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...
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!
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.
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.