alan)  I left the tension settings at factory levels.

It is interesting how cool air is pumped into the shoe when I lift on the upstroke. Perhaps not quite so much fun in winter but an airtight insole might solve that problem when I get to it again. One minor niggle is that the shoe plates/cleats just touch the ground when I walk. So really fast cornering in the supermarket aisles now requires some care. The shoes are brand new so any wear on the sole will further expose the shoe cleats. It is naughty of Specialized not to have foreseen this problem with such a popular shoe cleat. Another couple of millimetres of cheap, Chinese rubber on the treads would not have broken the bank.

On the bike the shoes and pedals feel great together. With a tremendous sense of security compared to toe clips and straps. My only real worry is the very small pedal area may shorten the life of the shoes. I'm presuming the sliding material sandwiched inside the sole spreads the load somewhat. There are also two solid areas of rubber either side of the cleat area. I set the cleats to maximum crank clearance but it isn't really necessary in practice. There is no floppy, adjustable, toe strap and laterally insecure shoe position dragging on the crank to worry about. Once locked in any small amount of clearance is probably more than enough. The excellent degree of float ensures knee problems are totally avoided. Unclipping is an outward movement of the heel so no extra clearance is required here. I understand that special cleats also allow inward unlatching but I can't see the point of this on a trike.

I was struggling to get the Tahoe shoes into the toe clips and straps on the Shimano 550's. The knobbly tread was catching and rotating the pedals away from my feet. Getting my feet out again was also difficult with the straps tightened the least bit close to the foot. It was only the fact that I was riding a trike which made it possible to sit and waste time getting in and out of the toe clips. On a bike it would have been a disaster waiting to happen. I was also finding my feet were pointing at funny angles depending on which part of the shoe tread locked onto the rear pedal plate. I want to avoid injuries from misalignment at all costs. I have noticed quite a number of cyclists with their knees pointing outwards like jug handles.  I don't know how their knees survive a hundred metres of this motion. I tend to wear the paint off the cross bars of my bikes after a few years. Though only from my trousers flapping in the past. These days I use shorts so it never occurs to me to have my upper legs other than parallel to the top tube.

My second GPS logger has packed up. Windows doesn't recognise it and their weird USB plug won't stay in place now. Though the unit will be replaced under guarantee (again) this is a great disappointment. It is such fun to see one's route and all the data after a ride from such a handy little device. With Easter starting tomorrow it may be a while before I can get back to the shop. This means I'll miss recording some routes.

March is finally over with a monthly mileage of 666 and a total for the year, so far, of 1364 miles.  The new Brooks Professional saddle now has 400 miles on it and is only just beginning to dent to fit my sit bones. It doesn't feel the same two days in a row. Or even five minutes apart on the same ride! I "cheated" and added another smear of Proofide to soak in overnight on the sit bone area alone. This seemed to accelerate the sinking on the left cheek area which had previously been very reluctant to change shape at all. There are now two distinct areas of wrinkling and two very slightly concave areas instead of the former convex. I am probably suffering longer than necessary for not trying a good soaking in saddle oil. I only hope it is worth it in the end. (no pun intended) ;-)

A very tall TV mast 1050' high (320m) placed almost centrally on the island is a useful guide to one's whereabouts when on unfamiliar rural roads. It can be seen for miles and has a distinctive bluish flash from the lights arranged at vertical intervals to warn aircraft. A wind turbine at the base is completely dwarfed by the sheer scale of the mast and its guy lines. I tried for a bit of drama with the sinking Sun just above and to the left of the mast but it didn't work out quite as I had planned. I partially rescued the best of the original images with PhotoFiltre. Judge for yourself. The mast looks completely insignificant with such a wide angle lens. I couldn't see anything on the camera screen with the sun being so bright. I couldn't get far enough away on the other side of  the narrow road to use any other setting to make the mast appear any bigger.

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