23 May 2013

22nd May 2013

21st 56F, 13C, heavy overcast, light wind. Spitting with rain. Only 7 miles so far. The Ventus GPS logger or its PhotoTagger software keeps crashing my computer! Talking of which:

The Danish politic-ooze have decided to make it harder to steal bicycles in Denmark There will be an online register of bicycle frame numbers. So a used bicycle buyer can check if the bike has been registered as stolen before handing over the cash. Mobile phones with internet access are now commonplace. Making an online register far more useful than before. Provided the buyer actually cares about the source of his cheap ride. What if the intended purchase proves to be stolen? Does the buyer beat down the price? Or get beaten up to ensure their silence?

The woods were full of birdsong.

There were 68,000 bicycles reported stolen in Denmark last year. The true number of bike thefts annually is believed to be up around 250,000! The population of Denmark is only 7 million!  Most owners don't expect the police to find their bike so don't even bother to report the theft. The police return rate for stolen bikes is reportedly less than 0.5%.  68,000 x 0.005 =340. But  a more realistic 250,000/340 = 0.136% clear-up rate.

I understood there was already an online bike register but apparently this is a new initiative. How will this affect the organised gangs of East European bike thieves? The police are too busy stopping cyclists for minor traffic and technical infringements to have time to turn out. Not even when several witnesses ring the police to say the gangs are clearing a whole bike rack into the back of a lorry with foreign number plates, in the high street, in broad daylight! Once they are out of the country the bikes will never be seen again.

The opinion on the street seems to be that the insurance companies like bike insurance because it brings in customers for other types of more profitable insurance. Bikes can be easily added to household contents insurance at relatively low cost to the owner. So the theft becomes (almost) a victimless crime provided the bike was insured. Though they are not usually replacing with new for old. There is also the matter of raised premiums of course. There is never any free lunch. (Except for the politic-ooze and the East European bike theft maffia) Plus 12 more miles late morning. The Post Office counter  (in a supermarket) doesn't open until 1pm. A wasted journey! My Carradice Junior saddlebag has arrived in the post! (See separate blog post)

22nd 47F, 8C, overcast, raining. Winds will be gusting to 35mph. The wind was supposed to blow to 45mph but this has been reduced. At the same time there is a DMI warning about potentially very heavy rain. It is a month since my last rest day so I'll use the rain (and gales) as an excuse to stay at home. It is exactly one month since I had a rest day. It rained and blew all day. Nul points. I see the killer of the couple on the tandem in Bristol has received 10 years in prison. So, he'll be out in 3 months for good behaviour. Because the victims were only cyclists. Not real people. Real people would be treated with respect and killing them would be serious crime.

 BBC News - Bristol tandem bike deaths driver Nicholas Lovell jailed

There were swathes of Forget-me-nots beside the Assens cycle path. I'm afraid I haven't really captured the electric blue which drew my eye. 

23rd 51F, 11C, cool, windy but sunny. The trees are already waving about. With noticeably lower temperatures. Back to a long sleeved vest and warmer jacket. It was so cold I decided to wear gloves and a thin scull cap. A headwind going. Blowing from 4 o'clock by the time I headed home. 19 miles. I watched as crows mobbed a bird of prey. Then a group of smaller birds joined in as they moved off across the fields.

Cyclists are not real people because they don't pay road tax? There is no such thing as road tax in the UK.

BBC News - Emma Way: Cyclist tweet 'my biggest mistake'

No, dear, your biggest mistake was admitting online that you knocked a cyclist off their bike and then failed to stop at the scene of an accident. #bloodycyclists, eh? (sic)

Wouldn't it be a wonderful irony if she was sentenced to several hundred hours of supervised club cycling as her personal community service? The Chinese call it re-education. I'm sure the Nazis had similar programmes. Always assuming she is ever found guilty of anything. She only has to don her best frock and roll her eyes at the magistrate and all her troubles will go away. (Until the next time) We shall see. It could run and run if she gets advice from an ambulance chaser.

The endless allure of undulating lanes between high hedges in bright sunshine.

24th 51-59F, 11-15C, sunny, rather windy, the air is full of birdsong. Blackbirds are competing with cuckoos for attention on all my rides at the moment. Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Greenfinches are all appearing in greater numbers. Quite a few Woodpeckers too. The forecast is bright, a maximum of 59F with 25mph gusts.

 The sky was badly painted today. It looked very amateur with an odd mixture of waves, Cumulus and funny little squiggles spoiling the otherwise perfect blue. It was one of those days when everything looks very sharp. Probably the 2" of rain that fell a couple of days ago. Climbing well today. It's a very good climb out of Tommerup Station village up to Vissenbjerg via Magtenbølle. Steeper in places than the much longer drag up to Skallebølle. Usually much less traffic too. The road was covered in sand and gravel in places where the heavy rain had scoured out the verges. Just a shopping loop for 26 miles against the wind. I never seemed to get a decent tailwind all morning.

I told you there was a lot of it about!

25th 48F, 9C, breezy, overcast. The forecast is wet all morning but clearing after lunch. I left at almost mid-afternoon. The countryside around Tommerup Stationsby is gorgeous at this time of year. Particularly in the Hesbjerg Skov  area. A bit windy with only late sun finally cutting through the overcast. I was sent on a fool's errand by the major commercial Danish map and route service called Krak. I did a 5 mile loop through the forest on very rough, double-rutted tracks. It was hard going in places and a private road to motor traffic anyway. I spent most of the time out of the saddle to protect the tyres and rims. I wish I'd had time to take some photos but I was trying to get somewhere in a hurry before they closed early.

It's a good job I didn't fall off! I could have been lying there for days before anyone found me. Being an optimist I kept expecting tarmac around the next corner. The track certainly looked light like tarmac on the satellite view. I finally escaped to an exit only 1/4 of a mile up the road from where I had first left it. Without the sun to guide me I was absolutely certain I was heading in a straight line. Yet I did almost a complete circle. Crackers! I can't explain it but my Ultegra 10 speed, bottom gear sprocket suddenly has a very sharp wiggle in it. Weird! 37 miles.

Memorial to an 18th century historian and instigator of a museum. He was born at a farm nearby. 

26th 64F, 18C, very windy, sunny periods. It is supposed to rain after lunch. I decided on a light day because of the wind. It must have been gusting to well over 30 mph. The annual ride for sporting cyclists was taking place today. Hundreds of clubmen and women going the other way. Singly and in large groups. All on racing bikes in full kit. Quite a few of them gave me a wave. It will be a tiring day for the longer routes, 80 & 130km, where there is a headwind. I retraced my route through the woods today but from the opposite end. The fork I missed yesterday was very obvious with the sun to guide me. It was a very pleasant  day for a ride where there was shelter from the blustery wind. Only 18 miles.

27th 56F, 13C, overcast, breezy. A grey start but brightening later. Windy without becoming very warm. 17C max promised. Which is only 63F. My digital thermometer was already showing 70F! The outdoor sensor sat in the open air but was exposed to morning sunshine. I would check the thermometer on the bike shed and find it often read several degree lower than the one on the house. Now I have moved the house sensor into permanent shade to avoid false high readings. Which would adversely affect my choice of cycling wardrobe. Having a sensor anywhere near a warm roof is hopeless for accuracy. While wood has low thermal capacity and insulates well. Dangling from a high ladder on a dormer is not the most fun in the world. Not after falling off one a few years ago and landing on my head!

Part of the old Tommerup to Assens railway line. Passenger traffic ceased in 1966. No traffic after 1980 except for hired pedal trolleys.

It was rather windy when I finally escaped. I timed it badly on the way back because of older kids coming out of school. They didn't give a damn about wandering along the cycle paths and even strolling out onto the roads without even a glance in the direction of the traffic. I was being bombarded with flies for most of the way. Still climbing well. 20 miles.

28th 60F, 16C, sunny, light winds. This morning's forecast has cancelled the expected rain. A light northerly wind is promised. Gusting to "only" 20mph later. So it should be a good day for a ride. My digital thermometer was still reading high last night after a sunny day. The outdoor sensor is in free air and in the shade but must still be picking up heat from the dormer roof. Perhaps I should put my shed thermometer outside so I can read it with binoculars? :-)

It turned grey and threatened to rain. So I waited for coffee before leaving. All the plans of mice and tricyclists. I rode up to Bogense against the wind. Looped around my places to visit and and then turned for home again. I was harassed by two farm dogs but luckily there was no traffic at the time. Took some more photos so I have some in reserve for the blog after a bit of a famine recently. It was spitting with rain all morning but only started raining properly when I arrived home. The Brooks saddle is still not really comfortable. It may well be me.

The more I read and hear about cycling and nutrition the less happy I am with my lack of food intake on the trike. I drank only about a cupful of water and ate two bananas and a very small bag of mixed seeds, nuts and raisins on a 5 hour ride. (In total duration including short stops)  As I left very late I missed lunch as well. Though I just ate that at 3.30pm when I finally reached  home. Not very clever at all!

The problem is usually making a very late, often spontaneous, decision about the length and goal of a ride. Mood, wind, weather and how energetic I feel all come into play. Then making a decision about suitable food to take with me. I have never been a snacker. Nor a pub or café eater. I tend to eat only what I have with me. Though I bought organic bananas today simply because I was in the shop anyway. Otherwise I wouldn't have had anything but the tiny bag of seeds and nuts in all the time I was out. Even buying  a packet of digestives would have been quite sensible  (The only biscuits I eat these days) 

I don't ever dawdle when I'm riding and attack every hill with enthusiasm. So my energy needs are quite obviously far higher than holding down the chair at the computer. I really must try harder at this food thing. I tried some free 'sports' sachets of salts for my drinking bottle but they gave me muscle pain and cramp! So that isn't what I need in this relatively cool climate. I never get pains or cramp when I drink only water. Perhaps I should start experimenting with energy bars? Just to see if I like the taste and texture. Or even if I can tolerate them. Though reading online reviews doesn't suggest they are anything but compact and convenient at considerable expense. Chewing jelly babies for carbohydrates, my DIY seeds/nuts/fruit (in a bag) mix and bananas are probably equally useful. I just need to take more of them. 50 miles.

29th 54F, 12C, overcast, very windy. Getting darker with  rain forecast until mid-afternoon. It never really let up. With showers on and off all day. Blowing a gale so it was hard work going. I couldn't be bothered to go far in these conditions. So only 8 miles.

BBC News - Meet the man who cycles nearly 100 miles a day, every day

Three brand new Continental 4000S tyres turned up in the post today! Apparently the dealer felt responsible. Even though he was only the unfortunate middleman in Continental's corrupt distribution of substandard crap. These tyres punctured twice on the first proper ride. (Day two) Then went on to puncture five times in all before I gave up and fitted Schwalbe Durano. What was much worse about the GP4000S was that microscopically tiny flints left huge, gaping holes in the treads. Which filled with sand and gravel. Apparently this is the norm for Continental 4000S. At least it is according to Continental's speak no evil, see no evil, say no evil, desk jockeys. Perhaps they should have made them of real  rubber instead of a mixture of liquorice and empty advertising hype? The tyres, not the desk jockeys.

Continental GP4000S
Continental GP4000S
Continental GP4000S

Continental GP4000S

So it's nul points to Continental but many thanks to the Danish bike dealer. I'm getting on so well with Schwalbe Durano that I will not rush to fit the 4000S he kindly sent me free of charge.

30th 56F, 13C, windy, cloudy but bright. The promised warm and sunny day has been downgraded to showers. With a maximum temperature of 20C/68F and 25mph gusts with a headwind. It became warmer all the time I was out. So off came the jacket and I started swatting flies. The warmth seems to bring them out in swarms. If I had been a plant I'd be in serious trouble. At times I was covered in greenfly and larger black flies. Several attempted to be swallowed and I had to spit them out. Followed by a gargle and rinse from the water bottle.

Only one lady owner?

I passed a family group of cycle tourists going the other way out in the lanes. Including a SWB recumbent bike. It was an interesting morning by my usual standards: First I was nearly run over by a dustbin lorry at the beach. Then I became trapped in the old town gate, pedestrian door. It has a very strong closing spring and swung closed behind me while I was only half way through! For the first time ever, I should add. Luckily my acrobatics went unwitnessed as I dismounted and extracted the trike with as much dignity as I could still muster.

My new Carradice Junior saddlebag has arrived! I'm very pleased with it so far. This one was signed by Susan. The Junior is just the right size for a long day out on the trike in fine weather. While maintaining strict discipline on what extras to carry. The bag smells wonderfully of leather and something else. Probably the wax proofing on the cotton duck.

Carradice Junior hanging from an equally classical Brooks B17 'Special'.  A perfect match.

There was a tasteful, very professionally produced, Carradice pamphlet in the packaging. "Carradice Stories" with some excellent pictures of real  cyclists crossing deserts, climbing mountains and what have you. It subtly numbers and lists lots of the many Carradice bags in the images and even shows some of the factory staff. What more could you ask from a quality, traditional saddlebag from a legendary name like Carradice? I wonder if it guarantees year-round, constant sunshine as well? Perhaps that's just asking too much. 24 miles.

31st 56-69F, 13-21C, breezy, sunny. The forecast is for 23C/73F with a cloud morning but the sky is almost clear. I changed the chain and found it would not grip on the 32T worn-out (aluminium) middle ring! The teeth look more like a serrated bread knife. With barely any angle left on the flanks. The pedals just spin noisily when I turn the cranks. Fortunately I can achieve forward motion on the other chainwheels. I hope I have a temporary replacement, of the correct PCD, in my old chainset storage box. Never throw anything away! Famous last words. It clouded over to a heavy overcast and the only middle rings were for 5 arm cranks.

It was a good excuse to ride to Odense. I found a matching chainring in the second bike shop I visited. Selling for about £11 equivalent. It brightened up to lots of sunshine after that. A helpful wind coming home kept it cool. The new Carradice saddlebag is superbly light. I was hardly aware it was there. There was still room for a couple of 1 litre boxes of milk as well as my carrier bag full of vital junk and Abus Mini-U lock. The B17 'Special' is coming along nicely. Without the need to constantly re-tension as I had to with the very soft 'Select'.

I overtook a girl on a heavily laden touring bike. Huge panniers, saddlebag, et al. I was going to say 'hi' but she was wearing headphones. So I just waved as I passed. It was quite funny climbing the long drag out of Odense. I was nearly overtaken by an older chap on an MTB. Who took advantage of a pause to tip a bag of mixed seeds and nuts down my throat. I sped up and left him miles behind. Only to be overtaken by a  young chap on a racing bike. Nothing I did would let me stay at his pace and he was soon a distant blob. There's a slow-motion hierarchy of fitness on the bike paths of Denmark. 41 miles.

Pm: I fitted the new chainring in bright, warm sunshine. What a pleasure it is to work on Hollowtech 2 chainsets compared with square, tapered axle. When freed of the chain the Shimano bottom bracket bearings ran incredibly smoothly and freely. As do the Trykit 2WD rear axles. Give the wheels a good spin and you might as well set your watch and come back later! The old Shimano SPD pedals are still super smooth and very free running too. Though the cleat clamping is very tired and has huge amounts of slack. This is with new Shimano cleats fitted to my latest Specialized MTB cycling shoes.

A 1950s Pontiac is the same age as Mr Higgins. It makes you think, doesn't it?

I gave the Brooks another coat of Proofide underneath while I was playing at bike mechanic. The warm weather had made the 'wax' almost runny. Again I gave the top a smear with only the Proofide left on my fingers. The saddle will rest overnight before being buffed with a clean., soft cloth prior to my next ride. The B17 weighs 20oz on my ancient spring scales. My Vetta SL ATB Ladyboy only 11oz. They are almost the same width but the Vetta throws away much of the potential support available. With too much transverse curvature and steeply sloping outer sides. This was the only saddle I could ever live with amongst my large collection of man-made saddles. It arrived fitted to the Higgins.

I saw a NOS Brooks lady's model, 'Professional S' saddle in a bike shop recently. Rather foolishly, I immediately assumed it was the same width as the men's. It is actually the same width as the B17 but rather shorter. I wish I'd seen it a couple of years ago when I was searching for a more affordable, copper riveted, leather saddle. It might have saved me the cruel and unnecessary torture of breaking in the narrower NOS men's Professional! BTW: 'S' just means short. Some argue that a bike is steered with the thighs so a full length saddle is vital to safety and stability. They should look at some of the saddles used in Holland. They are oval and shorter than they are wide!

It occurs to me that the 'S' models might make life easier for extreme cornering acrobatics on a trike. Hanging off the side with a knee hooked over the saddle is easy enough with practice. Hanging off the top tube is far more difficult. Returning to the saddle after the corner feels as if one's thigh is trapped under the saddle nose. It is here that the shorter nose of the 'S' might offer a distinct advantage. Perhaps hanging off the  top tube is best left to the young and daring? Those fit and skilled enough to overcome the difficulties of regaining the saddle with grace and (apparently) effortless ease.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

16 May 2013

15th May 2013

15th 50F, 10C, breezy, heavy overcast. The promised warmth and wind have been downgraded slightly. A road sweeping lorry was busy this morning. It must be 10 years since I last saw one! Do you think the Environment Minister is reading my blog?

The Brooks B17 'Special' with just a thin smear of Proofide. I just use the residue from my fingers after applying a thicker coat of Proofide to the underside. It will be left on overnight and then buffed off with a clean soft rag before being ridden. The ventilation perforations are rather rough. Suggesting that they do not sharpen the machine punches sufficiently often.

I shall rebuild the Higgins and hope that conditions allow a ride later. I used brown soap gel instead of the usual engine cleaner. Rubbing the stiff gel in with a toothbrush. Then giving the parts a rinse in water. This achieved a bright, clean finish on the filthy and thickly begrimed cassette sprockets. A rub over with a clean rag was all that was required to finish. My wife suggested the brown soap when I found my engine degreaser container proved to be empty. The brown soap avoids the usual nasty smells, black brush splashes and wondering what to do with the filthy chemical residue.

Rebuilding cassettes has gone very quickly since I learned to ignore the splines and use the small holes of the long sprocket fixing screw as a guide. Both sprockets and spacers will only go onto the freehub one way. So it takes only moments to rebuild a 9 speed cassette. The sprocket ramps are easy to spot as orientation markers. The Trykit 2WD body and all the journal bearings are still in good condition after a couple years of continuous use and several changes of cassette. The Trykit 2WD system was fitted in September 2010 so it's done at least 22,000 miles so far. Internally the Trykit freehub body still looks like new. Mr Higgins is now well cleaned up and rebuilt to ride. The weather doesn't seem as bad as they had threatened. So I'm off.

It was blowing a gale! A steady 20mph with gusts to well over 35mph. I was cruising effortlessly at 20mph going to the shops. Then crawling back in a  low gear. And guess what? Farmer Environ-Mentally-Challenged is spraying the field just across the road! In this gale! Y'all couldn't make it up! We have a piece from a Danish newspaper where their insurance expert recommends not spraying if the wind is over 5m/s. That's about 11mph which seems quite excessive enough. Now ask yourself why our garden conifers are all turning brown and dying. Why is the Beech hedge all twisted like a Contorted Hazel? Answers on a postcard, please, to...  15 miles.

Pm. I chickened out and bought some Basta aerosol engine cleaner. This cut through the crap on the triple MTB chainset like a hot knife through butter. Then a dunk in water and more toothbrushing followed by the regulation wipe with an old T-shirt rag. Mr Higgins has scrubbed up rather nicely if you ignore the rust. Perhaps this is all too much like cruel and unnatural treatment? Particularly for a trike which rolled out of the Higgins workshop the year after Sherpa Tenzing climbed Everest and Lady Helen Mirren first took to her throne. I put a new 9sp. DMC chain on. No point in running a filthy chain on clean cogs and rings.

16th 54-66F, 12-19C, light breeze, overcast. A 10 mph northerly wind with 20 mph gusts promised. Shouldn't be a bad day for a ride. Cooler than yesterday afternoon's scorching 72F! I decided to fight the wind early and headed north. Though I was working quite hard with a high cadence I was struggling to reach 16mph on the flat into the wind. I spent a lot of the time on the drops. By the time I was heading home the wind had turned much more easterly than promised. My route was also looping further west now. Increasing the effects of the wind from nominally sideways to occasional headwinds. It was so warm that the windproof jacket came off early. My legs are getting quite brown, with clear demarcation lines at thigh and ankle but my arms have been mostly covered so far.

Here is the Brooks B17 'Special'  underside. Still dark from a fresh coat of Brooks Proofide. It is best applied with the fingers. Which can reach all the nooks and crannies without waste. Removing the saddle makes life a whole lot easier when applying Proofide. It allows a far more thorough job. Proofide goes a very long way. I still haven't made much of a dent in my original tin. The small tins supplied free with every "luxury" model of Brooks saddle should last a single saddle for years. Once the initial break-in period is over it only needs a fresh coat every few months. Though you can always add Proofide to your Carradice leather maintenance programme if you should develop a fetish for greasy fingers. I find it helps to combat the drying effect of using harsh hand cleaners after a session dismantling a filthy trike. No matter how I tell myself to use gloves I inevitably end up getting dirty hands!

The Brooks B17 'Special' is certainly not broken in but is still improving. It is already far more comfortable than the Brooks 'Professional' ever was at its very best. I have set the 'Special' more level than I had before. About an 1/8" high at the nose using an 18" builder's level on a level floor. Originally I had set the nose up slightly more to ensure a stable seat on the rather shiny surface. The Proofide cured the slipperiness but the convex curvature of the leather did not have any real sense of a natural seating position. I found myself slowly sliding forwards more than expected even with the nose up.

The leather is still showing increased flexibility to finger pressure. Though by any standards it is still hard.  I have the tension nut set at minimum to ensure maximum comfort and flexibility in its early days. It is, to my mind, a thing of great beauty. Luckily I had the waterproof cover on when a bird dropped a huge gob of white stuff right in the middle! The 'Special' has already done 273 miles from new on the 5th May. I had feared a long and agonizing break-in period. I need not have worried. The greater width of the B17 not only lowers the pressure per square unit of area but provides a greater acreage of leather suspension. A larger trampoline, if you will. 40 more miles today. I had better start increasing my mileage dramatically or it will be a very poor year! Nearly half way through the year and I haven't even reached 3000 miles yet!

17th 65-70F, 18-21C, temperatures rising rapidly, rather overcast, breezy. An easterly wind today but it should clear up to warm sunshine. I have been checking progress on the Diims tracker website. For some reason there was a 4 day hiatus from the 11th to the 15th despite a daily ride. If the tracker was attached to a stolen item it would probably find it if it was still within Denmark. Though it might take a couple of days before it popped up. I had planned to ride to Odense today but it is too late now. I shall have to be content with more modest ambitions to be able to return by lunch time.

In a sudden explosions of oil seed rape blossom I went shopping in Assens. Fakta are ripping off their customers with year-old Heinz beans. No sympathy (at all) from the staff. I had to walk back to the pile on the shelf to go through them all to find some up to date cans while the queue waited. Only 1/3 of their available stock had this year's date! Many of the others were flattened! I should have read the signs when the automatic door wouldn't open! What a way to run a business! I did find some small, zipped, poly bags for my cycling snacks. They were hiding in a stationery shop. 19 miles. Plus 7 more miles pm.

18th 60-72F, 16-22C, windy, sunny periods. It should be warm, dry, rather cloudy and windy all day. Blowing a steady 10mph with 25mph gusts from the east. The trees are already in constant motion. I set off into the wind to ride to Odense. Riding a lot on the drops using a high cadence. It stayed warm, sunny and windy all morning. The wind was turning more southerly on the way home but wasn't too much of a nuisance. It all helps the suntan on the knees. Quite a few cyclist out training including a bunch of about 20 all dressed in orange. The sun makes people cheerful. I was going well today. 43 miles. Plus 8 more miles in the afternoon.

19th 59-64F, 15-18C, heavy overcast, breezy, possible rain this afternoon. I haven't made any real plans for today. In the end I just rode in a large circle for 20 miles. A very grey day but with light winds.

There's a lot of it about!

20th 61F, 16C, overcast, light winds. It's a bit brighter than yesterday with even lighter winds. Ideal day for a longer ride? I decided to ride to Otterup. A small town at the top right of the island of Fyn. It is only about 25 miles away by the shortest route but feels much further psychologically. I pushed hard all the way there and back while maintaining a minimum cadence of 90 rpm.

A young chap on a mountain bike pulled out up the road so I used him as a moving target to press on a bit.  My revs went up to 110 as I fought to stay with him on several long uphill drags. Only when he slowed for a drink was I finally able to overtake after a five mile chase. 16 miles in the first hour isn't bad for a full saddlebag. Most of it seemed to be climbing as hard as possible within my comfort zone. An hour and half to reach 25 miles. I pottered about in Otterup looking for open supermarkets with decent bread on the bank holiday. None which I could use. So I headed back by another route.

I was just making a mental note that Otterup cycle paths should be nominated for next year's extreme mountain biking championships when a local peasant pulled up alongside. The passenger rolled the window down and a hillbilly bawled at me for not riding on the cycle path. I was struggling to consume a mature Welsh Cheddar cheese roll at the time. So I was a little short on inarticulate, monosyllabic conversation in rural Fynsk.

Had you seen the road we were sharing you might have found all of this quite amusing. Four buses could easily have driven side by side along this perfectly straight stretch of road as far as the eye could see. Moreover there was no other traffic except for ourselves. Having unloaded his entire vocabulary on the subject he rolled up the window and they departed at speed. I just carried on munching and pedalling happily along. There is no point in getting upset with such fools. Sympathy is rather more apt. Inbreeding is (almost) inevitable on an island peopled almost entirely in small rural villages and hamlets. Some people seem to make quite a hobby of it! Mostly they blame the Jante law. It's a popular excuse for (almost) anything in Denmark. I kid you not.

Law of Jante - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Later I caught up with a string of assorted girls in training kit on racing bikes. All seemed to be trying as hard as they could to maintain a high speed and keep up with those in front. I had to go up to 24 mph to get past smoothly and then kept up my speed for several miles to stay well ahead of them. Eventually I had to turn off while they rode on. It all helped me to shorten my journey time. A final short stop for shopping and then I made it home in just under four hours total for 54 miles. Under threat of dire circumstances by my lovely wife if I exceeded this margin of error! :-)

The Specialized MTB shoes are working out well. No discomfort at all. The expensive GripGrab mitts are comfortable but seem to be leaning towards fragility when I remove them from sweaty hands. The B17 'Special' saddle bit me quite a few times today. Physically I was still feeling strong right to the end of today's ride. Climbing out of the saddle is becoming much more relaxed and almost painless as I keep pushing my distance at this very demanding sport. Just standing up on the pedals for a few yards would nearly cripple me only three years ago. It was torture most foul!

The thought of duplicating the entire ride for 100 miles total would have been beyond my powers at present. I need the saddle to behave itself much better before I can raise the mileage that much. I would also need to pace myself far more sensibly than today's silliness. Chasing after much younger and obviously faster riders is daft at my age. Especially on a loaded trike. Though 60 miles is now quite a comfortable distance if the wind and saddle cooperate. I just need to repeat my present maximum distance a few more times before going for the full century.

80 miles would be a good next step. I did it twice last year but the 'Professional' saddle nearly cut me in half! Repeatedly pushing up the comfortable distance builds the stamina to go even further without suffering. More food and drink are essential factors in more than mere survival at these greater distances. I find it all too easy to lose too much energy and not recoup my losses in time. My tired mind tells me to keep slogging on when I really should stop and buy some bananas, some biscuits or even a cake. It's a bad habit which often reduces my speed quite drastically towards the end of a longer ride.

The time from the last meal (usually breakfast) often runs into six hours before I get home. I rarely drink anything unless it is really hot. Thankfully my wife has started making me marmalade covered rolls and milky coffee much earlier than usual before I leave. This is normally enough of a top-up for three hours of hard cycling without eating anything much else. It's no wonder I'm losing weight!  Or perhaps it is being sprayed by unknown chemicals (by farmers) for the 7th time in a fortnight?

Click on any image for an enlargement.

6 May 2013

6th May 2013


6th 64-68F, 18-20C, almost still, sunny from a pale, almost cloudless sky. It should creep up by a few more degrees but may cloud over later. The forecast is wet and much cooler from Wednesday onwards. So I ought to make the most of today's fine, still weather. The usual stink of pigshit has been replaced by smoke from my neighbour's chimney. I went to get the trike out and had a good cough. I can hear tractors are busy just over the hill but I can't smell anything despite the wind blowing gently this way.

I left after morning coffee into warm sunshine. There was a slight headwind but the wind turbines were still. A couple of miles from home I was sprayed by a farmer. There was a strong smell of paint thinners whatever that means. The crop was 6" tall grass but most immature crops look like that. As I rode on I was being bombarded by different sizes of black flies. The wind had gone round to the opposite direction by the time I turned for home. Going rather well today. First Goldfinches seen this year. Greenfinches already commonplace.

My new Brooks saddle has arrived. I have to go out again after lunch so I will try it out. It seems I am getting stronger but not much faster. The new saddle was like trying to balance on a polished pebble. Rather strangely, it was not painful. Though it might benefit from being tipped slightly nose up. Which would ensure better location. The Proofide might take the shine off. I can already depress the sit bone area with my fingers after only 20 miles.

7th 60F, 16C, bright with a gentle breeze carrying an unbelievable stench of pig's diarrhoea. It is supposed to exceed 70F later. Diims finally spotted me in a village after four days. (and seeing lots of Diims-inactive PO vans in between) There was a strong side/headwind from about the 10 o'clock direction all the way to Bogense. I tootled around for a while and then headed back by another route. The wind was slightly behind me now. The new saddle was fine until towards the end.  When it became rather uncomfortable but not really too bad. The proofide had safely killed the unwanted slipperiness. The shoes were comfortable and never actually reminded me of their presence. Going well in both directions. I have caught a bit of sun on my newly bare arms and my legs are looking a bit red. Saw a Red kite and lots of noisy geese. I was sprayed twice today in the strong side wind. 47 miles.

8th 51F, 11C, breezy, overcast with showers. Hopefully the rain will ease off by the time I have enjoyed my morning coffee and rolls. I find I can keep going until lunch on my habitual morning snack despite all the energy I use up on my rides. The day always starts with a large bowl of homemade, organic muesli with organic, low fat milk. In my younger days I used to have a huge bowl piled high with mixed commercial breakfast cereals plastered in white sugar. I was always starving within an hour! I learned to detest the hype surrounding the lying TV adverts for kid's breakfast cereals. Their sugar-loaded crap offers nothing useful at all!

Eventually I was advised by a specialist to eat porridge oats with a little bran and milk. I could add a few sultanas and nuts to taste to break up the monotony of chewing wet sawdust. NO sugar! This breakfast completely changed my life's habits of several decades. Now I could survive until lunch without gnawing stomach pains and constant hunger weakness. I must have had the hunger knock almost every day before that. My days were filled with waiting for the next cup of black coffee with 2-3 spoons of sugar. Now we have no sugar in the house at all and coffee is only savoured as an enjoyable ritual.

The opposite end of the housing spectrum? 

We have no use for sugar now. Sugar-loaded fizzy drinks have never appealed and are never bought or consumed. I have repeatedly mentioned how the chronically obese can be instantly recognised by what they pile onto the belt at the supermarket. I spend quite a lot of time waiting at checkouts to pay for my organic produce. What I usually see on the belt will be guaranteed make somebody very fat and very sick. Perhaps their doctors should make morning muesli compulsory or refuse to treat them? My doctor cured me of 20 years of heavy smoking. Simply by threatening not to give me any more antibiotics for my endless "chest infections." He probably saved my life. Though I was shocked and resentful at the time.

I spent the entire morning clearing out the bike shed. More than 35 assorted wheels, some aero, mostly yesterday's HP alloys or MTB wheels, several mountain bikes and a few sports frames. All heading for the scrap bin at the village recycling centre! I checked online to see if anyone wanted old bikes but nothing came up. It seems such a waste! There was a time, not long ago, when one could pick and choose from the scrap bin. Bikes were often stacked up alongside to be perused before lifting the chosen model into the Danish citizen's ubiquitous trailer.

A lot more than these are going in the skip. 
A warning to hoarders everywhere!  

Then the kommunes completely lost interest in the public aspect of hands-on recycling but still kept the old title. Now one has to climb the steps to hurl any scrap into a huge, deep container. Totally inaccessible to the pickers over and not easy to get up there when loaded down with the heavy stuff.

I suppose I could park the trailer outside the recycling yard and put a 'GRATIS' sign on it but somebody would probably ask if they could have the trailer! I asked several local bike shops but nobody knew anybody who would be grateful for some of my junk free of charge.

More shed tidying pm before a late ride of only 7 miles. I made it home just before the heavens opened to a thunderstorm! The banana shaped, Brooks B17 'Select' is finally winging its way to the online dealer for inspection. Rather than a replacement or refund I suggested they let me have an antique brown B17 'Special' in exchange. I'd lose on the deal but would be perfectly happy to have another, longer lasting saddle in reserve.  I was getting RSI cranking on the tension nut of the 'Select'. Today was the official greening of the trees. Two warm days and they have all exploded into colour! Welcome to spring. The birds are happy.

9th 56F, 13C, overcast, breezy, light showers. Threat of showers and wind at any time today. Another three hours tidying the bike shed! I'm trying to hang the few remaining bikes vertically from their front wheels.  BTW: Don't ever try to save money on cheap, thin, metal shelving units. Every single shelf has buckled and sagged. If I hadn't screwed the flimsy uprights to the walls the whole lot would have collapsed by now. I once had tons of Dexion but it was stolen by our removal man when we moved over here. Along with a lot of other stuff. Unfortunately that was before the Internet or I could have hoist him from his own (crooked) petard.

Just a ride into the wind for some shopping. It was a bank holiday so most of the shops were closed. Easy going on the way back. 22 miles. Despite all the cloud it managed to stay quite bright.

Another few hours sorting the shed out in the afternoon. The floor is finally clear of boxes of old bike bits. Though it has all moved onto the buckled shelves in new boxes. It is a total illusion that any of this stuff has any value. Its value on eBay would be greatly exceeded by the postal charges just to get rid of it all. So, if it has no value and I have no further need of it.. then it can safely be scrapped!

Most of it was attached to bikes bought incredibly cheaply from recycling yards and charity shops. I was buying a whole bike for small change just to obtain a better chainset, front wheel, brake levers or gear changer. It quickly added up to over 20 bikes! I haven't even ridden a bike in several years. I have no real interest in riding bikes any more. I am a tricyclist. (An almost full time tricyclist if you believe my wife)

Since I upgraded to new stuff all the junk is just hampering movement when I want to work in the shed. I have a box the size of a small suitcase full of dead inner tubes! All of them have been repaired at least once. Some of them twice. (or more) Now I just buy a new tube if I puncture. Which isn't that often any more. Inner tubes are cheaper than the lowest wages you might allow yourself just finding, marking and mending punctures. So why do I need so many old inner tubes? Why did I keep so many worn out tyres hanging up in there? Insecurity? Or because I am a hoarder?

The bottom line: Hoarders should not watch TV programmes about other hoarders! They see their own reflection all too clearly in the screen afterwards! Goodnight.

10th 52F, 11C, sunny, breezy. Why did the tricyclist walk around his trike in the shed? Because he can. :-)
I fought the south easterly wind going and then it had turned to the southwest for my return. I really wasn't warm enough on the way back. It suddenly felt about 10 degrees cooler with the threat of rain. I spoke to a scrap man and he agreed that old bikes and parts had no value. I was passed by a convoy of very mixed VW minibuses, vans, etc.The Abus Mini-U fits almost perfectly in the side pocket of the Carradice Camper Longflap. This saves the usual excavation of the shopping to find the lock at each new supermarket stop. A useful discovery. Anything which hinders the will to use the lock is bad news for security. I wish Carradice would spend another halfpenny per bag on stainless steel buckles. Mine look as if they are rusting away after one winter of salted roads! The waterproofing on the nylon longflap sleeve has almost gone too. 17 miles.

11th 55F, 13C, overcast, breezy. I loaded the trailer up high with a dozen bikes and frames and the 35 wheels. Then delivered it all to the nearest village recycling yard. Almost every Danish village of any size has a Genbrugsstation. We are not talking about a scruffy rubbish dump. They each have a full complement of containers. All marked with large, clear signs as to the expected contents of each.

It would have taken ages to carry each item up the steps to the container. So I asked the driver of the giant digger to park by the scrap bin. It took two huge buckets full to clear the trailer but at least it was very quick. I feel free of a heavy millstone but still have more junk to get rid of. It's all down to the terrible inertia of living in the same place for too long. It negates the vital clear-out at short enough intervals for efficient removal of the nest to a new site.

A rather grey, cool and breezy day. I did a hilly, shopping loop for 26 miles. Climbing well despite a heavy load of shopping. Plenty of cyclists out training. Convoys of noisy, fairweather motorcyclists. The Brooks 'Special' is doing very well even this early in its life. First signs of sunken sit bone areas already. It hasn't been really uncomfortable from new. Though not as obviously comfortable as the very floppy 'Select'. The difference in hardness makes the difference. Width is everything and the B17 provides the perfect seat for my particular sit bone spacing. I wish I knew why I persisted with narrow saddles. I am not convinced that leaning forwards onto low handlebars from a higher saddle makes any difference in desirable saddle width. At least not in my case.

I wish the supermarkets would stop removing stock items from their shelves! Just as one gets used to something it is no longer available. Special offers never become stock items. Many Danish supermarkets have more Chinese junk display areas than food. Except for the usually vast sweets and snacks display areas, of course. A 1950s Coop counter assistant wouldn't recognise our very strange retail world. First cuckoo of the year. How very appropriate.

12th 49F, 9C, overcast, already windy. Showers are forecast. They were right! I re-found an old black saddlebag on my tidying expedition to the darkest corners of the bike shed. The (formerly) white leather hanging straps are much thicker than the modern Carradice examples. (As previously suggested by Alan. My cycling technical consultant and fellow tricyclist) So much so, in fact, that the bag straps really struggled to enter the Brooks 'Special' bag loops. I am quite tempted to resurrect this old bag for my longer rides without any preordained shopping target.

I tried hanging it (the bag) from the 'Special' loops but it just swung back and forth with the opening facing more or less downwards. That's not the way to do it! So it ended up being exercised on my "horizontal bars" despite the potential slight increase in wind resistance. Though I have my doubts about increased drag when it comes to bags hanging in the untidy air trailing from my flailing legs. Talking of legs: My right calf has remained well defined, sinewy and floppy. When not in active use. I know it sounds strange but the right calf was once quite unlike the left. Stiff and swollen in appearance and texture. Though there was never any pain. Nor the slightest sense of greater strength or weakness. Let us hope it remains that way.

This old saddlebag is the same size as the modern Carradice 'Cadet' at ~35cm x 20cm x 20cm. Roughly 13.75" x 8" x 8". Note the lack of wind catching side pockets.

This bag may actually be rather too big (and old?) for my "dirty stopout" longer ride needs. The problem is finding somewhere to put spare clothing out of sight and mind in changeable weather. Hopefully without crushing the mature cheese sandwiches and bananas already ensconced therein. Do I see a Carradice 'Junior'  in my stars? (30cm x 18cm x 15cm) Hmm.

I have been trying all sorts of bags, bought cheaply from charity shops, over several years. Sadly none look nor play the part well. Nor remain stable (like a proper saddlebag) when cornering sharply on a trike. I'm sick of bags dragging in the spokes after I hit supermarket pavement ramps diagonally at speed!   

My breathing efficiency has improved to the point where I actually struggle to become completely breathless. Yet I often have to spit out thick, yellow/fawn goo when I cough in the morning. (Airborne mud?) I used to think I had a permanent, low level lung infection due to this discolouration. Though this hardly tallies with my ability to climb hills without becoming hopelessly breathless.

My former lack of 'wind' was always the limitation of my ability to ride fast or climb hard. I would always hit an oxygen starvation wall. No matter how hard I panted it made no difference. Then I noticed, after a time, that I recovered my breath more and more quickly.

It seems extremely unlikely that I am still clearing out the filth of my former industrial engineering environment after a four year interval. That always produced black or rust when I blew my nose. Until I finally lost my sense of smell completely! I stopped smoking thirty years ago now. So I doubt there are any tobacco stains left to clear out. A search online suggested all sorts of dire reasons for discolouration. So that's alright then.

I have had a recurrence of the sciatic pain of four years ago but am doing some exercises I found online. Usually the pain follows lifting heavy loads. I find that pulling my right knee tight up to my chest quickly relieves the pain for a while. Four years ago I couldn't even lift my foot off the floor to change my shoes! I was breathless from climbing a single flight of stairs! So I'm not doing too badly for an old fart of 66 not out. Albeit a newly skinny one. Since I haven't had my blood pressure measured since taking up cycling more seriously again I probably don't have much to worry about. If I am wrong I shall be probably the last to know about it.

If I wasn't so lazy I would try much harder to go much faster. I would really enjoy doing a club 10 mile TT on a regular basis. Just to get some 'race fit' legs and a measure of my fitness relative to other tricyclists. The logistics of doing so, at this distance from Gravely Blighted, means that I will probably never get the chance again. Doing a TT on your own, without the pressure of friendly competition, just seems too much like masochism. There is no obvious reward. Not even the half-mocking banter for setting the slowest pace of the day. [Lantern rouge: Pronounced with a Peter Sellers, French accent. Nothing to do with red light districts or being a dirty stopout!]

It is brightening and coffee is being made at this very moment. So you (and I) shall soon be able to escape from any more of this verbiage. It stayed dry but cold and very windy. The Carradice Camper went back on for shopping. Another heavy load in the large sports bag hanging off the back. I wore a more porous jacket to avoid overheating but it wasn't warm enough. 24 miles as the trike flies.

13th 50F, 10C, windy, sunny periods. Another cool day with showers promised. Go early and miss the rain? Or ignore the forecast and go after coffee when it is even windier? By the time I got out it was heavily overcast, with continuous spots of rain and blowing a gale. Marginally too cold for fingerless mitts but I wrapped up well and was much more comfortable than yesterday. Only 14 miles. It rained for most of the day after my well timed return.

After a number of false starts I finally ordered a 'Junior' saddlebag from Spa Cycles (UK). I just wish UK online dealers would gear up their websites for automatic postage pricing to Europe. Niggle doesn't do the 'Junior' and ChainReaction do no Carradice at all. There are no serious Danish online dealers for Carradice. Nor have I ever seen their bags in the many bike shops I visit on a regular basis. Panniers are practically the only choice over here. Unless you want a girly-sized, overpriced purse to stick up the bum of your plastic racing saddle. And then where would you keep your 8 kilo U-lock and chain?

I wonder if this is why most serious Danish cyclists go out in groups? Somebody can always be watching your bike while you are choosing your Danish pastries at the bakers. Though without a musette I can't imagine where you could keep them until you got a bit peckish. Can't you just imagine the reaction of the "voluntary" laundry worker at home if you stuffed your greasy pastries in the back pocket of your racing jersey? Fortunately I am "excused cakes" these days. I carry a small polythene, zipper bag of mixed nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Or have done until the bags became completely unavailable in any of the supermarkets. Just another conspiracy to deprive me of the simple pleasures of life. I shall miss inhaling the inevitable dust in the bottom of the plastic bag.

14th 44-56F, 7-13C, overcast, breezy. Overnight rain is supposed to clear but it will remain very cool and windy. (Max 12C and 25mph gusts) Tomorrow it is supposed to reach 23C with 50mph gusts! Heads you sweat. Tails you lose control. I was working in the shed while I waited for the showers to go off but 45F is not remotely comfortable! When I did get out it was slightly warmer but very windy. Fortunately I managed my route to match the wind direction rather well today. It remained mostly sunny. 21 miles.

Pm. With a poor weather day promised for tomorrow I took the opportunity of completely stripping the Higgins rear axle, Trykit 2WD and the cassette. The BB taps which I had purchased would not go into the bearing housings. Having tried suitable BB lockings on both  taps, L&R, I believe both tap threads are grossly oversized. I shall have to return them to the dealer for a refund. Had I persisted with these taps I could have ruined the already perfect threads on my trike. I have decades of experience with taps and dies and have quite a collection of my own. I know how they should behave and the obvious signs of non-matching threads.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

5 May 2013

Hi, Honey, I'm home!

My new Brooks, honey-coloured, 'B17, Champion Special' saddle arrived today. DHL's tracking was accurate, useful and timely. 

Brooks really know how to present their products these days. The packaging and enclosed literature is all top notch. Only a dreadful cynic would suggest they were milking the nostalgia cow in providing this extra pleasure in ownership for their customers. 

The  protective, presentation cardboard drawer and sleeve are nicely understated.

They are obviously trying to capture an upmarket shopping experience from the past.

Nostalgia for a (sometimes imaginary) golden age is a popular selling technique. Though Brooks can at least lay claim to a long history in its own right.

The obverse of the sleeve shares the writings of the Brooks originator. The image was taken in bright sunshine which may have obscured the fine print unduly. I shall try again, in bright overcast, to bring out the text.

Presentation really is first class. The saddle being held firmly to a stiff printed card with three tie-wraps/zipties. Allowing removal for examination and return to the packaging without damage. While adding a very large card to avoid shoplifting?

The 'B17 Champion Special' warrants a free tension C-spanner and waterproof cover but no Proofide. (The more expensive 'Select' models have both a spanner and cover and also a tin of Proofide enclosed)

Proofide goes a long way so my stocks from previous models will probably suffice.

I have no plans to cheat this time. As I had to with the NOS 'Professional'. Which had been sitting in a warm storeroom for years. Allowing it to bake dry to an unflinching rock hardness.

The 'Select' received only a first coat of Proofide underneath and then nothing more. (Except repeated retensioning)

The underside of the packaging card showing the saddle attachment to the card and envelope containing care instructions. Note how the card has been perfectly sized to match the drawer. Thus providing an extra protective barrier to potential damage in transit. 

A heavy duty, proofed nylon saddle cover is provided. Tucked away under the saddle. I usually find these so stiff that I prefer a lighter cover if I do have to ride with a waterproof cover in place. This shows a fascinating insight into the subtleties of a leather saddle. Namely, that a single piece of nylon cloth should be enough to spoil the perfect comfort afforded by a properly broken-in saddle. Nor does the waterproof nylon breathe like leather does. Brooks have at least provided a really decent cover for a bicycle parked out of doors. Perhaps having to be left at the railway station by a commuter? The cover may even help to prevent theft of a valuable saddle which the owner has carefully broken in over a fairly long period of suffering. It loss would mean starting all over again. Saddle security for your very attractive Brooks should not be ignored! The thieving scum of the earth are always out for a cheap fix. These sociopaths don't have the imagination to even consider how far you may be from home with an unrideable machine. 

The side view of the gorgeous tan leather, copper chassis rails, perfectly chamfered skirts and hand hammered rivets. The rivets are set just below flush to avoid sharp edges catching the rider's clothing. Nor protruding to make the smooth leather curves uncomfortable.

The traditional Brooks stamp describing the exact model of saddle amongst many. Brooks maintains a full set of stamps going back to their origins.

The B17 is today's touring range designed for those who roughly match their saddle height to their handlebars. This usually provides a more upright position than a pure racer. Narrower models suit lower set handlebars. A whole variety of sprung models are available for those sitting even more upright.   

Underside of the saddle showing copper-plated cantle plate and rails but, rather inexplicably, a chrome nosepiece! Three ventilation holes help keep the rider cool in warm weather. Damp clothing increases friction which can lead to saddle soreness.

A closer look at the chassis showing the unique batch number on the leather. Registering your saddle number at Brooks' website will ensure you enjoy a two year guarantee against faulty materials or workmanship. Though you should return it to your dealer first rather than Brooks. Only if the dealer cannot help should Brooks be contacted. 

Like the rest of the B17 models, saddle loops are provided for hanging a traditional saddlebag. It would be fascinating to know how many billions(?) of miles have been ridden on Brooks saddles over the last century or more. Once the standard choice of road and track racers and tourists, it is still the preferred saddle of high mileage riders. The slight extra weight over a plastic saddle is neither here nor there once the saddlebag or panniers are fitted and packed. A single, full water bottle weighs more than the difference compared with even the lightest plastic saddles. More often than not those who worry most about mere grammes are carrying several stone over a healthy body weight.  Perhaps these riders should stick to water and stop worrying about the inconsequential? 

There are those who complain about the price of Brooks saddles. If so, one might like to consider why a dirt cheap plastic moulding covered in dirt cheap vinyl and throwaway foam should be far more expensive than a hand-made leather saddle. The Brooks is also made in a fairly civilised country by Asian standards. Where slave labour is actually frowned upon. Instead of actively encouraged by a corrupt dictatorship and party members demanding constant back-handers. The plastic saddle will be worn out years or even decades before a properly cared for Brooks. Making the over-hyped plastic 'toy' even more outrageously expensive! A foolish cyclist and his money are soon parted by pseudo science. 

The well-used Brooks B17 'Select' compared to the almost new B17 'Special' after only 20 miles and one coat of Proofide. It is interesting how leather darkens with use. Only the nose of the 'Select' still shows a hint of its original straw colour. Both are described as 'honey' coloured. I was rather tempted by the 'Brown' model but it was out of stock at the dealer. 

I have now applied a good coat of Proofide to the undersides with my fingers. Only a thin smear went on the topside as suggested by Brooks themselves. I will leave it overnight and then polish the top only with a soft cloth before riding it. 

Comparison of the undersides of the B17 'Special' and B17 'Select'. Copper plating and powder coating respectively. 

Brooks advice is to apply only Proofide at shorter intervals during the break-in period. Then at less frequent intervals after that. Proofide does not actually waterproof the saddle. It feeds the leather to maintain flexibility and to avoid it drying out and cracking. Proofide also has the important advantage of reducing the initial slipperiness. The leather should not be allowed to get wet. If it should be exposed to heavy rain then it should be allowed to dry naturally without added heat. 

Riding it while wet may cause it to stretch and deform. A supermarket carrier bag is often the easiest ploy if you need to protect the saddle in a sudden downpour. Sitting on the saddle while it is raining should protect it unless you ride without a rear mudguard on a bike. Fortunately a delta trike doesn't spray the saddle. It only sprays the rider as he hangs off on corners.Which may inadvertently transfer wetness to the saddle when resuming a normal riding position. Mudguards will avoid any of these problems. 

Brooks has sometimes been criticised for the shortness of the parallel sections of their rails. This limits the potential for-and-aft movement. Perhaps their ancient wire bending machines cannot produce any other shape? Those who want to add a clamp-on saddlebag carrier find they cannot fit the clamp for lack of free rail space. 

Older cycles often have very relaxed frame angles. Making saddle adjustment a vital necessity in riding comfort and body/knee/pedal geometry. There are set-back and set-forward seat posts available to help overcome this problem. Though often the saddle post is very carefully chosen for historical reasons. To remain absolutely true to the period when the cycle was new. There is considerable interest in restoring machines to original condition down to the very last detail. An older machine, which would have automatically used a Brooks saddle, may not provide an efficient riding position. At least, not by modern standards. 

I remember as a teenager always having my saddle pushed forwards to the very limit of its adjustment. The 1954 Higgins has me so stretched out that I now need a very short stem for comfort. This is despite having the saddle at its forward limit. Yet the Higgins has a small frame and I'm 5'10" with arms long enough for my fingertips to almost reach the top of my kneecaps when standing upright. Perhaps this lack of reach is an "age thing" as my back stiffens up with wear and tear.     

Click on any image for an enlargement.

1 May 2013

May 1st 2013


1st 39-50F, 4-10C, overnight mist and frost clearing to bright sunshine in a cloudless sky. Winds expected to be lighter today. Only gusting to 20mph on a 10mph base. I spent a couple of hours playing with the gear changers with the trike up on the workstand. The front changer wants to return to the middle ring instead of clearing the chain on the large chainring. The last click of the Ergo levers is not far enough out to ensure the chain stays on the biggest ring. I tried every possible setting and cable tension adjustment. In the end I used a wide bladed pair of special pliers to gently pull on the outer cage. It didn't seem to do anything visible to the cage but there was instant satisfaction with the gear change afterwards. I can now run in top gear without the chain rubbing. I'd probably have to be descending a vertical face of an alp to be able to use a gear that high but it was irritating not to be able to avoid chain rub.

Going well on the way there. Fighting a cold headwind coming back by a wandering, hilly route. Industrial quantities of pigshit are being moved onto the fields. Huge tankers are filling vast, modified 40' shipping containers for local distribution. The stench cannot be avoided even in the towns. 21 miles.

2nd 48F, 9C, sunny, with hardly a breeze. Another overnight, white frost. Stinking of pigshit as usual. It is supposed to be cloudy all day. So I shall be expecting a refund on my suntan cream expenses!

The search for new MTB shoes goes on. I still have to balance my walking comfort against riding efficiency. Though I'm not at all sure a full carbon sole would be an ideal choice for my use. My shoe choice last year (Bontrager 'Race') was a revelation in comfort, lightness and cycling efficiency over the former 'Tahoe'. Toes clips and straps, used with thin, flat soled trainers, are now but a distant, fading nightmare of regular foot ache.

I have even become quite used to clattering my SPDs around the supermarkets. So a slightly more extreme shoe is a possibility provided it suits my needs for comfortable indoor perambulation. Searching online is providing some candidates. Which can then be subjected to review searches and potential Danish stockists. I'm not sure I want to follow the safe black/grey route again this year. I have officially "come out" as an unashamed and unabashed cyclist. See me, see my trike, Pal!  I no longer feel apologetic for my chosen footwear. Though an all-white shoe would seem a poor choice for daily use, year-round in all weathers I am not completely averse to a nice bit of bling.

Would going upmarket provide greater quality and longevity? The "entry level" models are often very clumsily finished despite the high asking price. Though I am not particularly enamoured of fancy tightening systems involving silly cords. Will anybody stock EU46? Or even a <cough> a 47(!) where the shoe "manufacturers" (Chinese slave labellers) make shoes for a wholly fictitious, pygmy-sized audience? Should I choose a road shoe instead? Then spend some months learning to lean on a supermarket zimmer frame shopping trolley handle like the locals? Will I have to give up the deliberate choice of the handheld baskets? We shall see. :ø))

No luck so far. Though I did bring back an Orbea 'Rune' helmet in bright, pearly white. I had my mind set on a Swiss cheese, Catlike 'Whisper Plus' but it wasn't to be. The silly plastic harness block cut into the back of my head!

My old Abus commuter helmet looks absolutely filthy and won't respond to gentle cleaning. The picture I borrowed of the Orbea makes it look even worse than the Abus!  My wife said it looked just like the old one. But at least it has the racing pedigree DA (duck's arse). So there!

Only later, when I was admiring the Orbea at home, did I discover one of the glued pads on the harness had come unstuck and was lost. The glue on the other pad did not inspire much confidence and that pad would soon be lost too. Thank you Orbea! Now I have to return it to the shop  in the hope of a replacement helmet over a damned, fraction of a penny, stuck on pad. Or go without. That will teach me to have one off the display stand without a box. I haven't even worn it in anger yet! It came home in a supplied carrier bag so the pad was missing before it even left the shop! I also bought a new pair of GripGrab mitts. Pricey at about £30 but well padded with gel and make my Orangutan appendages look almost petite and  feminine.  In the image below the gloves have had a wash and then done 45 miles. Next time I might even pull my finger out and take a better snap.

I tried on half a dozen MTB shoes but nothing said "buy me!" The Bontrager 'Race' and 'RL' did  not inspire as they did last year. The Shimano 'MO77' was much too narrow. Gærne and Northwave models were much the same, of those available off the shelf in my size. None felt comfortable enough out of the box to make me want something similar but in a much brighter colour!

I don't buy the idea that cycling shoes should be uncomfortable because that makes them faster or more efficient. They often have to be ridden for many hours every day. A long walk back from a mechanical failure should not require a visit to the A&E. Nor cripple you for the rest of the season. Searching online for "wider fitting" shoes produced variable opinions on the forums. I'll see what Odense has to offer tomorrow. There are loads of bike shops over there and the sun is promised to shine on my already tea-stain coloured knees. Even my calves are pink today! That must be the Danish Ozone Hole at work. The accelerated "Tour de France look" can be yours at no extra charge. I don't suppose it could be spray drift from the constant pigshit spreading, could it? Not so much the black economy as a brown one. I was also sprayed with poison by a farmer today. It hardly affected me at AT ALL!! 21 miles.

3rd 55F, 13C, breeze, full sun. 15C/59F with 20 mph southerly gusts forecast for later. The first bike shop in Odense had a pair of Specialized 'Sport' MTB 2013 shoes @ £80 equivalent which fitted nicely. I was almost disappointed because I was ready to do the complete tour of all the shops. The young chaps in the bike shop were very interested in my trike. They are reaching the end of a college training course to become qualified bicycle mechanics. They told me they will be expected to braze a bicycle frame together themselves. They were snapping away and going on about the special qualities of steel bicycle frames.

In the end I did the full  tour de shops anyway but just window shopped. A headwind going and a headwind coming back. I just kept the revs up and pressed on. My tan must be coming along nicely because the sun never went behind a cloud today. My best bib shorts and B17 'Select' did their thing properly today. Perhaps I have finally recovered from trying the other saddles? The new GripGrab mitts are easily the most comfortable I have ever worn! I never once had to shift my hands to avoid fatigue or pain. I was the target of two different dogs but had a match for their speed. Sadly one of them then went for an elderly man's dog while walking with the lead attached to his zimmer frame. The ensuing racket (finally) brought the owner out to do his best elephant seal impression. If only I'd had a helmet cam, eh? YouTube's finest would have lapped it up.

The Specialized 'Sport' shoes are much better finished, smarter and far stiffer in the sole than the Bontrager 'Race'. So a bit of an upgrade for no increase in price.  Longer and narrower too. Though it didn't seem to hurt the instant sense of snug comfort. Tragically, they have much the the same dull colour scheme of overall (matt!) black as last year's footwear. So I was even denied my first taste of cycling shoe bling. Unless you count the pale grey undercarriages. They also have a noticeably lower heel. Which feels a bit odd when walking. Though not a particular hindrance to forward motion. Not if you don't mind looking like a duck waddling in oversized wellies. But I walk like that anyway.

It all started with my sister telling me I was pigeon-toed as we walked past a girl's school. Thereby completely destroying my already fragile teenage confidence. It took me months of intense training to perfect my new, cartoon-like, "bobby on the beat" gait. The intervening years have only amplified my involuntary affliction to something more akin to "keep on truckin!"

Having fitted new shoe cleats I found I could not unclip! It was only because I had not tightened the SPD cleats hard enough and they were rotating on the shoe. So I remembered to add some copper grease to the screw threads and cranked well on the allen key next time around. Then went round again and tightened the slack as the cleats bit slowly into the soles. I just hope the new shoes last. And if they don't? Then you will the first to know!

My early success with a rechargeable razor was badly undone with the shearing I received from a severe misjudgement of the settings. Instead of the regulation 1/4", normal to such rare occasions, it ended up more like a 1/4 of a millimetre! I was sorely tempted to keep going and do my legs as well. Except that The Head Gardener has expressly forbidden it!  Power (always) corrupts! 44 miles.

4th 57-62F, 14-17C, breezy, sunny. Yesterday's forecast has been upgraded to brighter and less windy. So I will only have to face 30mph headwinds instead of 40+.

My being sprayed with poison by farmers has  reached the headlines. Apparently, 99% of Danish children have such quantities of organophosphates in their bloodstream that it can be measured in their urine. This nasty insecticide affects their brains and reduces their communication skills. So the young are being sacrificed so that farmers can enjoy their newly EU-subsidised "environmentally friendly" status in this "environmentally friendly" country. At least the mud plastered on the roads and the stench of pigshit being spread is highly visible. I know why I'm coughing all night because I can see the brown dust clouds as I ride through them! Diims has failed to register my several hours presence in both Assens and Odense. I saw umpteen PO vans but none saw me on the Diims network.

I returned to Assens to shop. The wind picked up steadily but fortunately it was matched by the temperature. It stayed sunny. The new shoes were a superb improvement on the sloppy Bontragers. There was no sense of movement between the soles and my feet no matter how hard I pulled up on the pedals. The tops of my toes became a bit "warm" at 15 miles so I tightened the ankle straps more firmly. That solved the problem nicely. I'm very pleased with these shoes including the ease of walking. 22 miles with more to come after lunch.  Still no Diims hits. 7 miles later. It is blowing a gale now! The new shoes are excellent for dancing on the pedals. I suddenly feel 50 years younger! Though that may only be due to the shorter beard.  :-)

5th 46-58F, 8-15C, misty, overcast, already windy. It is supposed to brighten up but blow to 35mph from the SW. So I ought to be heading SE or NW. Having spent a few minutes outside I can confirm it is rather cold with spots of rain in the air. Where's my sunshine? It took until 11am before the first glimpse of sun. Only then did it start to warm up a bit. I ride down to Korinth. There are some spectacular historic houses there. With several large lakes there and on the way. Though always at some distance from the roads. Traffic was quite light. I saw my first swallows of this year in the narrow, winding lanes between tall hedges. Greenfinches are suddenly everywhere. A gaudy Yellowhammer lay dead beside the road.

I went briefly onto the start of the narrow gauge cycle path but it was deserted as far as the eye could see. I measured the path width from my trike track at 60" or 1.5 metres. Signs of fresh horse droppings suggest they must be back after a temporary ban. There was lots of sand of the tarmac just like last time.

This very attractive round house at Old Stenderup may once have been a windmill. It enjoys a raised position overlooking the village on the side of a small valley.  

I checked my tyres very carefully as I returned to the road in Korinth. Absolutely no sign of damage from the flinty sand. So it must have been the substandard Continental 4000S which caused the puncture problems on their first ride. It was weeks before the dealer responded to my email requesting an update on the returned tyres. Weeks later now and I have still heard nothing! The new shoes were fine again today. They have even changed my riding style. I spend much more time out of the saddle. 46 miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.