28 Jan 2013

25th January 2013

25th 21F, -6C, heavy overcast. It started at 12F, -11C, but is slowly warming up.The DMI promise -5C all day with winds gusting to 30mph later. Eek! My recent habit of waiting until after coffee to go out means I tend to catch the higher winds after a still, but very cold, night. Going out so late also means I push lunch into mid afternoon. The coffee and rolls seem to sustain me for hours so that doesn't matter so much as the fact that it is getting quite dark by the time I've had a shower and written up my daily ride diary.

The other downside is that I tend to waffle on all morning before being released onto a startled world. I haven't been doing any photography either. The inspiration which comes from longer rides to new pastures is absent. The snow continues to lie. Without offering anything but more drabness under a grey sky. This really is the worst time of the year for my kind of chocolate-box, landscape photography.

Taking endless pictures of rusty chains and sprockets is unlikely to amuse for long. I leave the chain on until the weather breaks. Or the gears become foolishly unreliable. Doing any kind of mechanical work when the shed is constantly 5 degrees C below freezing is not a lot of fun! What takes a few minutes in summer takes forever and quickly goes bad when the roads are still covered in salt. I find it best to put everything off until a thaw and some rain. When I drag snow in on the trike and my feet it can lie there on the shed floor for weeks. Putting a fan heater on in the shed only leads to rapid condensation and rust. The metal doesn't feel any warmer and makes my hands ache with the cold. I can't work with small screws and components in gloves. Not even the latest, rubber coated, cloth gloves designed for the job. 13 miles. No data from the watch despite recording 2 hours elapsed time. I wore it around my wrist inside my glove to avoid chilling the battery.

26th 22F, -6C, the promised wind has finally arrived! The trees in the garden are all bending back and forth. I wonder if I can find my skiing goggles? I couldn't, but went anyway. The roads were covered in deep drifts in a few places. As there was no stock of organic milk at the first village I had to go further afield. The wind was cutting but I couldn't shield my face properly with my oversized gloves. Lots of cars were cutting much too close on the main road. Even though I was riding in the cycle lane. 21 miles.

27th 33F, 1C, overcast, windy. Some overnight snow has drifted in the strong winds. The trees are all moving about again. Some snow forecast for most of the day. Temperatures set to rise slowly with rain possible during the week. I have just been outside and the snow is incredibly wet and heavy. Sticky as hell to push about compared with the previous fluffy stuff. 100mm (4") deep in places and very hard work even with our plastic snow scrapers/shovels. The broom was instantly overwhelmed and very difficult to clear of snow. It is lucky there wasn't more of the is wet stuff! The weight is tremendous.

I left mid-afternoon into horizontal, wet snow driven by a 20mph wind. The roads and any south facing surfaces were plastered in several inches of snow. The wind was over my shoulder on the way back as I was bombing along at 16-18 mph through 2-4" of wet snow. Adhesion was much lower than when it was colder. I had to snick up a couple of gears when I climbed out the saddle to crest a few low hills. The brakes were very poor as well. Only 6 miles.

28th 35F, 2C, grey overcast, breezy. Promise of brightness later. The snow is still lying about but showing signs of melting. It's all 'orribly wet out there! The Venus GPS watch went back for a refund. It promised so much but failed to clear the hurdle of reliability. The roads were saturated with puddles and wet slush.  I was water-boarded by one of the local Electrickery Maffia in his van. He demanded a £200 call-out fee with menaces. Said he'd come round and fit six mains sockets in our tiny rear hall, at ten times the usual retail price for parts and £400 per hour labour charges including beer and fag breaks, missed football matches and travelling time. I said they had already carried out this particular threat and that I'd given at the office. 16 miles, fighting injustice. (I'm a cyclist. It goes with the territory)

A couple on a tandem were killed in Bristol. On past sentencing form the perpetrator of double, vehicular manslaughter will receive a caution for being slightly naughty, get a small smudge on his license, but not lose his basic, inalienable human right to drive just as he likes. Oh, and a fine of less than £50. So that's all right then.

29th 38-40F, +3+4C, very, very dark and breezy.

I was mulling over the repeated nightmare of bike and trike security after that Trykit trike was stolen in London. The insurers insist that expensive bikes (and trikes presumably) are secured with Gold Standard locks. The irony is that all Gold Standard locks weigh a ton!

The owner of the machine has already paid dearly for every gram less of extra lightness. Why else would they spend that much money except for lightness? So they burn several thousand dead squid getting the weight of their machine down by a bare few grammes to the physically achievable. At least, not without reverse engineering the alien technology of that UFO which crashed in the local park last week... but then has to carry 3-4 kilos of locks around their neck? Locks which can be easily broken, by a professional thief, in just a few seconds? Liquid Nitrogen, dirt cheap bolt croppers, car jacks and diamond cut-off wheels on dirt cheap angle grinders, anybody?

Complete amateurs, who happen to have lost their bike lock keys, can undo a £100+ lock or "unbreakable" chain and padlock in a couple of minutes. Even in a busy high street and go completely unnoticed. This does not compute! It is a complete alternative reality! Elvis is still in the building! Father Xmas and his elves walk amongst us! Lance Armstrong really is an evil Venusian. Sent to undermine our faith in cycling. To help us to destroy our own planet by going back to the wicked car. All to regain some status on the road. Cyclists are to car drivers as women are to the Taliban.

Q1: Why is there no infallible, lightweight securing device yet available? We can send a robot to Mars, etc.. You can even change gear by battery but can't deter a thief with a simple, completely reliable bike alarm? Why isn't every bike compulsorily GPS tagged and easily traceable by a free app? Imagine the savings of mass production by Chinese slaves and global standardisation. Would the bike shops and household insurers really go bust if they couldn't replace all those missing bikes?

Q2. Why bother to lock your bike against the professional slime when it is so easily stolen by these specialist thieves? The police don't care. Hundreds of thousands of bikes are stolen every year, in every country around the world. The sums involved are completely staggering! Ring the fuzz to say that a van full of Eastern Europeans are emptying all the bike racks in the shopping centre and they are far too busy searching for their wacky baccy. Or attending to football match hooligans from the front row sideline.

Q3. What games are the insurer's playing with their customer's minds? Demanding 3-4 kg of approved locks on a top quality racing bike will almost literally double its kerbside weight! When surely the whole purpose of owning that incredibly expensive machine is ONLY its incredibly light weight? See me, see my carbon bottle cage, pal.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Yesterday I had a go at Wiggle over the difference in price for their listed products between different EU countries despite using the same currency. It looked to my naive eyes as if they were charging for EU postage while pretending they weren't.  Their email response provided a link to their pricing policy.


Which seems slightly at odds with every other online EU bike dealer with which I have dealt. You pay the price shown on the website plus postage. The difference is that Wiggle offers "free" (6 day) postage on top of their (increased taxes) list price. With other dealers you pay postage on top of the website price and variations in EU country VAT rates are ignored. Buy from Germany and you pay their lower VAT plus modest postage charges. The savings can be considerable but are not guaranteed.

Just a ride to Assens today for a ton of shopping. I had a look at bike locks in the flesh. None was remotely acceptable by weight. Those that were reasonably light were probably vulnerable to a pair of quite ordinary pliers. 19 more miles and still ranting. :-)

30th 40F, +4C, light breeze, rain forecast all morning with a storm headed our way tonight. I'll see how it looks later. Somebody badly needs to tidy the shed! Or tidy the shed badly. Either would be an improvement. This usually falls under the heading of chaos theory. Junk always expands to fill the space available. It was too boring so I raked at the puddled drive to try and drain it into a distinct channel. No small task with 50 metres to work on.  The drive was wrecked by the fibre optics broadband internet company. I still managed 10 miles mid afternoon. Lots of flooded fields from the thaw. Lots of cracking on the roads as well. Very little snow left now.

The alleged double killer of the couple on a tandem in Bristol was allegedly driving while disqualified and without insurance. He has been remanded in custody until late February. This seems unusually harsh for an alleged double killing of mere cyclists. Normally, cyclists don't count as real human beings in the British injustice system. Perhaps the double killer couldn't afford a decent ambulance chaser?  Otherwise he would be up at the golf club celebrating his release and the dropping of all charges by now. What a Silly Billy! Can thee ride tandem, lad? Thought not.

Now that's a puddle!
The wind was so strong that poor old Mr Higgins nearly ended up in the drink!

31st 41F, +5C, mostly overcast, still windy. No visible damage from the storm except for a neighbour's trampoline which went walkabout. Due to start raining again after lunch. I'm still aching from yesterday's playing with gravel and water on the drive. Unaccustomed exercise is only good in moderation. I was bashing away for several hours with a pick and a road builder's heavy tar rake. I bought the rake years ago when I was landscaping our rocky rural garden using hand tools and and a builder's wheelbarrow. Several wheelbarrows, in fact, because I wore them out carrying rocks.

The largest rock was the size of a mini and standing on end like an enormous potato. Right where I intended to park the car by cutting into the slope. I had to dig down beside this massive rock and then flop it over sideways by hanging from the end of a 20' long steel pole and a rusty length of narrow-gauge railway line. I'd have been quite handy at Stonehenge. Though it took years for the damage I did to my shoulder joints to subside.

The ground was so hard it took a pick to get every single teaspoon out of the ground as broken gravel. I moved the equivalent of several double decker buses of this stuff over a couple of years. Raising a big new terrace 20 yards away with all the debris. My wife became an expert dry stone waller using the cleaner stones. As you can gather from all this waffling I'm still waiting for coffee before I go out. The sun is shining brightly now. Though it's probably still gusting to over 20m/s. Or 40 mph.

The first few miles were amusing. I was cruising at 22-25mph and hardly needing to pedal. Coming back was not so much fun. Still lots of flooded fields and woods. Ice still clinging on top of the earlier formed ponds and puddles. My first 1000 km milestone has passed. I arrived home just before it started raining. 19 miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.


  1. I sold my Ken Rogers last spring -- sorry, needed the money, and something had to go -- but I still read your blog with pleasure. Denmark, right? Or is it Sweden? Oh well, to use North Americans, it's all the same. What strikes me is how your weather, particularly your lows, aren't so much worse than what we experience here in high desert (5,000 -- 8,000 ft) New Mexico in the southwestern US. I rode today in intermittently sunny weather in the low 30s with 28 mph winds gusting to 38.

    As to security: I buy 3' lengths of what they call "towing chain" at the nearby hardware store and store these, with a good lock (Abus) at frequent locations. Mountain bike tube covers the chain. This chain is cheap -- no more than $3 a foot -- and it is apparently hardened, because the clerks can't use the bolt cutters, they have to start it on the bench grinder and finish with a hacksaw which takes 15 minutes to get through a link. So, about $10 for the chain, $35 for an Abus Diskus 20 .. sure, it's not pocket change, but far better to spend $140 for three of these than either risking theft or having to carry 8 lb around with you all the time.

  2. Hi

    I'm sorry you had to sell your Ken Rogers trike. I'm living in Denmark. Highest point less than a tenth of your altitude. Your towing chain sounds incredibly cheap for the hardened quality on offer. Great idea to have secure sites for your bike.

    It's a tragedy that cycles are a target. Not everybody has alternative transport. But worse, the thief has absolutely no clue about the circumstances of the cyclist. Nor their distance from home! They used to hang horse thieves in the Wild West. It would concentrate their minds wonderfully if a few bike thieves suffered more than a petty fine.

    I had my racing bike stolen when I was a teenager. Uninsured and kicked to bits by the thieves before dumping it outside a local prison. I couldn't afford new racing wheels. So I gave up serious cycling and started smoking. You could say the theft was a life changer.

    Thanks for your comment.
    Be careful out there.