13 Jul 2011

July '11


Wild Verbascum [thapsis] or Mullein.

1st July 2011 60F, 16C, very windy, mainly overcast with fleeting glimpses of the sun. Every circle comes back into the wind! 20 miles.



 Hand powered racing trike sitting in a bike shop.

I have tried to reduce the fussy backgrounds using PhotoFiltre.
It wasn't the cycle shop's fault I wanted to take some snaps of the trike.

2nd 55F, 13C, breezy, overcast with continuous rain. No plans to go out today unless it clears up. 6 miles in drizzle on very wet roads.

A link to some pictures of Belgian trike riders cornering with some enthusiasm:


Traditional, village thatched farmhouse.

3rd 69F, 21C, breezy, overcast, humid, warm. I went shopping in one town and then headed home. Going along the main road a racing cyclist steamed past me like I was going backwards. As I was feeling quite strong I thought I'd try to follow him. Or at least stay with him.

I was a bit handicapped by my bag full of shopping and two 1m (3'3") wide rolls of garden fleece. Which were tied sideways across the top of the bag. The rider kept getting slowly more distant despite my giving it fully 90% for 6-7 undulating miles to the next town.

I was doing between 17mph uphill and 23mph on the flat with quite a strong side wind. Even going down a long hill and pedalling hard at 100rpm I could still only manage 27mph. I was sweating like mad and took my TA cap off. It still felt as if I was riding in a sauna. As I came over a rise he had completely disappeared. Then I had to turn straight into the wind to potter the last few miles home as I slowly cooled off. 26 miles.

It's not all chocolate box and the middle classes living under a thatched roof:

Thatch is hideously expensive to replace and has a finite lifetime in comparison with most alternative roof coverings. Being saddled with a massive bill for re-thatching means that the alternatives are usually sought. Corrugated, fibre-reinforced, cement sheets are the most popular. Being relatively inexpensive and light enough not to need new roof timbers. Though usually the roof is re-battened to modern standards. Tiles require massive reconstruction or major reinforcement to cope with the greatly added weight.
PS. This old house has been recently re-thatched.

How do you build the country house of your dreams where planning permission would never be given?  You buy up a dilapidated cottage, demolish it and build a new house. This beautifully situated, rural home is in better taste than many built with new money. The majority of new builds are stock bungalows.

A Higgins trike on Flickr:


Lurking behind luxuriant shrubbery is an unspoilt, old, thatched and timber-framed farmhouse in Swedish red. One of the most popular traditional house colours alongside variations on yellow ochre. Original windows had slender glazing bars and were built of very long lasting, well seasoned heartwood. Not the heavy, mass-produced, knotty trailer trash sold today.

4th July 65-70F, 18-21C, breezy, overcast, warm and rather humid. My legs were rather heavy after yesterday's foolishness chasing younger racing cyclists. I stopped to take some picture to fill up the empty spaces. 20 miles.

A bold, road-side stand of Rosebay Willowherb with an underpinning of perfectly matching mallow.

5th 63F, 17C, light breeze, overcast, wet, with occasional rain. I ran through some roadworks in the rain and splattered myself with black tar thinners. Which had been put down as a primer. My windproof, day-glo jacket is now covered in permanent, jet black spots! My legs took quarter of an hour of scrubbing. Using a strong hand cleanser, with abrasive grains, before I was decent again. 10 miles.

Tadpole front end with Ackermann steering.

I did a tour of more bike shops later on but came up with no wider Continental Gatorskins. The word from one shop is that they are rather thin and vulnerable on the side walls. Since he seemed to be trying to push GP4000s one must assume that his criticism was possibly biased. The advice from another expert was that I should pump my Bontrager tyres much harder! The problem is that I can't use my right arm with a frame pump because of an RSI industrial injury. My Aldi sourced track pump resents pumping much beyond 5 bar. One bike mechanic suggested 8 Bar for the 23mm Bontragers to avoid pinch flats. (snake bite punctures).

  Hub gear, lay shaft to double freewheel, two wheel drive delta? A much heavier version of the double freewheel, 2WD, popularised by Longstaff and Trykit for racing and touring trikes. This assumes that the red body actually houses a double freewheel rather than a differential. 

More general view of the same trikes parked outside a city bike shop.

6th 72F, 22C, windy, sunny, hot. 13 miles. I'm leaving far too late to get any miles in before coffee and rolls! Lazy git! I'm not being allowed out for afternoon rides either.

I dismantled, rebuilt and then tried the track pump again but it loses interest at around 5 Bar. So it was back to the frame pump and I did my best despite the pain in my elbow. The trike went like a rocket afterwards. So I must have managed a few more pounds of pressure over normal. Though I could still easily dent the tyre tread surface with my thumb.

It may be the brass Presta-Schrader valve adaptor on the track pump which is causing the problem. It has just occurred to me that the adaptor will fit a car foot pump just as well. I'll experiment with this to see if it is simply operator error. I wonder whether better track pumps fit Presta HP valves without an adaptor?

I tried the car foot pump but it neither registered much pressure nor provided any more air. So it was back to the track pump. With all my weight bearing down on the handle I could just reach 7 Bar or 100 PSI. The right tire still doesn't feel as hard on the right. At 5 Bar I could just about flatten the tyre to the rim with my thumb in a firm squeeze.

I glance down at the rear tyres, occasionally, while I'm riding. If I can only just see the the tire beyond the outside edge of the rims, while seated normally, I know they are almost hard enough. When pumped really hard they just about disappear from view where they are flattened on the road by my weight.

Despite the brand new new inner tube and very careful fitting, without using levers, the right tire is still not holding high pressures. I have checked and double checked that tire for fine wires or debris both inside and out. It will still not stay rock hard. The left tire stays rock hard for what seems like weeks without any attention.

As usual the Bontrager Race Lites are lasting well with no sign of wear or damage after many miles. I had a look at a Race Lite Hardcase in the shop but they weigh a ton compared with the foldable Race Lites!

An overall view of the tadpole.

I see the Tour de France and UCI officials are polishing their crooked egos again. Poor Mark Cavendish must have great difficulty not saying what he thinks about these corrupt bar stewards. Hushovd practically pushed Cavendish off the road but Cavendish loses points as well? What a corrupt farce!

Today in the intermediate sprint the leading riders crossed from one side of the road to the other and then back again but still lost no points or a disqualification? Another farce!

The bar stewards have fixed the race to make it near impossible for the sprinters to dominate this year. Had I been Cavendish I would have given the Tyrants de France Commies the V sign from the winner's rostrum! V for Victory, of course. :-)

A solitary, roadside windmill just began to turn very slowly and serenely as I approached. What's not to like?

7th 70F, 21C, winds light, sunny, warm. It was almost dead still as I set off to get a few more miles in and do some shopping. I took the scenic route nearer the coast on my way there. Once again I saw some fairly large birds of prey with dark, square, wing tips. Not red kites despite their wing span. I'll have took them up.

A gentle breeze had picked up by the time I headed back. Riding down the main road was no fun at all with huge lorries roaring past my elbow. So after a few miles I turned off again. Along the quiet lanes full of butterflies and birds. Why do walkers and joggers wear headphones instead of enjoying the birdsong? Crackers! 44 miles.

8th 70F, 21C, breezy, rain clearing, warm and sunny. 13 miles.

Blogspot has a completely new composing format! It's crazy. When I Publish I don't get to see the results of my labours! There is no "View Blog" from the composing page. Which is completely nuts!! "Publish" takes me to yet another page listing posts. Where do I have the option of viewing. Why do it like this? If I'm editing an older post I have to search an index for older posts before I can click on the newly edited post. Which is crackers! If it ain't broke. Don't mend it!The last time they played with the code they broke the whole darned thing! I never did get back the missing posts.

I see the four hundred year-old bike shop in Odense has closed down.
Look at the Philistinic "No Waiting" sign placed right in front of such a beautiful  old building! Such street furniture obscenities should be sackable offences for all involved! The standard, white, Danish postbox is also completely inexcusable! Grrr!

9th 70-75F, 21-24C, becoming very windy, sunny but becoming cloudy. Hot and very sticky. (humid) I am blowing my tyres up before every ride now. The outside temperature is up to 76F now on my digital thermometer! Warmest this year.

Windier than ever after coffee and rolls.  Great fun cruising effortlessly at 20mph. Dripping with sweat in the warm, humid conditions. I am getting out of  the saddle a lot more now that my knees have stopped hurting again. Mr Higgins feels rather flexible when I try to sprint uphill. Like riding a blancmange. Another 13 miles.

I wonder whether the bad crash on the T de F was due to those silly, deep rims they all have now? Bit of a coincidence that they had just warned about cross winds! Delighted to see that the sprinting cheats have been docked points for blocking Cavendish out. The race Commies wouldn't have leg to stand on if they had allowed the results to stand. (or words to that effect)

Rural mansion with lake, water mill and farm buildings.

10th July, Sunday. 72F, 22C, windy, sunny, warm. Cruising at 20mph I was able to go quite some distance from home in no time at all. Then I followed a big curve back towards home through narrow and bumpy forest lanes and undulating, hilly countryside. Traffic was delightfully light.

I was feeling remarkably strong today and was trying hard most of the time. Quite a few groups and lots of individual racing cyclists were out training today. Two bunches overtook me on the narrow cycle path in one village. Which was a new and interesting experience. Then one of the groups held me back on the next big hill.  My knee caps started aching around halfway but I ignored them and they went away again. An enjoyable day even riding uphill into a head wind towards the end.

No further problems except for one moronic car driver. Who came speeding through his own village at twice the speed limit. Then blasted me with his horn before driving right across my bow into his drive by crossing the the cycle path. My clear hand signal left him in no doubt what I thought of his illegal and pointlessly immature behaviour. 40 miles before morning coffee isn't bad for me.

11th 70F, 21C, very light winds but building, sunny. Despite a light cross wind I was managing 19-23mph on the way to the shops. The windmills were just beginning to move as I reached the shops. Only 13-16mph on the way back into an increasing headwind with a heavy bag of shopping. Legs a bit tired after yesterday's longer romp. Particularly the lower calf muscles. (despite trying to massage the pain away) I've never had a problem there before. I must be trying too hard. 15 miles.

I had another go with my track pump. I was careful to unscrew the Presta valve tip completely. Then tapped the tip to be sure it would open under the pressure of pumping. You know how it is with a normal bike pump. The valve sometimes refuses to take any more air unless you free it up first with a tap of the pump head.

Then I screwed on the Presta adaptor as far as it would go. It was still very difficult to reach 7 Bar with the track pump. My feeling is that the piston may be experiencing too much friction under high pressure. The larger bore of the track pump (compared with a frame fitting bike pump) would require much more effort to achieve the same pumping pressure.  It can move a lot more air but the larger area of the piston experiences much greater resistance as the tyre pressure rises.

Just as in a hydraulic jack: The pump piston area is relatively small, compared with the lift piston. This arrangement provides considerable mechanical advantage. Thus a puny man can lift a a heavy car a relatively short distance with very little effort. So a track pump with a long narrow cylinder should be better (in theory) than a short fat one. I'm thinking aloud here so feel free to correct any blatant errors.

I put half a turn on the Brooks Professional saddle adjusting nut to try and take out some of the droop. I have been getting a bit saddle sore in the recent warmer temperatures. The saddle felt a bit firmer today though the "saddle back" droop hadn't changed visibly. The Brooks has about 12k miles on it now.

My Brooks Professional after 12,000 miles. 

Though it marks fairly easily the thick and stiff leather is almost perfectly self-healing. Its appearance is very much a matter of taste. It does need shelter from the rain. But then, so do we all.

I knew one very keen cycle tourist who used a B17. His saddle, after many thousands of miles over many years resembled a flat, curved hammock. Almost like a wide leather belt sagging between two support points. As he owned a bike shop, stocking Brooks, I presume he preferred the look and feel of his old saddle.

The Brooks Professional saddle after about half a turn on the adjusting nut.

From previous experience, I could soak the saddle with water. Then stuff it hard with rags to bring up the ridge again. Then let it dry slowly and thoroughly. Whether this would increase or reduce comfort would be a bit of a lottery. After the slight discomfort of yesterday's ride I actually fitted a modern saddle on Mr Higgins. Then took it straight off again after sitting on it for just a few moments. As usual I put a builder's level along the saddle and then the top tube to ensure both were level. Then repeated the procedure all over again for the much heavier Brooks.

I wish Brooks would fit a proper badge in stamped copper or (worse) brass at the back. The printed alloy thing is hideously cheap and nasty and incredibly short lived no matter how well looked after! It is completely out of character with the claimed quality of a classic objets d'art. One skilfully hand crafted from natural materials. Can you even imagine a Mercedes with a crappy alloy label riveted askew to the boot lid? At least the copper rivets don't rust!

I noticed that the bike shop where I bought mine still has a couple of un-boxed NOS Brooks Professional saddles on the display rack. Going for ~£50 equiv. (500DKK). Note: These are NOT the later Team Pro with the huge copper rivets. They are rather more modest in size and probably longer-lived for it. At a glance these saddles looked exactly the same as mine. Which probably means they are over ten years old. They are very dark brown like mine (NOT black) and have never been fitted let alone ridden.

Mine took forever and a lot of post-natal treatment to become remotely comfortable. Had I known, I could have cut short the torture with a quick bath. (The saddle, not me!) It is not until I try something else that I realise what an amazing, long term investment these saddles really are.

The contents of my saddle storage box. 
I have no idea why I bother to keep most of them! 
I have several more, old leather saddles for my work bikes and LongJohn.

It must be an age thing. I used a shiny new Unica Nitor, bare black plastic, road saddle as a keen teenager nearly 50 years ago. I can still remember that saddle hurt too! Trying other people's Brooks was even worse! Those cutaway leather saddles were straight out of the Inquisition's favourite tool box!  :-)

Mr Higgins pauses to admire a swathe of wild blue Chicory flowers on the verge.

12th 68F, 20C, breezy, sunny, warm. I fitted in a few bike shops on my shopping trip. Looking for track pumps. I was hoping to find a Bontrager Charger because it has a good reputation amongst hundreds of users. Plenty of alternatives available but not that one. All my tyres seem to be staying up now I have them pumped up really hard. Perhaps the harder tyres are the reason for my hitting 20mph so often. I was climbing a long drag and the gears suddenly changed up without my help. I shot up from 17 to 23mph! Even with a 10 o'clock crosswind I was cruising at 20mph on the flat.

I was nearly wiped off the road by a mobile phone moron coming towards me in a 4WD. No sign of intelligent life in the 4WD as the telephone user overtook another vehicle going into a village with a 30mph speed limit! No police. No crime. 25 miles.


Spraying oilseed rape with fungicide prior to harvesting. Midday, wind 10m/s in the middle of the holidays. With kids playing in the gardens of surrounding houses. I have seen kids walking right through the spray drift numerous times. I have seen spraying going on right beside a rural school playground while it was full of kids.

I myself have been sprayed several times while cycling past a field being treated. Leaving me with the choice of riding home to shower the sticky, stinking residue off my skin. Or to continue with my ride. I was usually quite a long way from home. 
Oilseed rape has taken over from sugar beet production as the new gold rush. Avoid the oil like the plague! You'll find it in everything these days. Which part of toxic don't you understand? Wikipedia has a page on the subject if you have a strong stomach. 

13th July  56F, 13C, windy, heavy showers with almost continuous rain and heavy overcast. Oh good grief! Now I have whacked myself hard on the knee with a lump hammer! I can hardly climb the stairs! Nor stand up now! Fortunately(?) I hit the Vastus medialis muscle rather than the knee cap itself. I have been provided with a wet pad of cotton wool with some Witch Hazel added. Then left to recoup by watching the Tour De France on TV. It looks like my first rest day since 13th April. Three months to the day. Unlucky for some! But not for Cavendish. Who took his 18th stage victory on a very wet day!

14th 56F, 13C, very windy, rain lashing down. A rerun of yesterday's rain with extra big helpings. The Danish Meteorological Institute has a severe weather warning for very heavy rain over most of southerly Denmark. Nearly two inches will fall today with more rain forecast for all week. Regardless of the torrential rain and wind a blackbird is trying to sing out there!  

 Here's a picture to cheer things up. A Dahlia grown and photographed by my wife, The Head Gardener.

Amazingly, my knee is almost recovered with only very limited, localised pain if I prod it. Last night it was agony to walk on that leg.

The rain finally stopped late afternoon so I went out for 3/4 of an hour until it started raining again.  My knee behaved well provided I didn't get out of the saddle. I was able to manage a steady 20mph on an off on the flat. Only 10 miles.

There are a couple of trike conversions on eBay(UK) at the moment:

This modern one is slightly unusual by the classic trike builder standards:

 And a Ken Rogers conversion set:

Dawes Racing Tricycle Ken Rogers Reynolds 531 Tubing on eBay (end time 13-Jul-11 19:26:13 BST)

The World Tricycle Championships gallery is up with some great action pictures: 

15th 68F, 20C, breezy, sunny periods. It rained all morning so I busied myself in the bike shed. I wrapped the handlebars overt the top of the old tape with Fizik tape. Having been in storage in the shed for a couple of years the sticky paper strip pulled the glue away with it! So I had to hold the tape firmly at each end with electrical tape starting at the ends of the bars. The tape is very grippy now instead of greasy and rather sticky with years of sweat. Yeuk!

Then I discovered a Zefal plastic pump which I had used only once. I bought it in an emergency when my old pump split. The new pump was too long for the Higgins seat tube so was lost in the detritus of the shed.

I tried the new, longer pump on my tyres and they went up rock hard in a couple of easy strokes! Absolutely amazing! My other pump is an identical, but slightly shorter, Zefal. It really is very hard work to get any real pressure with the worn one. Likewise the cheap track pump. Problem solved and hopefully I will have no more pinch punctures. I'm also faster on the harder tyres.

The rain forecast for the entire coming week meant I ought to put the front mudguard back on. I still wanted a reasonable flap to stop the front tyre throwing water onto my feet. With the very low bottom bracket on trikes the feet can get very wet indeed. My brother suggested bricklayer's DPC plastic strip. Which would have been ideal except that it comes in rolls which I did not have. Nor any great desire to buy a whole roll for just one flap.

Then my wife (The Head Gardener) suggested a flexible, black plastic, flower pot. Not the usual kind. Which are harder, stiffer and very prone to splitting over time. I then noticed that my plastic front mudguard had moulded folds at the edges for stiffening. So I cut a section of flower pot and then carefully trimmed a 1" long tab. One which would just go between the edge slots in the stiffening folds when the tab was curved to match the inside of the mudguard

Once it was slid firmly into place, I drilled through both and pop riveted the two together. Using a carefully fitted washer to accept the rivet shank expansion as it was drawn up with the riveting pliers. Once the flap was safely fitted I could then trim it to an aesthetically pleasing shape.

It hardly rained much as I had a trial run around the local lanes. It seemed to work well enough without ever contacting my toes. Being black and matching the mudguard it is hardly noticeable. Cost was nil as I already had the tools and materials. The curve helps to stiffen it against the strongest head wind. I may trim it further after trying it on really wet roads. 15 miles today.

Blowing a gale later with the trees roaring and thrashing about. 12 more miles with a very strong crosswind. Legs a bit tired and lungs bunged up with fluid. I've been clearing my throat a lot lately. Rain stayed off and roads mostly dry. Tires remained rock hard. The mudguard and flap have already collected a lot of road debris. Mostly damp seeds brought down by the heavy rain. The sides of the road are also laden with brown slugs.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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