1 Aug 2010

August diary 2010

Sunday August 1  70F, very light winds, sunny periods, with all of the windmills standing still. A meandering loop out along the coastal lanes and back again further inland. Denmark really doesn't get much more rural than this area. Isolated palaces, farms and cottages. A few small villages. Fields, marshes, reeds, woods and hedges with only very light traffic on the lanes and minor roads. Puddles on the roads from overnight rain cooled my shins where I couldn't avoid the standing water.

The wildlife was queuing for my attention. I rode through a large flock of swallows who were sitting on the road until I came along. They flew and circled all around me as I slowed to a crawl  to avoid causing panic. Yet they seemed quite unafraid. There were huge numbers of other birds. Flocks of sparrows numbering at least one hundred. There were yellowhammers, greenfinches, martins, wagtails, rooks and jackdaws. All seem to be attracted to the quiet roads and lanes.

I passed a large lake where an almost flat, shallow coastal valley has been allowed to flood again. Denmark went through a period where every avilabel marsh was drained at taxpayer's expense and handed over for farming. I saw vast numbers of geese, ducks, swans, gulls and waders on the water or wheeling overhead with their eerie calls. On the other side of the road were salty inlets from the sea proper.

I had already seen a bloodbath where a mother cat and two well grown kittens had been flattened by a vehicle. Further on I a saw a large family of kittens outside a farmhouse. They scattered into cover as I arrived. Except for the skinny mother who stood complaining loudly in the middle of the road! A few hundred yards on I crested a short hill to find three beautiful young foxes just standing in the narrow road a hundred yards away. I wanted to take a picture but the moment I unclipped from the pedals they heard me and vanished into the crop! Grr.

Coming back on a main road  I overtook a couple of overweight cyclists out training at a fair dawdle on their posh racing bikes. Then I was overtaken myself by half a dozen young chaps bombing along in a tight group. They were riding at least five miles an hour faster than I could manage but made it look effortless. I was quite breathless trying to chase them as I have a bit of congestion at the moment. I am not sure whether it is a virus or being caught in spray drift. It took me a week to get over using a single squirt of WD40 down the inside of the steerer tube! Nasty stuff!

My legs are fine now and I was feeling much stronger again. Sailing uphill without too much effort and using the gears to maintain a high cadence. 45 miles in 4 hours including ages searching a couple of supermarkets for non-existent stock. Both GPS loggers agreed on 45 miles exactly and 12 mph overall. I haven't taken a photograph for days!

2nd 60-66F. Overcast, almost still. 19 mile shopping trip. Right knee feeling slightly tender so I didn't go out later. I am an idiot for trying too hard, too soon after an injury.

3rd 60-66F. Breezy. Sunny becoming cloudier. I can no longer trust my right knee. My right Achilles tendon is also hurting. I have never had a problem with my heel before. 25 miles taking it easy.

No longer in any hurry I discovered a rather charming cycle path running alongside the mainline railway between two rural villages. Almost too narrow for Mr Higgins, in places, the asphalted path was deserted and wonderfully peaceful. Only the sound of the birds and insects could be heard.

Eventually I came to disused backstreet workshop buildings and rusting, narrow gauge railway points from a bygone era. The village blacksmith and sawmill yard have no purpose in a world of DIY superstores. The small village shop is an anachronism in a world of high street supermarket chains and two car families. The impoverished pensioners have moved out of the ramshackle cottages to be replaced by the modernising middle classes with bottomless pots of easy credit.

The countless rickety, but productive, garden potting sheds and neat vegetable growing beds have been replaced by an expensive, glazed tiled roof, double garage. Or double carport feature surrounded by perfectly weed-free, manicured and poisoned grass deserts. With professionally installed, concrete block paths to keep posh town shoes dry from overnight dew on the way to the choice of immaculate, luxury cars standing in the drive for inspection by the neighbours. Appearance is everything. Local work is  no longer an option and commuting to the city is the name of  the game.

The shrill, excited voices from the village school playground are now but a very distant memory.  While the elderly villagers now doze under the influence of sleepy relaxing drugs in a sleepy old peoples home on the edge of the nearest city with shoestring, unskilled staff levels.

They never notice the thousand-plus kids and the countless people carriers congregating daily in the suburban school road. Delivering young ROM units to the centralised, lean production, factory education system. Churning out endless general purpose, computer literate work units for the countless, utterly pointless jobs in countless useless offices across the endlessly encroaching built-up areas across the region.

Few cycle to school any more. It is too dangerous weaving between the hordes of impatient people carriers. Chauffeuring the clinically obese, memory storage units straight to the door. Anything to avoid the virtual risk of an "accident" or paedophile grooming on the way to school. The amateur cabbies then racing off on the daily, two hour commute, in nose-to-tail traffic, in the echoing canyons of the rat runs to hell. (and back again later with the low sun still niggling at their designer sunglasses) :-)  

4th 64-70F, sunny periods, windy. The special cornflakes run.  Went really well on the way with a following wind but hard work coming back. Right knee still complaining slightly. The heel problem did not recur. I really should stop trying to go as fast as possible and just enjoy the scenery. 34 miles in an almost perfectly straight line. An hour to get there and 1:30 back. pm. Windy with showers. I had to race to a car spares shop before they closed. 17 more miles and my right knee is getting worse again.

5th  64-70F, breezy sunny periods. 24 mile loop. If I take it easy my knee doesn't complain. 12 more miles later and my knee is getting worse again. I'm going to have to become a tourist and stop pretending I can race about, flat out, everywhere I go. The weird thing is that the pain has moved to the top of the joint. Before this it felt as if it was below. It sounds daft but I just don't seem to be able to ride slowly or steadily no matter how hard I try. I seem driven to ride as fast as I can all the time.

6th 62-67F. Almost still, sunny periods. Despite keeping my speed below the tolerance level for my knee and visiting various supermarkets I sill managed 29 miles before coffee. I even found an archaeological dig on my travels and stopped to have a look. There was nobody about but a good view could be had from a mound of soil. The site dates back 5,500 years no less! A handy placard suggested a series of burial mounds laid on top of each other at very wide time intervals.  I should have taken a photograph, I suppose, but there wasn't much to see to the uneducated eye. A few, rough field stones laid on the ground in various places.

My knee problem has forced me to ease off instead of attacking every hill. I am (slowly) learning to roll along. Maintaining my speed as high as possible to reduce effort on the hills. Changing down early to avoid hard pedalling. 90+ pedal rpm (cadence) seems to work but revving too high uphill also puts a load on my knee.

Sometimes I can roll along effortlessly at 110rpm and 22mph. The next moment I am fighting to maintain 80rpm in bottom gear on quite a gentle slope. The hills are what catch me out. I am so used to going at them as hard as I can manage that I  have yet to find a happy medium. One which avoids sudden over-revving. Or pushing too hard at low revs due to a poor gear choice. I can no longer get out of the saddle and pound my way up using brute force.

I am still rather amazed how well it went today. I avoided pain but sensed my threshold was quite close at times. The question now is whether I am pedalling towards a slow recovery. Or towards an appointment with a surgeon and a new pair of knees!

7th  62-73F, sunny, very light winds. The trick seems to be to keep the pedal revs up. My knee gave me no trouble today.  I had a twinge when I unclipped awkwardly as a fly attacked me. I have already slacked off the pedal springs. It's as if my knees are waiting to pounce if I try too hard. Ready to  punish me with a sudden sharp pain. They are constantly just below the edge of my consciousness. I still managed 33 hilly miles before coffee.

My favourite hill. Here, looking back up through the oak tree avenue towards the direction of the motorway.

Now looking down the hill. Except that it's not down. It's an optical illusion. If I stop pedalling I eventually come to a stop.

For more than ten years I have been going up and down this hill (in the car) thinking it was a long, continuous slope. The top and bottom of the hill are indeed quite reasonable hills.  I have also been up and down here repeatedly on my trike. I have always assumed the resistance was caused by the incline. Often it may simply have been a head wind.

Tucking down to hide under the crossbar will never make me go any faster here.  I often tried and failed to catch a racing cyclist out training on this section. Today it was a big, fit young chap on a decent mountain bike. I crouched low over the handlebars and pedalled furiously but still he pulled away. Only further on, when I hit the real slope, was I able to get back on his wheel.

I have reduced the colour and contrast on the second picture because it was far too bright and contrasty. Getting a picture without any traffic at all probably took me quarter of an hour! It seemed to completely spoil the image to have a single car in shot.

8th 62-67F, light winds, overcast, light rain on and off. 26 miles.

Yesterday evening (7th) we went to the Danmark Rund time trial in Middelfart. I have made another chapter (or three) with some of my pictures.

9th 62-66F, winds light, sunny periods. 28 gentle miles trying to keep the revs high.

The archaeological dig at the 5.5k year old  site near Hårby. SW Fyn. The views out over the countryside are excellent. Though the terrain may well have been tree covered in the past. A hill rises behind the camera so this area was not a local high point. 

The other half of the dig. Now in its second, and probably final, year. The soil here is very sandy so preservation of organic materials would be poor in comparison with clay or peat. The shallow nature of the site is clearly shown by the profile rib deliberately left exposed across the dig.  Normal ploughing may well have reached deep enough to disorganise the area to some degree. Some decorated pottery and a flint knife and axe head were amongst the fascinating finds. The pottery was clearly incised with fine lines or circumferential rings.

The site blog is below. Google Toolbar translation may partially help in understanding the content.

Frydenlundsarup’s Blog

Nearby, I found an asphalt cycle path out in the middle of nowhere. Only a short section is shown here trapped between a field of ripe grain and a tall, overgrown hedge.  Though not very wide the asphalt surface is in excellent condition. The cycle path ends at the small village of Jordløse. One wonders at the original purpose of the path. There must surely have been far more foot or cycle traffic at some point in the past. If only to warrant the expense and investment in time and effort. The Hårby end of the path seems to start amidst the fields. Though the traffic carrying lanes are marked as a continuation of the same cycle path.

It may just be my romanticism but I find such paths unique in their atmosphere of peaceful nostalgia. The same could be said for the cycle paths built on old, disused railway tracks in Britain. The  ability  to relax completely away from the noise and constant danger of impatient motorised traffic makes it well worth seeking out such secluded paths. The cyclist enjoys the journey in its entirety for all its effort and occasional pain in climbing hills. The cyclist is exposed in every possible way to his surroundings and the environment. Wind, rain, noise and road surface are constantly at the forefront of their consciousness.

The motorist is merely going from A to B. Preferably with the minimum of effort and zero inconvenience. The journey is a test of patience with the goal being the ability to finally get out of the damned car. The manufacturers' efforts in turning modern cars into sensory deprivation tanks, on wheels, has actually made the car an unpleasant place to  be. Which is why so many drivers find alternative distractions so necessary while driving. Anything which actually drags the driver's attention back to the driving is to be avoided at all costs.

Drivers speed to get the journey over with ASAP. Or perhaps to help them stay awake. Nothing must hinder the driver's semi-comatose progress. No touch of  the indicators must intervene to wake the driver from his sleep. Corners must be cut to reduce G-forces which might wake the driver and make him or her aware of the serious consequences of bad driving. Even at normal road speeds.

The soundproofed shell, soft suspension and air bags remove all sense of external movement or danger. The psychopath's cell, in the high security lunatic asylum, has been given wings to fly. So that they may float away even further from reality. Only the inconvenience of damaged paintwork and increased insurance premiums stops them driving through red lights. Or over packed pedestrian crossings. Or cutting a swathe through gaggles of cyclists.    

The driver's lunacy is always bubbling away just below the surface. One only has to gesticulate or point out their criminally insane behaviour for them to go completely berserk. Road rage is  so commonplace that one wonders what proportion of the driving public should be placed permanently behind bars. Nowhere is murder and mayhem so easily carried out without the least consequence for the perpetrator.

Motoring has an incredibly poor relationship between action and consequence. The proof lies in the vast numbers of dead and dying on the roads around the globe despite all the modern safety features. Obscenely fat, middle aged men, wearing sports clothes, in overpowered sporting models of family saloons pretend they are driving at Le Mans.  Instead of which they are using the local rat run, past the local school, at 60mph just to fetch some cigarettes and bottles of sugared, fizzy water from the supermarket. Even the adverts sell cars entirely on styling and sporting performance in empty streets where the countless real victims are never shown.

Nowhere else in society is mass criminal behaviour so rewarded and so little sanctioned by the courts. These criminals will even complain that their behaviour is unfairly restricted by speed cameras and police patrol cars! They claim that cyclists get in their way! This despite the low impact of cyclists and all the health benefits of cycling. Not to mention the ease with which a motorist can quickly regain their insane and usually illegal speed once they have passed the poor sod. The one who is actually panting uphill, against a headwind, in the pouring rain, with their legs and lungs on fire. And always breathing in the raw petrol fumes from the screaming cars overtaking at full throttle to show their personal disgust at cyclists in general.

On the five mile (8km) stretch of road, on which I live, over 50 vehicles has literally left the road in the past few years. No day passes when I don't see drivers using their mobile telephones while taking bends so badly that they cross into the path of oncoming traffic. Every corner is cut, by most drivers, because they are too lazy to use only their own side of the road to stay on the tarmac. Speeding is so commonplace as to be hardly worth pointing out.

While Britain ponders on the use of speed indication boards (instead of cameras) Denmark has had them for years. These indicators affect driver behaviour not one iota. A total waste of money. The flashing orange lights caused by the vehicle which went past before them does not slow the following vehicle at all. Every single driver in a long chain of cars will make the lights flash due to excessive speed! Some drivers will actually accelerate to ensure they make the lights flash.

Perhaps the manufacturers should put flashing orange lights on the back of the speed indicator signs as well as on the front? So the criminal drivers, and the occupants of the village or town, can actually see them flash! Most drivers are travelling so fast that the lights flash long after they have passed on their way to a date with the death of a pedestrian. Action and consequence are, once again, safely divorced from reality in a road safety measure. Many of these speed indicator boards read low which makes drivers relaxed about their speeding. They think they can increase their speeds by the board's average reading error without consequence. Many boards read 4-5kph low. Surely they should read high to make drivers even more aware of their own foolish speed?

10th 62-72F. Very breezy with sunny periods. A good day. My knee behaved itself today provided I didn't push at low revs or go madly at the hills. Though did do 130+rpm for a couple of hundred yards up a long hill. 27 fairly quick miles at higher rpm,. I hit 135rpm on the flat this afternoon on a shorter run of only 15 miles. It's getting much easier to rev fast. Though I still prefer to be climbing to spin really fast. Because it gives me just enough resistance to avoid bouncing on the saddle. The Brooks has become almost comfortable enough to ignore. I have given up on the dried apricot snacks because of the nasty side effects. The forecast is for heavy rain over the next couple of days so I may finally get a proper rest day.

I passed a tractor spraying a ploughed field right up to the side of the road. The tip of the spray bar was only 3' from my elbow. The driver was welded to his mobile telephone, as usual, and hardly glanced at me. I have no idea what was being sprayed. Will I die? Read tomorrow's exciting episode!

 A Higgins lugless "Ultralite" trike frameset and rear wheels is being offered on eBay:


Though fixed wheel it looks as if the sprocket carrier is more like a compact differential. I could be completely wrong but I can't see why else it (the sprocket carrier) would  be festooned with large screw heads. 

An interesting brazed-on, rear bag carrier too. I haven't seen one like this until now. It should be interesting to see how much this trike makes in the auction. The seller is based in Clitheroe.

11th I'm still alive despite being sprayed yesterday. 60F, light winds and torrential rain showers. I headed off into overcast and was soon donning waterproof jackets. Fortunately it soon stopped raining for the rest of the ride. Only 18 miles so far today and the heavy showers are persisting. Wasn't this supposed to be a rest day, anyway? ;-)

I have rediscovered the difficulties of riding in the wet on the "wrong" side of the road for left side, one wheel drive. In the dry one can more easily get away with a low gear on steep hills. In the wet my front wheel was hopping to the right on every pedal stroke. All due to a lack of friction with the road camber. Attempting to accelerate to overcome the hopping only exaggerated the wheel skipping making me slog all the way up! 1 am forced to use a low gear to avoid hurting my knee.

Now I have even managed to wear through to the canvas on the drive side tyre! I'm not sure how long that tyre has been on there but I've done 5.6k miles since January. I'll check when Geoff Booker at Trykit sent me my new HP wheels. [Edit] Beginning of December 2009. So December's mileage has to be added to this year's  total. So roughly 6,000 miles from new.

Unlike a bicycle tyre a trike tyre is always upright on  the road surface. There is also quite a degree of tyre scrub on tight corners as the trike drifts quite a bit. The weight of the  rider is so far overboard countering centrifugal forces that the tyres are unloaded. There are no rear brakes on my trike which saves the treads to some degree compared with a bicycle. Interestingly (?) the black central stripe on the Bontrager Racelite tyres gets narrower with wear. Definitely time to place an order for a Trykit 2WD rear axle system before a wet autumn or a hard winter deprive me of traction again. I have been putting off ordering by my wonky knee. I have really been spoilt by a long, dry and warm summer this year following an incredibly long and hard winter. This had made me forget the different problems I faced when riding in the wet. 

12th 59F. Fairly still, sunny but getting overcast. Much cooler with autumnal overtones. Mist hanging in the lower fields. I'm still slightly congested but (strangely) my knees seem to be on the mend. I'm increasingly convinced that my knee problem may be with my tendons rather than joint pain. The pain seems to move about from side to side and top to bottom.  I was even able to get out of the saddle and pound up a hill in a high gear to save changing down. 33 miles in the morning plus 10 later. The forecast heavy rain  missed us apart from a little drizzle on and off.

Friday 13th 61-70F, breezy, sunny periods. Very odd, but my knee continues to mend. Inexplicable, but true. Despite this my legs feel rather tired today. Light winds forecast but I seemed to be working against a head wind wherever I went. Still managed to cruise above 20mph for quite a few miles. It's nice to  be able to get out of the saddle again when a hill needs to be crested in a higher gear. I'm still avoiding low revs and can sustain 110+ without too much effort some of the time.  Still prefer 90-100rpm but am often surprised how fast I am pedalling when I glance down at the cadence indicator.. I'm going to try another set of (recycled) indexed brake/gear levers. 30 miles so far. Plus nine more later to check some bearing adjustments.

14th 67F, breezy, overcast all day. It was supposed to be a rest day but I had to ride an errand. 8 miles.No pain at all from my knee. I snapped a spoke nipple leaving the drive. A loud bang and the 32 spoke front wheel took on a serious wobble. I was able to push the centre-pull brake over so it didn't drag until I came home home again. I swapped wheels for my next best 36 spoke winter wheel until I get around to removing the tyre. Then I can fit a new nipple and true the wheel up again.

The mess left behind by some picnicking retards on a quiet cycle path near Assens.

15th 64-73F.Warm,  humid and  breezy. Mostly overcast with occasional sunny periods. I wanted to restore my mileage after a rest day so set off for a fairly distant supermarket via the coastal lanes.  Not so much as a twinge from my right knee while I was out. 47 miles after visiting four supermarkets.

Mr Higgins admiring the coastal view at Sandager Næs, north of Assens, looking towards Weddelsborg peninsular. There is a popular camping and caravanning site just here in quiet countryside.

A farmer was spraying his harvested fields just on the other side of the hedge from the site. There was quite an onshore wind. Which must have coated the entire site in whatever was being sprayed.

11 miles later for 58 total today.

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