16 May 2011

To May's End

16h May 2011 50-55F, 10-13C, windy, overcast with showers. Once again I avoided the rain. I was cruising at 19mph for a couple of miles but couldn't go much faster in the 45 degree head/crosswind. Slower was easy enough.

An unspoilt, timber-framed, thatched cottage in Swedish red.

The road surfacing chaps have been busy for a fortnight now. Filling potholes in lanes and resurfacing whole roads. I saw a road sweeping vehicle, the other day, for the first time in years. He was clearing the gutter and brushing debris and large gravel onto the bicycle path alongside. I ran over some stones and thought I'd punctured. It made such a loud bang. Nice. It tried to rain on the way home but went off again so I soon dried off.

Faded glory. An old farmhouse complete with clock dial on the gable. 

My chest is almost clear but apparently I have been coughing a lot in the night. My wife has been browsing for oilseed rape symptoms. There's a lot of it about. They put it in everything these days! Except what we choose to eat.

An avenue of towering horse chestnuts guard an inviting yard.

Many Danish farmhouses use barns and other buildings to form a closed square. Often the only entrance is through an arch. The surrounding buildings provide shelter from the cold winds which blow across the open countryside. They also provide a high level of  privacy and, no doubt, some extra security. 

Some even have ancient doors to close off the only entrance to the inner sanctum. Though rural crime has not been a problem until more recently. Opening the borders to the EU has brought in a completely different, relatively impoverished culture. One with absolutely no loyalty to the Danish way of life.

The conservative government of the last decade and the global, financial crisis have done much to increase inequality amongst the Danes themselves. Not to mention theft to feed the ever increasing drug abuse. 

The relative affluence of Denmark must be a tempting target for some. With garages and workshops often left wide open all day. Displaying power tools, bicycles and garden tractors to any passer-by. Ten years ago the local papers used to print a couple of short paragraphs, per week, about local crime. Now it sometimes runs to two pages! Which is an absolute tragedy for the relaxed rural lifestyle! 

Thanks goodness there is the North Sea between thieving British and Denmark! I can't imagine any unattended, British garden being left full of children's toys as is commonplace over here. They'd steal a washing line if they thought they could get away with it. Nothing is safe over there and hasn't been for many decades.


The wind never seems to let up these days. 15m/s (30mph+) gusts on a 10m/s base have been forecast for weeks now. It often feels like 30mph steady headwinds. Only 15 miles carrying heavy shopping back.

A hidden entrance to a secret world of elves and færies.

17th 50-60F, 10-16C, windy, overcast with rain. The forecast, all day rain stopped after coffee so I set off with fingers and toes crossed. I wore my tatty, cycling over-wellies because the roads were so wet.  There was so much in the bag that the front wheel went light and I struggled to close the zip. Even the sun came out towards the end. A pleasant enough ride for 19 miles of near constant birdsong. The last carrying half a ton of shopping.

Mr Higgins waits patiently while I fail to capture an entirely thatched, four-sided farm. 

The house itself is hidden from view on the far side. The paler straw on the ridges is new. The ridge treatment is required much more frequently than re-thatching. I believe thatch can last for several decades. Though the roofing material itself is an important factor. I think most is imported from Eastern Europe these days. Though we once came across a reed harvester at work in a marsh. There a still a great many thatchers living in the Danish countryside. Just as there are a great many thatched roofs. The cost is very high compared to other roofing materials but has its own unique qualities.

A typical rural view. Looking towards Dreslette.

18th 50-58F, 10-14C, breezy, slightly misty, damp and bright overcast. Yet again the forecast, all-day rain failed to turn up. I was going well after initial knee complaints. I wish I could fathom why it comes and goes as it does.

I disturbed a long-haired cat hunting on the edge of a field. He went off like a jet-propelled mop. Then ran flat out for half a mile before diving through the hedge.  I took a number of photos today. Trying to maximise on the very even lighting on rural views but it wasn't bright enough. Only 18 miles.

A chocolate box cottage.

19th 55-60F, 13-16C, windy with 50% sunny periods. A nice day for a ride with traffic very light on the bank holiday. Cool at first but too warm for a vest later on.

A huge, 6 axle, continental goods lorry passed me going the other way in a busy shopping street. The driver was steering with his elbows. While he shuffled his papers held up right in front of his face as if he needed glasses!

I was climbing quite well again despite still being a bit chesty and short of breath. I even paced a tractor and trailer for a couple of miles at 18mph uphill an down. He dropped me on a steep climb so it was back to struggling into the headwind and 10-14mph. Hardly surprising with three carrier bags full of shopping on board!  No knee problems today. 20 miles.

Even covered in rusting corrugated iron a contorted, timber-framed barn has character.

20th 62F, 17C, breezy and sunny. Quick shopping trip then going out again after coffee. My knees were aching slightly as I left but it soon went off. It seems I need a couple of miles to get the pump to my knee joints primed so it lubricates them properly. Though it doesn't really feel like that. More of a dull ache from just behind loose kneecaps. 6 miles so far. The wind picked up slowly and the windmills started turning. 19 more miles listening to the din of birdsong and the bank holiday lawn mowers.

Here's an unlikely, triple, classical tandem frame auction on eBay: Includes a Rogers tandem trike and two tandems. The items are located in Swansea.


Obviously quite a bit of TLC required. It looks like a rear hub brake on the axle. (I have enlarged the rather small, eBay images and tried to improve them a bit with PhotoFiltre)

The three tandems failed to reach the (unknown) reserve.

21st 62-66F, 17-19C, breezy and getting windier, warm sunshine. Quite a lot of cyclists out training today. The sun makes people noticeably more cheerful. 22 miles. Plus ten more miles later.

A typical rural rail crossing. The "furniture" is still standing after at least 20 years inactivity.

22nd May 65-68F, 18-20c, very windy, mostly sunny. The wind made it hard work whichever direction I was travelling in. Still climbing well. The lanes are full of birds. Presumably looking for insects knocked down by cars. The birds are mostly wagtails, sparrows and fewer yellow hammers. Each bird has its season. For a while it was nothing but chaffinches. Followed by greenfinches. I don't think I've seen a single gold finch this year.

Mr Higgins plays the damsel in distress on the railway line. It may take some time before a train arrives.

I saw a dead woodpecker on the road. It must have been hit by a vehicle. A very unusual victim of road kill. Blackbirds are run over in large numbers. Probably because of their suicidal habit of swooping across the bow of speeding cars.

There are always huge numbers of crows, rooks and jackdaws of course. Skylarks are also incredibly numerous. Though cuckoos are much less obvious so far. All the geese have moved further north but there are still swans on the lakes and ponds. I passed a pair which had taken residence on a field drainage pond. With the dry weather it had turned to cracked mud leaving them foraging on the open field. The sheltered bays on the coast are usually covered with huge flocks of swans.

The lanes are full of insects too. A long fly shot into my mouth and held onto my tongue! It clung on while I tried to spit it out. So I had to grab it and literally pull it off! It felt as if I had been bitten but eventually the pain subsided.

It doesn't get much more idyllically rural than this. 
The arch-topped dormer window is as rare as hen's teeth!
Most cheat and use a standard, flat-topped window.

A completely unspoilt, 3-lengths, timber-framed, thatched house and attached outbuildings. No doubt a small farm from ages past. A narrow lane turns sharply left just beyond the house. Forcing the barn into a wobbly curve to follow the road. This is not exactly an uncommon feature of timber framed buildings on tight corners. Particularly in agricultural villages. 

One wonders whether the road follows the building. Or the barn was built out to the maximum size inside the curve. Originally only horses and carts would have had to manage the acute bend, of course. No sensible lorry or tractor driver would attempt the sharp turn from this direction.   

A thatched cottage nestles cosily into the landscape.

The all-day rain forecast finally arrived, with thunder, at 1.30. Yet again I have missed a promised soaking.

My mileage is well down on last year. At this rate I shall only cover 5k miles this year. I haven't been going out in the afternoons to double my daily mileage like I did last year. Hopefully I am conserving my knees! 27 miles.

The lady's Longstaff touring trike is back on eBay again:

George Longstaff tricycle trike 531 (higgins/rogers) on eBay (end time 21-Jun-11 12:54:20 BST)

23rd  60F, 16C, windy, sunny. Just a circular shopping trip. 24 enjoyable miles fighting the wind. I brought a bundle of 6' canes back, tied to the crossbar. For my wife's cherry tomatoes in the greenhouse. The taste and texture of which are unmatched anywhere on the planet.

Partial remains of a rural timber yard. 

There are luxury homes hidden by very high hedges on the right so it is difficult to capture the sprawling industrial buildings. These go on for hundreds of yards in a gentle arc. The chimney suggests a steam engine, to drive saws, but I can't be certain without trespassing. There are several old timber yards in this area which now lie idle.

I remember a timber yard just behind my village school when I was a kid. Whole trees were laboriously aimed into multiple, vertical frame saws to turn them into planks. A rudimentary, and no doubt highly dangerous, moving toothed "chain-conveyor belt" dragged the trees through the saws while they were manually adjusted sideways with long bars. Thick black grease covered everything in the unlit, half open, saw shed. I remember a tripod supported boom crane to lift loads around the yard. The arrival of DIY superstores probably killed all these old timber yards off. 

One rural timber yard I visited, here in Denmark, looks as if the workers had just walked away a few minutes ago. Leaving deep beech dust, tools and half-finished, gardening tool handles lying everywhere. Tremendously nostalgic but probably a tragedy for local, rural employment at the time.

There were also a great many roofing tile and brick factories in rural, villages and towns. "Tegleværksvej"  (Tile Works Road) is a very common name for roads here in Denmark. As is Møllevej" (Mill Road) With hundreds of windmills still standing.  Past saw mills are noted by "Savværksvej".

The industrial past is all around us if we care to look for it. In Britain it all tends to be swept away more quickly to provide land for housing and industrial estates. Here in Denmark there hasn't been the same pressure for building land until recently. Now there are many new housing estates on green belt land. Probably feeding off the massive increase in property values. Often these new estates are on steeply sloping land. Presumably the farmer profits from the sale. While not losing his better agricultural land on the flatter ground. 

A shady spot in the woods. In the great storm of '99 many conifer trees in this area were literally snapped off half way up the trunks! It looked like a scene of devastation from WW1! Now it has regrown into dense deciduous woods.

24th 55F, 13C, gales, sunny periods with heavy showers.  It is supposed to blow up to 45mph today. The rain managed to catch me twice but the showers were so short lived that the roads were still dry under the trees. I just kept going with rain drops falling like turbo-charged marbles for only about a minute. The cycle lane in one popular shopping high street was littered with broken glass from smashed beer bottles! 19 miles.

More chocolate box. A thatched watermill from the house end.

25th 55-57F, 13-14C, blowing a gale, mostly sunny. It felt a bit cold as I fought to make a furrow into the headwind. In the end I decided to tack back and forth using the available lanes to give myself a rest. It's amazing how a good hedge can give almost perfect shelter. I could almost freewheel home.

The tarmac chaps were out and about again. Bringing renewed safety to the minor roads and lanes. I almost stopped to photograph one particular pothole it was so deep. Any cyclist falling in would need a cave rescue team to get out alive! 19 miles.

The disused water mill from the mill end.

26th 57-65F, 14-18C, windy, mostly sunny. A strange white glare to the sun might suggest volcanic ash. Wandering the lanes looking for photogenic scenes. Traffic was very light.

I played the hero and removed a large stone from the middle of the road which had fallen from the bucket of a JCB. Had I not it might have lain there until they eventually resurfaced the road. Even on the main roads things can lie there literally for years. When we first came to Denmark they had sweeping vehicles routinely working every road. When things fly off the idiot's trailers as they head for the recycling centres it can lie there until it disintegrates.

It was fun cruising effortlessly at 20 mph with the wind at my back. My knees have been complaining about all the ladder climbing. From my working on the house. My back aches too. I found my weight has gone back up to 12 stone despite my looking thinner than ever. It must be all those biscuits. Only 18 relaxed miles today.

There is an old BSA with a trike conversion set on eBay(UK) but the asking price is ridiculous. Longstaff quality trikes don't sell for their silly reserve price. If you have no use for the donor bike frame then a conversion set price is all that it is worth. IMO, of course.

 Mill end. The wheel would have been behind the railings.

27th 55F, 13C, blowing a gale, mostly overcast. With the wind behind me I was cruising at 25mph. Even doing 23mph uphill! Then used the back lanes to get some shelter on the way back. 22 miles. Pus 6 miles pm.

Mill entrance.

28th  57F, 14C, blowing a gale, overcast. I had to give up on my chain store, cycling sunglasses. I was allergic to the plastic and my forehead was getting very red and worse by the day. So I wore some old coloured plastic sunglasses for a few days and the rash is already gone. Now I'm trying new pair of sunglasses. At only £7(equiv) it was worth the risk that I might be allergic to these as well. There is something about black Chinese plastic and rubber. It literally stinks so may be off-gassing something really nasty. I was going well today despite the wind. Only 16 miles though.

29th  53-60F, 11-16C, windy, sunny periods. It is odd how so many roads, large and small are turning into a bowler hat, cross section. I presume the original, narrower road has much greater resistance to heavy traffic than the newer, much softer edges. Many roads are badly cracked along the junction between the two sections. The outer three or four feet strips on both sides of the roads seem to be sinking.

I suppose it might be frost heave which causes this effect. Exacerbated by the increasingly heavy, goods vehicle traffic. Particularly with international lorry drivers using car GPS units to find unofficial "rat runs". The increase in lorry traffic on our own, twisting rural road matches that on the narrow lane outside our last home in the UK. The traffic increased from one or two vehicles a day to one every minute over a ten year period. 33 miles, trying hard not to wear the roads out.

Just another rural view. A splendid rank of roadside oaks. 

The trees in the field on the left are a typical sight. Usually marking a low spot which has a spring or pond. Most years I see the farmers running a plastic drain pipe away from such wet places. Then in go the chainsaws and a few lorry loads of top soil stripped from a new housing estate. The safely isolated, wildlife habitat island is soon gone for ever.

30th 57-64F, 14-18C, windy, sunny periods with showers. I decided to do a slightly longer run today. Made a complete mess of wind direction and ended up riding into a headwind all the way back. I was caught in a shower for the first time but plodded on as it was only drizzle. I dried out in the wind when it finally stopped. 34 miles.

This family of swans crossed the road very carefully while I was approaching down a long straight. They just made it to the pond before I reached them.

31st May 70F, 21C, breezy, warm and sunny. Two more rural supermarkets working hard to be closed down. Do they deliberately choose bad mannered staff for the checkouts? Don't they have the slightest clue who pays their wages? Thought not! 26 miles. Plus 9 miles, in the rain, later. Knees complaining.

 Click on any image for an enlargement. Back click to return to the text.

15 May 2011

Committing bloggery and Google's skullduggery!


You might think I am having a childish tantrum because of Google's failure to restore the posts they removed. You might not feel quite the same if you knew how hard I work at finding exactly the right words to convey a thought or feeling.

I have always been accused of having too large a vocabulary. Going right back to childhood I used "long words" which irritated or intimidated others. To me, these "long words" were just better ways of expressing myself more clearly. Or more precisely. There was absolutely no ostentation intended. My extended vocabulary was a natural part of my everyday conversation. Sometimes leading to teasing or aggression. I never thought of it as a handicap. Nor even knew which words others would find challenging.

Therein lies another problem. Having a large toy box full of words only makes the choice more difficult. My wife constantly nags me about my poor decision making abilities. "Never give Chris a choice!", she says. Which is patently true. Though only up to a point.

Mr Higgins surveys the charming, rural calm of a higgledy-piggledy farm. Sheep are rather unusual in Denmark. The small flock sizes suggest pets rather than produce.

I loved writing (and reading) even as a kid. Much to my teacher's and tutor's chagrin with regards to the former. My handwriting remains and always has been dreadful. I blame the conversion from scratchy ink dip pens to poorly performing Biros while I was still at Junior school. I experimented endlessly with nibs and fountain pens in later years and was fascinated by calligraphy for a while. (as an art form which was completely denied to me) Though, by then, the damage was already done. My handwriting was beyond further help.

Quantity of words was never remotely my problem. With my vivid imagination I would produce ten sides (or many more) for a single English, homework essay. I almost literally inhabited the story on the written page. However, adding my disastrous handwriting to my appalling spelling and grammar were all too much for them to cope with in such quantities. I would often be marked down badly. Or told to learn the fine art of précis. Fat chance! That was like being asked to paint pictures using only magnolia emulsion! :-)

A peaceful rural scene. The oddly-leaning, farm buildings are probably unchanged in many years.The diagonal bracing is unusual. Normally these are only used at the corners of buildings in Denmark. In Britain this would be a sign of great wealth or early timber framing. Yet many of these traditional buildings date from the late, 19th century. Though the original steep thatch has usually given over to Eternit. Asbestos reinforced, corrugated, cement, roofing sheets.

The arrival of typewriters in my life was a godsend in improving my legibility. Though they still lacked any other spelling checker than the idiot at the keyboard. I had to wait literally decades for this handy tool to arrive. It also took me decades to learn to type both fairly accurately and fairly quickly with 3-4 fingers. Heaven knows how long I tried to learn to touch type with faultless inadequacy.

I wrote a few thousand pages of science fiction novels in my thirties. Though it all ended up being burnt on a garden bonfire. Which was probably the best fate for such full immersion drivel. I never planned  a book. Nor made notes. I would write a story which entertained me. The problem then was that I knew exactly what was happening with total clarity. So I would leave out large clues as to how the characters had actually arrived in their present situations. (or so I was told by an unwilling proof reader) :-)

An old shed groaning under the weight of a lilac hedge. This flower colour is typical of many hundreds of miles of roadside, lilac hedging. Gardeners tend to choose much more colourful, selected varieties. From snow white to deepest purple and stronger mixtures of reds and blues. Rather like the Welsh in their colour choice of Rhododendron to distance themselves from the infestation of R.ponticum.

My memory is appalling in many respects. Meaning that I cannot regurgitate my text of yesterday if it no longer exists in the material world. I often find myself riding along on my trike and a choice of words is bubbling away on the back burner. Until a perfect phrase, word or term pops into my head. To be saved and used later on my blog.

Twenty minutes later I cannot even recall the original theme let alone the perfect choice of words! Days may pass before the idea bobs to the surface again. But my original words are no longer available in their polished form.

This is why I am so cross with Google for removing my posts and not restoring them again. The words were vital to the moment of publishing. In that they conveyed my feelings and emotions of the time. More so because they had been polished to match my own expectations. The form of words is no more because the emotion of that particular moment is now, long gone.

To physically Publish a blog post is to commit oneself to very public exposure. This is not remotely the same thing as riding a trike in brightly coloured clothing. The latter to ensure high visibility, of course.

A racing trike is so unusual that it probably produces as much attention as riding an ordinary. (penny farthing) Even if I wore black from head to toe. Which seems odd in itself. Because a trike is simply a bicycle with an extra wheel. Why does it excite so much reaction and attention? I occasionally see real fear in the faces of some who glance briefly my way.

Do they fear the trike itself? Or does it signal that I might be mentally handicapped? And therefore not in full control of my actions? Do they fear embarrassment in the face of the unknown? A chap in a town I visit quite regularly  rides a typical  "disabled" trike. He makes loud, strange noises almost constantly. I pulled up just as he was leaving a supermarket. He became very agitated and incomprehensibly vociferous at the sight of my trike and my friendly greeting. 

Even the well-disciplined, tiny tots walking closely beside their kindergarten prams can sometimes spot me at 100 yards. They turn and stare with wide-eyed curiosity as I pass. Often their (usually) lumpen minders are blissfully unaware of my presence. I wave and grin gently to show that I am not uniquely dangerous as a rare species of road user.

I see it as my responsibility as an all-too-rare, tricycling diplomat to Denmark. To seem quietly friendly and reasonably normal is part of my personal transport choice. I hope I appear fairly normal as far as (keen) cyclists go. I try to give the impression of fitness and competence in both my speed and smooth riding style. Without ever making a great fuss about it. 

Sometimes the adults smile and wave back too. Though to many of them it seems the child minding is only a paid chore. To be over and done with. There is no endless commentary of the countless things of interest on their regular walks. To add to the children's vocabulary and broaden their knowledge of the world they share. A good, head's start on the road of life is invaluable. Even in a rural village. 


7 May 2011

Maybe. Maybe not.

Ist May 2011 Sunday. 46-53F, 7-12C, windy, cool and sunny. And smelly, of course. Today's rain was cancelled due to excessive sunshine and shortage of clouds. It's an ill wind..

Rode on the Higgins snail to the shops and returned laden again. (the "snail" is a reference to the sheer capacity of my new shopping/saddle bag and the weight of its contents when fully stuffed. Higgins shopping trolley is now too conservative a term. 

It was a bit too cold for fingerless mitts again but I persevered. I had no choice since I had no gloves with me. My knees complained as I left but it soon passed off. I wish the wind would give it a rest. The same pattern day after day. Chest still bunged up. Still a bit breathless.

Spring has truly sprung with the arrival of the first swallows. The whole place has been freshened up with a thick coat of bright green, well dolloped over the landscape. Lots of plovers acrobatically defending their nests. A scruffy Jay flew over my head and stopped to stare from the hedge. Obviously never seen a racing trike before. A few yards on and a yellow hammer did the same trick. First this year that I've noticed.

The woods and hedgerows are packed to the gunnels with singing birds competing for attention. Small groups of geese rest by every polluted puddle in every field. The air is full of birds of prey pretending to be gliders. There was a real glider overhead yesterday. All very pleasant and rural. Except for the industrial quantities of pigshit and cheap scent and unknown chemicals being liberally splattered all over the beautiful Danish landscape. There really is no escape from the pong and the spraying! Two days in a row I've been sprayed by tractors running along the edge of the field right beside the road.

Here's one for Gunnar. Taken last year. The story goes that in the late 1700s a rich, local landowner demolished parts of the old church and rebuilt it with a tall tower and observatory. Whether he wanted to see all of his land in one go, or a view of the sea, I'm not quite sure. . Here's the full story in Danish just for Gunnar. :-)

Dreslette Kirke - Wikipedia, den frie encyklopædi

I have cropped the left side of the picture to remove parked cars. Also hidden a hideously intrusive no waiting sign centre right. Cars and street furniture completely spoil many photographs. They date the view and drag one's attention away from the subject and the peace and quiet of the countryside. I prefer a timeless quality in my pictures.


A couple of cyclists, out training, passed me. A few leisure cyclists waved. I paused by a lake to snack on my biscuits and watch fish rising to flies. The air has been incredibly clear over the last couple of days. Not at all what you'd expect in a drought. April 2011 set a new warmth record in Denmark. Sunny too. 19 miles so far. Mostly into headwinds. I must take more photographs!

All there is between me and these monsters is an almost invisible, electric fence. Shields up, Scotty!

2nd 46-47F, 8C, strong winds, sunny. I woke feeling snotty and dizzy with tinnitus but hoped it would go away. So I put on long fingered gloves and set off into the wind. Very hard work it was too fighting the cold wind. My legs were tired and achy today. Probably all the ladder work.

The Ventus GPS logger hasn't recorded a full track for a week now despite being fully recharged and the data cleared every day. It just loses the plot and dozes off. P.O.C. 19 miles.

The unspoilt, abandoned, rural railway lines of Denmark. The barrier is to stop the hired pedal trolleys from running straight across the road. Also, presumably,  to stop access to cars and motorbikes. BTW: "SKUB" just means "PUSH" in Danish.

Anyone would think that these lines would have been made bicycle friendly years ago. They are certainly much used by local, pedestrian traffic and as dog toilets. The only wheeled devices running along here are the hired pedal trolleys. Of which there seem to be not all that many. All it would take to make these tracks multi-user friendly would be some self-stabilising gravel. At the moment even mountain bikes would struggle to make any progress.

It seems shocking to me that these wonderful routes are so underutilised. Particularly as the traffic on the minor roads and lanes constantly increases. It took me ten minutes to capture just a few shots without vehicles intervening. Most drivers were travelling above the speed limit despite the proximity of a school and the local shops. The crossing is right in the middle of a village. The rusting supports for the old road barriers can seen to left and right.

These railway tracks often follow, almost flat, direct routes between places. The dense, mixed hedges offer the shelter which the farmers have denied the minor road users in many places. These old tracks would be absolutely ideal for commuting! Yet I never hear of any campaigns to turn them into proper cycle routes.

I doubt the present, right wing government truthfully gives a damn about bicycles. Though they may make all the usual noises about green issues they can't even match their previous promises on C02.

Turning these routes into cycleways make an ideal project for all the unemployed. Whom the politicooze want to force into working full time for only their unemployment benefits. What a shame we can't force the present politicooze into unemployment! These trough dwellers moan about the population being overweight and lacking exercise. Who really wants to get off their fat arse to go for a walk, a wobbly, gasping jog or a slow, snaking, uphill, bike ride in heavy traffic? Surely a quiet, flat, rural cycle path is a much better spot to have a heart attack in some privacy?

Mr Higgins eyes up a buxom lass loitering at the supermarket.

3rd May 40-49F, 3-8C, breezy, cold, sunny periods. Overnight frost with the grass all white! Just a gentle tootle to buy some food. I rode through some woods to see where the enticing tracks led. A bit silly really because I ended up quite near where I had left the road in the first place. The trike handled well on the heavily rutted tracks. I put the front wheel on the grass ridge in the middle. The rear wheels ran quite smoothly along the bare earth in between.

Mr Higgins goes off-road.

 Mr Higgins sums up the courage to venture into the deep, dark woods.

Only 14 miles.

4th 39-47F, 4-8C, breezy, sunny periods, cold and stinky. Frost overnight. Grass white and frost patterns on the car. I was quite cold as I changed the front brake for another centre pull. The hex, brake extension bar is not quite straight on my Higgins. So I needed more clearance to avoid the brake block rubbing on corners and heavy camber. This may have been the "new" Shimano front wheel flexing more than the last one. Much better now but my brake cable is a bit rusty so should be changed' soon. Only a short run to the shops today. 12 miles.

Mr Higgins stops to chortle at the wonky spray tracks in a field of oilseed rape.

5th 46-55F, 8-13C, windy, sunny. What a disaster! I couldn't get any bread locally so had to go further afield into the strong headwind. Then I circled back to the shops I needed. I was so late I decided to take a shortcut through some woods. I was congratulating myself on bombing along at 12mph on rutted tracks when I punctured on a rock! I put a new tube in and pressed on. Then I took a wrong turn and ended up miles away from where I was going. This after doing a snail's pace for ages to avoid another flat tyre! Three hours to do 28miles!

I checked the punctured tube back at home. It had two snake bites at 90 degrees to each other along the tube. I am trying Alan's Super Patches again. This time I'm going to carry a spare tube with two of these patches fitted. I was very careful in my preparation and they stuck down really well. They will have time to adhere even better before being eventually subjected to high pressures. The last time I tried a Park Super Patch in an emergency it lifted soon afterwards.

None of my conventional glue patches were small enough for these narrow Bontrager 700C tubes. I couldn't get them to stick right around the circumference so had to peel them off again! 

I passed an industrial pig effluent production plant where five tractors were sitting with their engines racing. Three were stirring a giant, round concrete tank full of stinking slurry. Two others were waiting to load their spreader tanks. A little later a slurry spreader came roaring down the middle of the lane forcing me off the tarmac and into a field! Its flexible hoses were swinging wildly as the driver chatted into his mobile phone. He swerved away just as he reached me. A mile further on a modified tank/container had a big diesel engine racing as it stirred yet more slurry. My clothes stink of pig shit every time I come home.I can sometimes smell it on my own breath after a ride. This can't be healthy! It is no wonder I have bronchial congestion for months on end.

And, on a lighter note: Who said wind turbines can't be beautiful? The trick is to have small groups in straight lines dotted about the countryside. Three is a good number for one site. This picture was taken straight into the sun. It is far more impressive full screen.

Mr Higgins investigates dappled shade.

6th 50-60th, 10-16C, sunny, winds lighter. A figure of eight shopping trip. I was going well today. Even cruising at 20mph for a while on the flat with a gentle tail wind. 23 miles.

Beech woods are glorious at most times of the year. Each season presenting a different colour and a wholly different light.

Out of curiosity I weighed my shopping when I got home. 17lbs despite it being rather less than usual. Only one and half carrier bags full instead of the usual two full carrier bags or even three. I have obviously been underestimating the weight I am carrying. 20+ lbs is a much more likely total. Which has to be added to my usual, ready-for-the-road 38lbs. So when I'm carrying milk, potatoes and a few tins I could easily be dragging 60lbs all up weight. A Guru Photon racing bike weighs 10lbs complete. (without shopping) I'd need at least three sky hooks to get Mr Higgins that light! :-)

I'm getting rather ashamed of Mr Higgin's tatty appearance again. The question is what to do about it. Patch up the missing paint? A total repaint? It will have to be cheap and DIY. I'd also like to keep (or replace) all of the transfers. (decals) I still like purple/mauve but would prefer something a little stronger. Perhaps even (gasp) metallic!

I was replacing the worn headset bearings today and used the opportunity to thoroughly clean the forks. The underside of the forks are not usually accessible to cleaning unless the trike is inverted and the front wheel removed. Inaccessibility also applies to fifty seven years of sunshine. The hidden areas were unbelievably deep and vibrant! It positively glowed with the richest purple imaginable.

An odd discovery was that somebody had used Araldite or epoxy to pack out the steerer tube. Just to provide a decent seating for the lower head bearing race. The usual raised bearing seat was barely 1/16" deep in places with a very wavy top edge! The epoxy had been used to deepen this seating. Presumably using a greased bearing race to provide its own mould. I tried a used Shimano 105 headset but it was too deep. So I was forced to use an older set from one of my recycled donor bikes. At last I have a smoothly turning headset without slop. I have yet to ride it but will know tomorrow if the work has been worthwhile.

 A cycle path lined with saplings which haven't yet come into leaf. The surface is superb apart from a couple of potholes. Quite a long climb but at least the traffic is at a safe distance. The absence of traffic gives a cycle path entirely its own atmosphere. The birds are also much more numerous.

7th 55-65F, 13-18C, windy, sunny. It¨s all very well being able to cruise effortlessly above 20mph but one always has to return into the head wind. The headset must have bedded down. It was loose and made the trike twitchy and prone to violent steering wobble. My knees and arms have caught a bit of a suntan. Lots of hare about today. 26 miles.

A more mature section of the cycle path. The denser growth is better at blocking traffic noise from the main road which runs closely parallel just here.

8th 60F, 16C, blowing a gale, cloudless and sunny. I was being blown about all over the place. Which made it tiring which ever direction I was going in. Gusty and turbulent. Even with a tail wind it kept blowing me backwards.   Headset still too loose with steering shimmy if I let go of the bars. Only 17miles.

Three hours cleaning and adjusting Mr Higgins in the afternoon plus a 3 mile test ride. The Shimano, steel, triple chainwheel is a pig to clean even using car engine cleaner and assorted brushes. The rings are riveted together despite being detachable as a unit from the alloy cranks. Stripping an alloy triple is a (relative) piece of cake. The plated finish on the steel rings is very scruffy and the bare steel remains dark and unattractive compared to alloy rings.

9th 65-68F, 18-20C, blowy, full sun. My knees complained as I pulled away but I was soon able to forget about them. Despite a headwind I was doing about 16-18mph. Faster still on the way back with my shopping. I am beginning to get back my climbing power for the first time. Until now I haven't been feeling very strong. Nor confident enough to risk hurting my knees. So my average speeds haven't been very high at all. The lilac hedges are suddenly in flower. Still only 17 miles.

10th May 66-73F, 19-23C, breezy, bright with sunny periods but slowly clouding over. Going well again. Putting much more effort into it. Even getting out of the saddle on hills to try and use different muscles. 26 miles.

Alan Schmidt is going well (down under) at the Paracycling World Cup in T1 in Sidney. Alan won both the massed start and the time trial! Well done Alan! His hard training and careful preparation are providing superb results.

Beauty and the beast?

11th 60F, 15C, breezy, overcast with spots of rain. 20 miles successfully avoiding showers.

I thought this salad bowl of subtle variations on green was gorgeous. So I stopped to take some pictures. It is, or rather was, a kind of wild play area on a narrow lane leading out of a tiny, rural village. It has a tattered rope hanging over a drop beneath an ancient tree. Steeply inclined banks offer exciting bike rides for those with the wind in their hair. It might have been a sand and gravel quarry in the dim, distant past.

From a time when kids still knew how to play out of doors without ephemeral props. When the only real dangers lay in in the boundless imagination. Before everything had already been done to death on an artificial screen. When the roads and lanes were still empty, linear playgrounds. Full of magic and raised, excited voices. Competing for hyperbole against a constant background of deafening birdsong. That was back before we sold our children's souls in exchange for commercial, plastic tat. For cheap, instant gratification and the opiate fix of lurid, secondhand entertainment.

 Here's confirmation of my love for lush spring woods and winding country lanes. I'm reposting a missing picture but can't duplicate the missing text.


13th Still no posts for the 12th and still no access to write. I'd better back everything up before Google loses it all again. Blogger is not a free service. It is paid for with Google advertising. 28  miles?

15th 60F, 16C, very windy, sunny periods with occasional, very heavy showers. I thought I was pedalling into a storm when the sky went black up ahead. Though only a few drops hit me as it went north of me. Still no 12th May posts. I am now backing up my mileage chart as often as I can remember to. Only 12 miles today.

Click on any image for an enlargement. Back click to return to the text.


3 May 2011

A red Newton

Ivan Haynes, the owner of this Newton trike has not only provided some superbly sharp images but also shared some YouTube videos.

WARNING! Please note that the image enlargements in this chapter are from 300kB up to 600kB. If you are on a slow internet connection please be advised that clicking on any image may result in a considerable delay. If you have to pay for your downloads then this is one more reason to avoid the enlargements. I normally set a size limit of 300kB per image in my blogs but wanted to do justice to the photography on these excellent images: 

General view showing unisex top tube arrangement and twin front wheels in the so-called "tadpole" configuration. As opposed to "delta" which has two rear wheels. The tetrahedral arrangement of front frame tubes ensures stiffness at the front end. The steeply sloping, top tube is continued as a further pair of stays to the rear wheel drop-outs. Very strong and stiff but with a weight penalty. In fact, this Newton is no lightweight according to its owner.

The emphasis on weight at the front might make it more difficult to bump it up over a pavement edge. But at least the wheels don't run into the backs of your legs when you walk it around.  (as does a delta)

View from behind the cockpit. The rider can clearly see where the front wheels are going. Making it easier to avoid potholes compared with a delta. The front axle bracing is well seen from this viewpoint.

Right side, front axle in close-up. Showing the Welsh head badge and Newton signature. Brake equaliser bell-cranks are seen on the extended head tube. The steering rods are clearly seen with ball joints at either end. These take care of the strange angles as the wheels move from lock to lock in both directions. Ackermann steering with the king pins pointing down at the centre of the tyre contact patch to avoid bump steer. Earlier tadpole makers used upright kingpins with disastrous results on high speed stability on rough surfaces.

The tadpole has a much wider turning circle than a delta. Not a problem in normal riding but a possible inconvenience in tight spaces. The delta can turn in its own length if necessary. With the Newton I'm thinking about the bars fixed at the ends of cycle paths. They form a very tight chicane to stop motorcycles and scooters from entering and causing high speed mayhem.

Rear view of front hub and widely splayed bracing tubes to ensure the axle stays aligned on the front of the supporting bicycle frame. The king pin housing employs bicycle head tube bearings neatly capped off. This should ensure very long life and no early redundancy due to lack of spare parts. This can be a serious factor with proprietary cycle parts. Many of the recumbent machines on the market at the moment will become so much scrap metal if their manufacturers should fold. Their designs incorporate unique parts made and used only by their makers. The Newton has wisely chosen the well trodden path of standard parts. So should have no real limit on its lifetime if treated reasonably kindly.

Front wheel and hub seen from the front of the machine. The slim rims need no braking surfaces. The wheels are quick release thanks to a sprung pin through the hollow axle. These large flange, Sturmey-Archer, drum brake hubs are popular on wheelchairs. I have a pair of these wheels in the 24" size just waiting for me to finish a project to build a similar tadpole trike. At present progress I may be too old and doddery to ride it when it is finished! 

The finish is a little "untidy" on some of the joints. Particularly in the bottom bracket area. This uses a lugged, bottom bracket shell. Goodness knows where this came from originally. Perhaps a rear tandem bottom bracket?  

A single rear brake probably provides a steadying influence on long descents. I have no idea if the S-A drum brakes are prone to heat fade as are car drum brakes. One owner complained about the lack of braking power with drum brakes. Newton now employ disk brakes on their trikes and conversions but as some extra expense.

The bottom bracket are showing duplicate tubes for the front axle braces. I suppose one should call them front axle stays. Their lateral dimensions must ensure that the rider's toes do not collide with them in normal use.

Ivan Haynes, the owner, tells me that it is relatively easy to lift the front wheels individually while riding or standing still. Even to corner as if on a bicycle if so desired. The front wheels are also rather easily locked under hard braking. While on a delta it is almost impossible to lock the single front wheel even braking hard on black ice. Though it is much easier to do so on loose gravel.

Now a couple of videos of the Ivan showing the truly remarkable stability of the tadpole arrangement. Or is it just his acrobatic skills? It would take considerable practice on a delta to be able to lift a wheel and keep it in the air. I have tried lifting a wheel to ride on two but do not enjoy the feeling at all. It feels very unsafe and unstable and rather unkind to the wheels. Ivan, the owner of the Newton, makes it look very easy indeed. He himself emphasises how stable the Newton is compared with his own delta trike.



Back click from YouTube to return here.

Note: These videos are not publicly listed on YouTube. So are only available via a direct link.

I am most grateful to Ivan for sharing these excellent images and links to his videos.

Ivan's review of his Newton follows: Note: I have split some of his original paragraphs into smaller sections dealing with specific points about the Newton trike. His words remain unchanged. Just as they were communicated to me in a private email. He has given me permission to post it here.

"My experience with an upright tadpole trike, having bought one last year and ridden one for the first time last year is that it is much easier to ride than an upright delta. Over the years I have tried many experienced (two wheel) cyclists on a delta and found they cannot ride it, but now if I try them with the tadpole first, they can then “progress” onto a delta after a few minutes. It is much more stable through bends, seems to require less lean from the rider (hanging off) and you can get away with braking into corners.

So far I haven’t really noticed any pull to one side even though the brakes are not quite even. That might be because the front brakes are not very sharp, but it is still very easy to lock up one of the front wheels under braking. Normally on a good surface you will know how hard it is to lock up the front wheel of a bike or delta trike. On the tadpole they lock up surprisingly easily however good the surface and grip is.

When cornering it is very easy to go round a corner with either the inside wheel or outside wheel lifted. In fact you can lean the machine over into a corner just like a bicycle. This is a bit trickier on a delta. Either of the front wheels can be lifted very easily indeed, again much easier than on a delta as there is much less rider weight on the front wheels than the back wheels of the delta. When riding along the road a front wheel will often come up “of its own accord” or from going over a bump.

Some downsides of the tadpole are as follows; Weight, it is quite a heavy machine, I must weigh it so that I can let you know what it actually does weigh. With all the extra work for steering the front wheels, it is quite heavy at the front and overall I would say is heavier than an equivalent delta.

Steering lock is also a limiting factor. This is not something that matters or would be noticed in normal road riding, but it has very limited steering lock. You know how you can almost spin on the spot with a delta, the turning circle is much larger with the tadpole. The frame design is shaped so that the front wheels can turn, but eventually they will meet and the tyre will rub on the frame (inside wheel). When riding, before it hits the frame if you turn too sharply, the wheel will make contact with your foot as there is huge toe overlap. This as said before is not an issue with normal road riding, unless you want to do a u turn on a narrow road.

Another issue with the Newton trike is build quality. I don’t like to speak badly of a builder and I have only got the experience of my machine, I have not seen other Newtons up close, but the frame is a little rough in its construction. It seems to be arc welded rather than fully brazed and some tubes are joined (in the middle) in their length. Overall though it is still a nice machine, just a few touches here and there could make it really nice."

Click on any image for an enlargement. Back click to return to the text.