31 May 2015

31st May 2015 Sunday run.

Sunday 31st 50-53F, 10-12C, very windy with bright sunshine. I was up early and hoping for a better day for a longer ride but it is already blowing a gale. 30mph gusts from the SW are promised again with rain after 3pm this afternoon. Which usually means I could cover a lot of ground going somewhere else but take hours to come home again.

Just a 3/4 hour walk to test the cool, overcast and windy conditions. Watched a Nightingale[?] singing in a roadside tree. Superb song with considerable variation. I shall have to wrap up well for my ride as it isn't likely to get much warmer today. The early sunshine has gone with no promise of more to come.

There was some brightness at times as I explored the gorgeous countryside above Fåborg. The whole ride was very hilly in short burst of major corrugations. Fields, woods and forests decorate the bumpy landscape with small villages, hamlets and often pretty houses at intervals.

I seemed to have chosen a day for serious cycling. Being overtaken several times by pelotons of riders with numbers attached. Then there were the clubmen out training as individuals and large groups. It can be quite nerve racking to have thirty riders pass my trike at speed. Their steering is much more agile than mine and a trike has very different needs to remain absolutely stable on rapidly changing cambers. All I can do is maintain a straight line and let them go around me. Their well-honed skills at riding in a mobile and active bunch probably saved the day more than anything I did.

I tried to tack on the back of one untidy gaggle at 10 miles but soon had no wind left on a long uphill drag. It can take me 20 miles to clear the pipes properly these days.

Later I led a large group up a steep hill as nobody seemed keen to pass before we crested the top. Several riders called out well ridden as they passed. I was too breathless to hold a stimulating conversation so just grunted my thanks.

The wind was more helpful on the way back and I cut the 3 hour outward time by an hour. Returning by a different route, again with lots of hills. 5 hours for 62 miles on one sandwich and a banana isn't bad considering all those hills. Though I did drink a couple of mini-boxes of pure apple juice to keep my strength up.

It seems John Kerry is raising international concerns about the safety of cycling. He has crashed twice now. The last time was in 1992. Twice in 23 years seems rather careless to me. At 71 he ought to be seriously considering a tricycle! It seems a pavement stepped out in front of him this time. His bicycle had to be lifted from the Swiss Alps by mountain rescue helicopter. There is no information on the condition of the kerb.
John Kerry breaks leg in bicycle crash in France - BBC News

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30 May 2015

28th May 2015 Silent Spring?

Thursday 28th 51F, 11C, windy, heavy overcast, showers. Showers possible for most of the day. Brightening later pm but with 35mph gusts. Mid afternoon and I was being buffeted by vicious crosswind gusts on the main road. Ripped off by yet another supermarket change of name. Exactly the same shop owners, the same items, the same special offers but coming a week later than last week's pre-change of shop name! So I paid full price at the checkout. Crooks, damned crooks and supermarket musical chairs!

They ought to be joining their mutual parasites in the politic-ooze. All the election posters are up. Promising more money in your pockets, more jobs, lower taxes, greater freedom, etc,etc. Same damned lies whichever country is holding an election to the local gravy train. Same damned lies as last time and the next. Same damned lies regardless of party. Still the highest taxes in the world and the highest prices in Europe.

Came back along the lanes to avoid the exposed main road and speeding commuter nutters. Thought I'd managed an excellent, hilly detour for at least couple of extra miles but was ripped off again! One extra mile for only 15 miles total. I don't know why I bother. Brain the size of a minor planet... and she sends me shopping!  (;ø))

Friday 29th 55F, 13C, bright but very breezy. Rain forecast for next 24 hours! My usual walk took exactly an hour thanks to a brisk pace and no dawdling for photography. Half an hour of bright sunshine before the sky lid slid over. Followed by a quarter of windy overcast. Then a quarter of an hour of light rain. Which seems like quite good value, I suppose. Several hares scampered about in the low crops as a buzzard soared effortlessly overhead. Hares seem to like following tracks even a line of soil left by a tractor implement. One smaller hare trotted right up to me, stopped dead and stared, then carried on right past me only a few feet away. It wasn't until I turned round to see where it had gone that it finally took off at a diagonal.

Quite windy but not as fierce as yesterday. Managed the wind direction quite well as I wallowed in gorgeous, spring countryside in a balloon-shaped ride. Birds of prey hunted over the fields and woods as smaller birds encouraged me from the hedgerows. The last leg had more wind resistance as I pressed on to avoid the blackening sky up ahead. It just started raining in the last couple of miles but not enough to dampen my spirits. And, only just enough to produce that wonderful smell of fresh rain on dry roads. I arrived home, put the trike away and there was really nasty, squally downpour! Perfect timing! The 30kph school sign was lit up with bright white LEDS again. It might as well have had a bin bag over its head for all the difference it made to passing traffic. 21 miles.

Saturday 30th 50F, 10C, windy, overcast, showers. It is supposed to brighten up later but gusting to 30mph again. I seem to have recovered from the weird dizziness, weakness, constant headaches, bunged up chest and feeling of being generally unwell. Whether it was being sprayed half a dozen times within a week, or some kind of virus, I will probably never know.

I still haven't developed a useful strategy for when I find myself on a road with a farm  machine spraying right up to the verge. Should I turn and ride as fast possible in the opposite direction? What if that takes me downwind and increases the contamination? Should I hold my breath as I ride past? What about when I am already breathless from climbing a steep hill going right past a sprayer? As happened quite recently.

Is the massive load of pig's excrement and urine dumped repeatedly into my environment a further stressor to my health? It must be saturated with airborne bacteria and viruses even if the heavy concentration of ammonia doesn't directly impact on my system. If a local factory was releasing viruses, toxins and an awful smell there would be a public outcry. When farmers repeat the same offence on the general public, time after time, there is complete silence. The only recourse is to flee to the city. Just as many Danes have done already and increasingly do so despite the very much higher property prices there.

Denmark's very own Silent Spring. Except that it wasn't the birds which were silenced but the Dane's very own offspring. The excited cries from the rural, village school playgrounds have become but a distant, race memory. Perhaps closing them was a subconscious desire by the authorities to protect their own children from the toxic countryside? As is already well documented; few farmers can be trusted to follow the [always voluntary] rules. So the only way to keep future generations of Dane's safe was to banish them from the countryside. Leaving villages to die as only the elderly inhabitants clung on. Increasingly unable to thrive or even survive without the most basic facilities they move into unaffordable old people's homes. To be steadily robbed of their possessions, their health and their humanity. Or to take up a short, residence in some bleak, impersonal city hospital.

With no new blood to replace them the sense of powerless impoverishment and rural isolation is further compounded. With the economic pressures on the remaining small farmers to invest ever more deeply into debt they must give up and sell their land off to ever-larger units. Which strip off the remaining trees and hedges in the name of big-machine efficiency of scale. Leaving thousands of rural homes unsaleable and unsold amongst the uniform, monoculture prairies. Spotted at frequent intervals with automated, industrialised pig factories run by sorely underpaid, foreign workers.

Many rural villages fall steadily into quiet disrepair amidst the silent, unspoken menace and constant threat of forced auction. There is no work in the countryside. The once proud, sprawling lawns of large farmhouses sport nettles, brambles and thickets of self-seeded trees. While the carefully manicured vegetable rows of a few short decades ago have given way to a shelf full of toxic residue. Brought from the other side of the world to the ever more distant, city supermarket, monopoly chain.

A strong and variable crosswind going there under massive, scudding banks of clouds. I stayed dry until almost home again as I dashed for the shelter of the last supermarket. Dark, compressed folds of leaden sky threatened at intervals but I arrived safely home heavily loaded but unscathed. I waved enthusiastically to one driver who was overtaking a string of speeding cars in a 40kph/35mph limit at [probably] 70mph. Well, he had to be Danish royalty, didn't he? Only 15 miles.

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25 May 2015

25th May 2015 Have you got this in green?

Monday 25th, 48F, 9C, breezy, very heavy overcast, raining, with light showers forecast. A snotty nose day. Probably due to all the sawdust I have been making. Perhaps all the nose blowing will help to clear my ears? The sneezing and runny nose abated later. Rode a circle under a heavy overcast but dry. 18 miles.

In between I was sorting through years of accumulated packaging and papers. Managed to lose quite a bit of volume from dumping loads of old bubble packs. Finding old drawings from my youth, when I had searched constantly for winning ideas, was always going to be depressing. I even found an old drawing for my long wheelbase recumbent. Built at a time when recumbents were still cutting edge in America. Probably 30 years too early for the more techno-conservative UK.

My design was spoilt by a weak, sheet aluminium seat. Shortening the top tube/beam to compensate made the head angle too steep and it went into violent shimmies above a certain, quite modest, speed. A heavy recumbent is completely impractical in a hilly city like Bath. Climbing back home out of town up The Hollow was what destroyed the seat! Though the LWB was amazingly fast on the flat I had no willpower left to completely rebuild it. I should have made it adjustable for leg length, used much lower gears and had a stronger, preferably mesh seat. Ah, the wisdom of perfect hindsight.

Tuesday 26th 51F, 11C, heavy overcast, breezy. Odd showers possible. Gusting to 25mph is slightly more windy than yesterday. The cool May continues. It broke a continuous, 22 month record of warmer than average months. It hardly registers compared with the dreadful weather others are having at the moment. The verges are luxuriant with wild plant growth. The Lilac hedges are in flower as are the Hawthorns. I saw a ginger hare which seems to like sitting invisibly on the bare earth beside a field pond each morning. The Mallards, sharing his damp space, were far more nervous of my toddling past at over 100 yards away. Willow warblers were singing everywhere. One warbler I saw singing away in a small roadside tree was rather large, had a yellow-green breast and a raised crest. The wrong song for a Willow or Wood warbler so I'll have to do some more research on that one.

Just waiting for coffee and toast before pedalling off to catch up with the post-bank-holiday shopping. Crosswind going. Headwind coming back but it stayed dry and mostly grey. I see everybody is back to 68-69kp in the 50kph limits. Loads on mobile phones or resting their chin on their hand. Every vehicle cutting the double white lines on every single corner. Cutting to the verge on the inside of every corner so that their braking reaction times are maximised. A large fraction of drivers badly overshooting sharper corners. I didn't get where I am today by cutting corners, nor overshooting!

If you want to see who knows how to drive watch the oncoming vehicles. Not the ones who are overtaking you. If they don't give the overtaking vehicle extra room then they aren't reading the road so aren't real drivers. Just pretending to be. 15 grey miles, dodging incompetent mobile phone operators, with absolutely no sense of road positioning. Nor, were they ever taught defensive driving.

A pair of deer walking slowly away down the forest track. The photo I took at maximum zoom  x12 [300mm equiv on the TZ7] was a bit too soft.

Wednesday 27th 52-60F, 11-15C, bright overcast and rather windy.  Brightening later but with a risk of showers. It went from very dark to bright sunshine repeatedly as I enjoyed a two hour walk through the woods. I really am incredibly lucky to have such beautiful forests, fields and tracks all to myself. A pair of Red backed shrikes were perched on some felled tree branches from earlier hedge cutting. The first shrikes I can ever remember seeing. Except that this male shrike had a glossy, jet black cap as well as an eye stripe! The female was beautifully speckled/mottled on the breast but nothing like a thrush. Another bird mystery to solve. The gusts of wind, on the way back, were so strong I was able to lean on them.

A mid-after noon ride to the shops had me overtaking a gaggle of teenage school-kids out on a cycle jaunt in the forest. Only one lad tried to stay with me on the rather rough and undulating road but soon fell away again. Can you imagine a UK or US school sending a whole class of kids out on their bikes?  How many would actually own bikes in the first place?

Arrived at one supermarket to find a pair of mountain bikes chained across the rack and taking up 6 whole spaces! At the second I had to park the trike outside the extensive, plant and cheapo gardening junk, security cages because the cycle rack access was blocked. Same again at the third where they had piles of pallets full of potted plants blocking access. I wonder whether it is even legal in "cycling friendly" Denmark to block access to a supermarket's entrance? Do they block access to the supermarket cycle racks and supermarket entrances in Odense: "Cykling City 2015?" How would they evacuate in the event of a fire or a bomb threat? Probably better not to ask as the Danish general election is announced for another game of musical chairs on the gravy train.

An old, roadside cottage from 1777 which has been standing empty for years after a "refurbishment" with new [heavy modern style] windows and a newly thatched roof. Not only is it badly arranged internally but the sunken gable end forms a blind bend only 3' from the wheels of heavy goods traffic!  Sleeping in the upstairs bedroom with only a 4' ceiling height and listening to the passing traffic must be fun! It was described as the home of a saddle maker as late as 1960. Most of the houses around it were also small businesses back then. The historical [commercial] aerial photographs, now freely available online, show that the majority of rural homes were thatched. 

The early-bird psychos were in commuting mode on the way home. Nose-to tail in case they missed their place on the road. Brushing past only a foot from my elbow. Now the strong gusts were causing a rather nasty headwind. Only 10 miles today.

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23 May 2015

21st May 2015 Last man standing!

Thursday 21st 50-53F, 10-12C, breezy and bright but with rather a lot of cloud. Odd showers possible. Lots of hares about this morning. One trotted up to within a few yards as I stood like statue. Lots of warblers again. It feels quite warm today. Which doesn't make much sense considering how windy it is. Another rest day.

Friday 22nd 50F, 10C, breezy, heavy overcast. Sunshine promised for later. You'd think that with all the cycling and walking I do, my leg muscles would be strong and fit. Yesterday was spent indoors taking down some heavy, built-in furniture. It involved lots of kneeling, dragging and lifting. Today, my leg muscles are extremely sore from the unexpected and unusual exercise. It just goes to show that completely different muscles are involved when carrying out different tasks. I don't have the patience to do deliberate, repetitive exercises so now use walking to undo the likely damage caused by cycling.

My legs haven't hurt this badly since I first started cycling seriously again a little over six years ago. In those days my legs were in constant pain. Yet I came straight from a decade of heavy daily work. With constant repetitive lifting involving stepping up and down onto a machine loading platform at frequent intervals. In between this I would sometimes have to manhandle items weighing over a hundred pounds.

The heavy, repetitive work ruined my shoulders but did not remotely prepare my muscles for cycling. It took several years for the shoulder pain to subside completely. As did the leg pain from cycling. I lost a couple of stone of "solid muscle" along the way. Even turning into a concentration camp inmate for a while. I've since put 3/4 of a stone back on again and rarely suffer from unpleasant leg pain any more. I'm obviously not trying hard enough by Obree standards! The sun has just come out so I'd better have my walk.

It was quite painful at times particularly as I climbed or descended slopes. Buzzards were soaring just behind the vertical cliff face of the forest. Skylarks filled the air with their busy songs. The forest tracks are becoming rather overgrown with wild plants, nettles and grass. Very wet too as my leaky, right, Salomon boot re-confirmed. I must get onto the dealer again. This is the second leaky pair [replaced under guarantee] well within two years from purchase.

My quadriceps remain very tender so I thought it best to take a rest from cycling until I feel stronger. My guess is that I have been lowering myself to a crouch or kneeling and straightening up again rather too often. The bodyweight load and resisting its momentum falls directly on the quads each time. 

Saturday 23rd 53F, 12C, bright and breezy. Legs still very sore. I have finished the first part of the home building project so can relax and rest now. Phase two should not involve remotely so much grovelling. The wind was stronger than expected on my walk. My legs were hurting almost constantly. I see there is another outbreak of Japanese knotweed to add to all the pretty wild  flowers. Importing soil from elsewhere for landscaping seems to be extremely risky!

I hardly noticed my legs on the trike until I jumped out of the saddle to crest a short climb. Not a good idea! It remained mostly sunny and mild with a strong headwind coming home. Lots of individual cyclists out training. I was dragging several days' worth of shopping home in a full leather bag with the pink bag stuffed to the gills resting on top. As I plodded uphill at only 9mph an elderly woman steamed past me at a considerable speed with her legs hardly moving! Another electric bike convert making me feel old and de-crapped. Only 7 miles.

Sunday 24th 54F, 12C, breezy and rather cloudy with bright sunny periods. My legs aren't nearly so painful today though the shops may be closed for the holidays. A short walk in search of fresh air with the oil seed rape in a second week of full flower. Quickly followed by yet more dizziness. I'll have to find out if I can have my ears syringed at the surgery in the hope that it helps.

A short ride in the afternoon had me chatting with an elderly lady outside a supermarket. She had hoped to meet me to talk about the trike after seeing me riding everywhere. I was as modest as usual and explained that I was merely an eccentric Englishman abroad. She left beaming, surprised and impressed with my mileages. Though only 7 miles today and probably my lowest week's mileage in a long time!

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18 May 2015

18th May 2015 Toxic overload II

Monday 18th 48F, 9C, grey and breezy. Rain forecast for most of the day. Still feeling weak and weird. Best to stay indoors I think.

Tuesday 19th 48F, 9C, breezy and bright. Forecast to rain all day from about 9am. Feeling stronger today and the pressure in my head with resulting dizziness has gone. My ears don't feel so blocked up either and the tinnitus has lessened. The problem is finding somewhere to walk [and ride!] which doesn't involve being close to universally sprayed fields. Hopefully the rain will have helped to lower the airborne toxins. I can't say I noticed any smell from the sprayed fields as I tootled gently down the busy road in a cold and stiff wind. The birds didn't seem to care as many were singing or attending to their young. A pair of Blackcaps were flying to and fro at very short intervals to their nest in the ivy at the base of a roadside tree. A ragged, grey, sky lid soon slid over from the SW and it rained on cue as I walked back.

I was just reading that Odense Kommune [Kommune = City Council] has been named Cycling City of the Year by the Danish Cycle Club for the first time. The Club had been awarding their accolade since 2005. Odense has won this year for its special efforts to make the city centre more cycle friendly. An increase of 10% in the number of cyclists is claimed. Would you believe that 3000 cycle parking places have now been achieved at Odense Bus/Railway Station alone? I wonder if there are that many cycle parking places in the whole of London?

Odense's population is only 173,000 yet has 500 km of cycle paths! London's population is over 8.3 million. Chelmsford and York, among the UK cities, have similar populations to Odense. What are they doing to encourage cycling? Odense claims that 1000s of human life years are added for every investment in new cycle paths. While every investment in cycling is repaid twice in health treatment savings alone. Obesity levels for Denmark, the UK and the US are quoted as: 18%, 26% and 33% respectively.

Here is how seriously a Danish city like Odense takes cycling: Don't panic! This is the English version and its brief and precisely to the point:

Odense cycling Troels Andersen .pdf

Less desirable news is that over one third of all packs of Danish pork products now contain MRSA. So don't fall off your bike after eating Danish bacon!

I rode off into sunshine and a crosswind to the local shops. Coming back there was a loud bang, two "piffts" and the front tyre went completely flat in only two revolutions. Somebody [or something] had smashed a flint in the high street leaving a string of razor sharp prisms right where cyclists and cars tyres would run along. I spent a couple of minutes kicking all the shards to the gutter before changing the inner tube. The Lezyne mini-pump hose wouldn't unscrew yet again. After a real struggle I finally managed to get it loose and could pump up the tyre.  The grease I had applied was still visible on the hose adaptor threads. Meanwhile it started spitting with rain and then light hail on the way home with a clap of thunder. Fortunately, for my mood, it passed over so quickly I stayed almost dry. Hail dumped itself to rolls of thunder after I arrived home safely again. Only 7 miles.

Wednesday 20th 52-53F, 11-12C, bright and breezy start. Walked for an hour and half. Still suffering headaches but the dizziness is all but gone. Saw three hares and a few pheasants. Hedges full of birdsong. The Dk news suggests that the publicity surrounding the new fleet of police camera cars has reduced average speeds.

The promised showers timed themselves for my supermarket wandering. Luckily I had remembered to throw a carrier bag over the Brooks. The large leather bag has regained its rightful place on the rack to provide the necessary carrying capacity. Only 15 miles on wet roads.

Here's something really interesting:

The Alinker | We Move Differently

A walking, tadpole trike with the ability to stride freely under the right circumstances. No doubt a bit of practice will go a long way. Still in late development, the middle size will soon be available.[2015]  Not intended for downhill racing the rear brake will eventually give way to drum brakes on both front wheels. The idea seems so obvious but I haven't seen anything quite like it before.

Love the exuberant curves! It reminds me of the Viktor/Viktoria but this thing weighs only 12kg. It brings the user up to normal eye level while allowing them to relax tired or weak legs. That should break down barriers between the walking wounded and former wheelchair user. Intended as a mobility aid for those who cannot manage pedals or cranks on a conventional trike. I'd argue for a much wider audience. It could easily become a modern craze for commuting! Makes far more sense than sweaty jogging wrecking your knees or finding somewhere to park the people carrier. Certainly beats a walking frame for outdoor use. Though it is intended for all the usual indoor resources with wheelchair access. I like it a lot and hope it does really well. My only niggle is the rather small rear wheel and lack of proper footrests. That rear wheel would slow me down too much on those long descents. And I'd want decent disk brakes for the hairpin at the bottom! ;ø))

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16 May 2015

16th May 2015 Toxic overload?

Saturday 16th 48F, 9C, windy, heavy overcast. Forecast to rain all day. A decidedly, cold wind on the hands. Though no rain yet at nearly 11am. Only a stroll down to the village this morning, to a chorus of different warblers in the hedgerows. Shelducks were circling the marsh pond. Swallows rested on TV aerials between exuberant, acrobatic displays. I was passed by several cyclists and their noisier motorcyclist cousins. It did rain around lunch time.

For all my [occasional] dissatisfaction with some motorists at least I don't have to put up with the appalling standards of many UK and American drivers. The Danes as a whole are remarkably responsible drivers towards cyclists with some exceptions. Watching YT videos, made by cyclists with cameras, merely emphasises that many drivers in the UK and US are well beyond incompetent. Many may also be criminally insane or terrifyingly dysfunctional. In other words: Some are as dumb as they are when not behind the wheel.

Some cyclists are well beyond irritating too. The law may support their actions and road positioning but the "opposition" might as well be driving tanks for all the good it will do the truly pedantic cyclist. Some cyclists are victims desperately looking for their next "tragic" accident or road rage incident. Which they will often attract like moving magnets.

Reading many of the comments below the YT videos merely confirms the absence of the most basic rationality or functional levels of intelligence. Cyclists are probably becoming the new blacks for many closet racists. There's always been a need for somebody to blame for crippling, personal inadequacy. Why not blame an easy [and vulnerable] target? If Jews, Muslims or Christians are difficult to spot these days then cyclists certainly aren't. Cyclist become just the latest group which can be bullied with impunity and almost perfect anonymity.

Poor driving skills and bad behaviour seem to be constantly reinforced in the absence of a supervisor who commands respect. The willingness to commit crimes is usually based on the risk of discovery and sanction versus the perceived reward. The timid pedestrian becomes aggressive or totally indifferent to the cyclist and pedestrian the moment they get behind the wheel. Why else do drivers go berserk when their transgression is noticed and drawn to public attention? Road rage is the most totally inappropriate behaviour under most circumstances. While the deluded driver, who thinks that risking life and limb to gain one position ahead on the road, usually gets away with it. Only in our wildest fantasies is there a police motorcyclist following along behind.

What made me smile most about the YT videos though, was the long-outdated idea that "slow" cyclists were largely responsible for holding up the city traffic. When in practice, the cyclist caught, or overtook, the same vehicles several times at the following sets of  traffic lights. Even 45 years ago I could commute between Bath and Bristol by tricycle in the same time as the cars which passed me in the first town. The traffic queues at both ends in the rush hours were so dense that I could cruise for miles in each destination town without being overtaken by the same vehicles again. The traffic jams completely undid all their efforts to illegally overtake in the gap between the cities. Often at great danger to themselves and other road users.

They say self-driving cars are on their way. The sooner the better as far as cyclist and road death victims are concerned. Behaviour which would land the perp in jail, if on foot, goes completely unnoticed when using a car or lorry as a weapon of mass destruction. There has never been an easy way to report or record bad behaviour until very recently. The cycling YT video, dash cams and almost universal mobile phones with cameras are only beginning to show up on the radar of the habitual driving psychopath.

Given the appalling global road death and injury figures you'd think the NSA would be monitoring a fixed camera in every car instead of chasing potentially dangerous ghosts. Perhaps the Russians have the right idea? The popular dash-camera has multiple uses. Not least for monitoring road crime by the camera owner. I just hate to think how much bandwidth the world would need to watch every driver. It would be cheaper to pay the driver's wife/girlfriend/kids to keep the driver on the straight and narrow. Except it doesn't seem to work. Many speeding drivers in Denmark have the entire family aboard. All that's happening there is programming the next generation to drive like a brain dead fool! 

It rained going and rained harder coming back. So only 7 soggy miles. Serves him right for going on about poor innocent motorists? Suit yourselves. You will anyway.

Sunday 17th 56F, 13C, bright but windy. Rain forecast for after lunch. I walked my usual loop. A hare dozed beside a field pond. Shelducks crossed and recrossed the fields. I was passed by a couple on their mountain bikes on the track to the woods. Now I know who makes those tyre tracks! An open topped Ferrari droned past on the road coming back. Aren't they enormous?

I had another bout of vertigo-dizziness later. I'm wondering whether I am allergic to the crops or the spraying. Or something else altogether. My ears are blocked up and I'm partially deaf with constant tinnitus. I've tried gargling with warm, salt water, sniffing menthol and sucking strong mints. It all just makes my ears pop. Despite taking naps in bed I remained weak and wobbly well into the evening. So another rest day.

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13 May 2015

13th May 2015 Let us spray!

Wednesday 13th  53F, 12C, overcast, windy with spots of rain in the air. Just the usual birds on my walk. I was glad for the yellow sunglasses in the stiff, westerly wind. The forecast is sunshine and showers with gusts to over 35mph. I found some broken Song thrush eggs on the track through the woods. There were no overhead trees so presumably the work of a predator.

Notice the remarkable colour uniformity of the fresh, spring growth. 

I'd hoped the weather would improve by this afternoon but it didn't. Just a short ride under a grey, spitting sky in a gale. The Vetta saddle felt uncomfortable even on such a short ride. 7 miles.

I have been suffering from headaches and dizziness for the last few days. I have noticed that I am also unusually short of breath on the trike. All three are typical symptoms of crop spraying. This afternoon I had to lie down to avoid falling over after my ride. I felt incredibly wobbly and almost nauseous. This is not remotely normal for me. My wife also spends hours out of doors gardening whenever it is dry and has complained of headaches. There has been lots of spraying recently and we are literally surrounded by fields for mile after mile. The spraying continues in all wind conditions and it is only rarely still. My walks are probably adding to the exposure.

Most years I am aware of having passed through spray drift or have seen spraying occurring upwind as I passed on my trike or on foot. It is quite common for crop sprayers to work, quite literally, right up to the verge. Which occurred only yesterday morning as I passed on foot. [See image.] I have even returned home with my skin still sticky from passing close to a machine spraying right beside the road. There is never any means to identify what is actually being sprayed. It often smells something like paint thinners. I can remember the local children running back and forth along the drive through the spray as if it was a game! Some of them suffered health issues afterwards. Probably just coincidence? Of course.

On another occasion a farmer was spraying right next to a popular camp site on the coast, mid morning in summer, while everybody was outside enjoying the sunshine. There were crowds of children around the pool.Was the spray so completely harmless that the elderly farmer was willing to risk the health of so many adults and children? Fortunately I was able to cycle away before the drift reached the road. My previous neighbour owned a couple of fields and used to say quite regularly that Roundup was harmless enough to put on your breakfast. He would often spray when his and the local children were playing outside right beside the field between the houses. We would [and still do] go indoors whenever there is crop spraying locally.

Thursday 14th 50F, 10C, bright overcast, light breeze. Hope of some sunshine with "only" 20mph gusts today. I was feeling a lot better so left early for a two hour walk. Saw lots of birds including a Tree creeper, lots of warblers and several thrushes. Don't laugh, because thrushes are as secretive in Denmark as the Robin with his tinkling laugh. It is a bank holiday so traffic was light as I walked along the lanes and then back through the entire length of the local forest. Three sprayers were busy in the fields within only about two miles of lane. I took 56 pictures. The wind is picking up now so I had better go north or south on the trike to avoid a headwind.

Instead of which I rode a double oval, figure-of-eight, with strong but variable wind directions all the way around. Most of the shops were closed even when they said they were open on their interactive websites! Lies damned lies and Danish supermarkets. At least the sun was shining most of the time. Lots of cyclists out training. All of them going the other way. They'd probably discovered the shops were shut where they came from. I was climbing quite impressively at 18-19mph [with a tailwind] as several groups went past. 24 miles.

Friday 15th 55F, 13C, bright sunshine, almost still. A perfect day for a ride! Brooks 'Special' further tensioned and the remaining Proofide polished off before refitting. Plastered myself in 50PF sun cream, best bibs on and early coffee. First shopping stop at 17 miles to NW. Winds remaining light and variable from W and SW.

It didn't start very sensibly. Three crop sprayers were working right against the verge as I passed. At one point I was being slowly caught by a young chap on his racing bike so I tried harder. Cruising at 20mph and climbing at 16 in the crosswind seemed to be at his limit.  When he couldn't catch me on the steep bit he lost the will to live and turned off. I spent the rest of the day fighting my own headwind and avoiding crop sprayers. Warm sunshine all day despite reaching only 62F. Three hares were playing 'tag' on a field in the middle of a village. 40 miles so far. I couldn't get some essentials so I'll have to go out again. The Brooks proved to be much more comfortable after its session "on the rack." The rear VIP lounge reception area was newly flat and accommodating.  Oh, the irony! The crop sprayers followed me home! We had to go indoors while they "worked" the fields around us.  Plus 7 more miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.


12 May 2015

12 May 2015 Probing!

Following the recent discomfort from further saddles I thought I'd better do some proper research into "real life" saddle flexibility under a rider's load.

So I whipped up a slotted angle iron device to lower the heads of two coach screws onto a test saddle. The saddle was set up in a normal saddle pin clamp on a folding workbench using a water pipe extension for stability. A saddle camp is vital to test "real world" saddle rail flexibility.

I arranged the coach screw heads to be 100mm apart to match my own sit bone centres. The coach screws have typically domed heads to simulate the small surface area of my unprotected sit bones. I have used smooth headed "climate" finished screws to avoid marring the test saddles. The long screws were simply to allow free examination of the saddle under test without a rider's bod obscuring the view.

I am not really convinced that much of the rider's weight is carried anywhere but at the sit bone resting place at the rear of the saddle. The soft tissues forward of the sit bones aren't designed to carry loads and soon complain if they are forced to. The buttocks overhang the saddle so contribute nothing to the rider's support. So that just leaves the sit bones.

The 2m [6'6"] long slotted angle-iron arms were intended to allow me to load the saddle [via the domed screw heads] without having to lift huge weights to simulate a normal cycling bodyweight resting on the saddle.

The weight of the arms themselves also pre-load the saddle testing screws. I can check the pre-load at the screws with a large spring balance. The loads added at the far end of the levers can then be reduced by this amount.

The arm length ratio is arranged to be approximately 2:1 [~65:130cm] allowing load weights to be halved at the far end of the levers. I intend to load the saddle itself with up to 12 stones or 76kg. This is my present riding weight in light cycling clothing.

Extending the load arms to achieve much higher leverages is a matter of moments to bolt further angle sections together. However, the greater length would put me much further from observing the action taking place at the saddle. It also increases the unloaded weight on the saddle while I am making fine adjustments.

Note how close 100mm sit bone spacing is to the edge of the saddle! I chose the widest spot for the pressure screws.

I had the apparatus all set up on a test saddle... And then, it poured with rain for the first time today. The forecast was rain all day but it remained dry until after 4pm. I shall continue working between showers. As soon as I have something to show I shall post images. Or possibly make a video to share on YT.

Experience suggests that the whole thing wants to tip as I load the far end of the arms. So I used a batten brace under the seat pin clamp down to the ground, which helped a bit. Then I added a concrete fence post but it was still trying to tip. Finally I added a pipe to pull down the end of the arms via a large spring balance without my having to perform acrobatics while still needing to watch the screw heads denting the saddle.  I managed to get up to 20kg [Its maximum reading] Plus the 8kg  pre-load at the saddle from the weight of the arms. Quite a bit short of the 37kg load required at the end of the arms.

The screws really were digging deep. With a surprising depth of foam compressed compared with what the fingers can achieve working alone. I wonder why the saddle is so uncomfortable when so much padding is hiding under the innocent vinyl cover? Does the thin layer of flesh around the sit bones resent the pressures applied? Since every force is matched by an equal and opposite force the sit bones must "see" the full weight of the rider. The padding helps to spread the load to a wider area but cannot undo the full force pushing back up.  Plus the jolts, from uneven road surfaces as upward shocks, are transferred to the rider's sit bone area working against the rider's considerable mass. Peak loads on the sit bones must be quite dramatic. The "hammering" must be reduced somehow or comfort will be very short lived!  

Which brings me right back to the share taken by the sensitive tissues of the crutch supporting the rider's weight. When I removed the load the saddle still showed marks where the screw heads had pressed. I really don't think this is true of the saddle when I climb off. The marks were [fortunately] quite short lived. I had deliberately chosen an inexpensive vinyl-covered sports seat for my first tests. I shall have to find a way to measure the rider's weight on the non-sit bone areas. A saddle shaped membrane with lots of pressure sensors would be useful.

Many TT riders pull themselves well forward on the saddle so that the crutch is carry all of the rider's weight on the nose of the saddle. However, they are usually taking some of their weight on the elbow pads. Plus, the downward force on the pedals lifts the rider bodily. I can easily rise right off the saddle myself when pedalling hard and am down on the tri-bars.

The whole arrangement of my saddle test apparatus needs to be considerably beefed up and properly braced against the ground to avoid flexure and tipping. The loads applied by the rider's weight alone are really quite remarkable. Add the constantly changing pressures applied by pedalling and pulling on the handlebars and it is a wonder a bike [or trike] holds together!


11 May 2015

11th May 2015 Ever onwards.

Monday 11th 49-6F,10-18C, breezy and cloudy but quite bright. The wind has gone round to the south leading to an expected 70F, 21C heatwave today but with 30mph gusts. I am a martyr to the wind. It never seems to stop blowing. Going east or west would seem sensible today. Going west would cause very damp cycling shoes, perhaps even some rust, so it will have to be east.

And now, in world-shattering news, a company in Denmark is researching the reduction of ammonia in the stench of pig slurry. Apparently the ammonia is caused by the urine mixing with the heavier stuff. Bacteria in the faeces react with the enzymes in the urine to produce ammonia. Separating the two removes the eye-watering stink. If it works it will be nothing short of miraculous for the long suffering rural-living Danes.

The irony is that the company doing the research is more interested in selling the unmixed urine to chemical companies. It can be used to make paint and other materials. Getting rid of the awful stink was just an unexpected by-product. The farmers have been using a strong, sickly-smelling perfume to hide the stench but the effect is almost as bad as the ammonia!

With much of the rural housing market collapsing around the Dane's ears it is long overdue that something was done about the stench. There are so many pig farms that it is almost impossible to be more than a mile/2km from one almost anywhere in rural Denmark. The round, concrete, slurry tanks pockmark the rural landscape like craters on the Moon. Many farmers are up to their eye-balls in un-repayable debt with some working only part time. Yet the slurry is still produced in vast quantities in automated units. So it can't even be said that farming provides stable employment for outlying areas.

My walk was marred by the arrival of a tractor and sprayer looming over the hedge.  While there was no immediate danger, thanks to the gales carrying the spray away from me, it blocked my access to my usual route to the woods. We'll gloss over the fact that they were actually spraying in 15m/s [30mph] winds! So I walked a three mile loop around a local village instead. I had already walked a mile and half on the main road just to get to my exit. Usually I am loathe to walk on the roads more than absolutely necessary. Fortunately the traffic was light on the more minor roads and lanes. Swallows darted overhead as waves moved across the crops in the fields and the trees bent to the gusts.

It is odd how tiring it is to walk on tarmac/asphalt. I'd much rather walk a rough and undulating gravel track, the forest floor or even on rough grass. It must be the constant variation which exercises different muscles so tiredness does not become a problem. The worst surface to walk on is found in large shopping malls. I find them exhausting!

An old picture from 2011 of my collection of older saddles back then. Most came on secondhand bikes bought at flea markets and recycling centres for small change. The 20+ bikes have gone now so I have no idea why I bothered to keep most of these saddles! 

On the village pond were nine young Coots with their parents. All was well until a blackbird started over-dramatising the danger of my camera as I crept slowly forwards. The young fled to the other side of the pond as I struggled to count them. The ubiquitous chain-link, safety fencing had been blocking a decent shot as they all played in the weeds on my side.

It is blowing so hard I may limit myself to local shopping on the trike. The temperatures seem slow to rise to their promised high levels today. It has only just reached 60F at 1pm. Strong crosswind going but felt like a tailwind coming back. Only 7 miles so far. May go out again after lunch. The Vetta saddle was soon forgotten. Some little girls in the village school playground called out "baby cycle!" as I passed. No respect! ;ø)

After lunch I fitted my Sony AS-15 action camera to its handlebar clamp and went for a ride. The resulting video recording was spoilt by the same horrible internal rattle as usual and then the case steamed up! I took the camera apart but the usual LCD screen rattle wasn't present as a bit of stiff tape had been applied in the factory. Since there was a 3mm gap in the battery holder I wrapped the battery in thin polythene and this seemed to help. I'll test it again tomorrow. Another 5 miles.

Tuesday 12th 54-60F, 12-15C, light breeze, overcast. Rain is forecast for most of the day starting at about 9am.. Which is a shame as the winds remain quite light until this evening. It stayed dry, warm, grey and humid for my walk. The air is full of large black flies with dangly legs, birdsong and the stench of pig slurry and its masking perfume. The same sprayer was busy in the same area but I was going the opposite way today and the air was almost still. A light mist hid and softened the more distant views. The blossom is out on many trees and bushes. Still waiting for the rain at 10.30 as marmalade on toast and morning coffee are prepared. Picasa is broken. Every time it is woken up it won't recognise the camera to import pictures and then crashes. A few large spots of rain at 11.11pm and then dry but darker overcast.

A cross tailwind on the way turned into a cross headwind on the way back. Feeling a bit tired, bunged up and deaf today. Still managed to cruise at 20mph sitting up going and 14-16mph on the way back on the tri-bars. Although the Carradice Camper can be fitted neatly into the leather bag it just doesn't have remotely the same carrying capacity. I always have to use the pink sports bag for the fragile stuff. So I'll probably go back to using the leather bag again. Only 12 miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.


10 May 2015

10th May 2015 Saddled with a Cambium 2! :ø(

Sunday 10th  50-56F, 10-13C, gales from W-NW, heavy cloud clearing. It was decidedly chilly for my hour's walk. Everything is still on its way to turning fluorescent green but there are still plenty of slackers. As usual, at this time of year, I can still hear the birds but they are now invisible amongst the fresh new leaves. The forecast is cloud clearing to heavy sunshine but with 30mph gusts.

Despite the wind already roaring in the trees I'd better make an effort after tipping the Cambium "mock Tudor oak beam" up at the nose. Another desperate attempt to undo Selle-r-Brooks's best efforts at making their "pretend rubber" saddle hideously unridable! Comfortable right out of the box? What about sales hype, false advertising claims and Selle?  It's no wonder they [Cambiums]  bleach in the sunshine. The unhappy owners have never wanted to present their bums for a second torture session!

I put on my best padded bibs and headed off to the coast on the Cambium + Junior saddlebag sans rack. It was blowing a gale but somehow I managed to avoid a direct headwind until the last leg. The C17 caused the usual hard saddle, deep leg thrombosis, aches at first but eventually I went through a numb period. After that I spent the next few miles doing the hop, skid and shuffle desperately trying to find a sweet spot which just wasn't there.

The C17 felt better with the bibs than with the Wiggle DHB shorts but why should it even be necessary? The hype says comfortable from new! I invested a lot of optimism in the Cambium and was badly lied to. The damned thing is not remotely comfortable! Its a brick on a stick. The rubber is just a red herring to advertising hype. It is the structural fabric which is doing all the harm. I spent only 23 miles on it yesterday and then sat there with sore sit bones in the evening on my comfy computer chair. I could have chosen any saddle from my pile of rejects and done 22 miles with less damage!

Quite what I should do now I have no idea. The Cambium is a hopeless waste of money despite my desperately wanting it to work. It isn't even remotely light enough to warrant  further suffering. The present B17 'Special' has passed its sag-by date already despite re-tensioning and tying the skirts. It is already uncomfortable for longer rides. I could put my next, brand new B17 'Special' onto the trike. That means I still have a thousand miles of discomfort breaking it in.

My wife suggest I should swap saddles on a daily basis but it seems like a lot of hassle. They each have to be set up at the right height, correctly positioned for and aft plus the right degree of tilt. I'd need notes for setting up each saddle. 26 miles.

Never one to give up easily I set off again after letting my lunch go down. Just another 5 mile loop to see how much damage I had done this morning. Which was much the same as I feared. I kept moving back and forth but couldn't get comfortable despite the 1/2 of foam padding in the bibs.

So that's that then. The Cambium is pretty. And heavy, and hard, and very uncomfortable and completely unforgiving. It's only relationship with a leather B17 is the name and with a brand new one out of the box. The C17 is as uncomfortable as a boulder chosen at random from a roadside, dry stone wall. While a brand new B17 is a shiny, polished rock picked up from a beach. I find the B17 is only comfortable for a short period between just broken in and just broken. Perhaps it's just me? I have no padding over my sit bones. Just skin and bone. To add insult to injury the C17 was digging into the backs of my thighs/buttocks. I have never had that happen with any saddle before. It must be its round spoon-like shape. All my other saddles have belonged to the delta form.

A saddle should provide some suspension or it will be intolerable. It can have external springs. Or some designed-in "hammock" flexure in the rails. The carcase itself can flex.  Or sponge foam can be fitted under the cover. I have serious doubts about the degree of rail flexure of real world saddles. The usual clamp takes up a large range of the potential length which can flex. Brooks makes much of rail flexure but I am not convinced. Try riding a brand new Brooks B17! The leather carcase is still too stiff to flex much and the sit bone area has no give to it at all. It really is like riding on a polished rock despite it being exactly the same size and shape as a fully broken in saddle. So the rails aren't doing much flexing IMO. It is only the leather flexing which makes a Brooks comfortable and then only for a short while at some point in its expected life.

Rail flexure should be testable on a new leather saddle by fitting a hard spacer between the carcase and clamp. Later on this would stop the leather flexing so can't be tried. Much of the flexure of a leather saddle flares the skirts outwards. Tying the skirts keeps the spine stiff and makes the broken in saddle much harder. The sit bones are always very close to the cantle plate when  seated normally. Where there is precious little room for any give in the leather for the sit bones. Plastic based saddles rely mostly on thin sponge to soften the ride. My Vetta SL has quite deep sponge under the vinyl cover but still feels unpleasantly hard after a riding it for a while. The San Marco "Inquisition" twin tails feel quite flexible in the fingers off the trike but it rides like rock hard in practice. The nicely flexible tails are stiffened up by the Titanium rails as soon as it is clamped. 

I am very tempted to make up a jig to check actual flexure on saddles. Just to see what is really happening with the weight of a bod with normally spaced sit bones on board. Once aboard you can't see the saddle and poking around with your fingers under the saddle top while riding doesn't tell you much. Or it pinches your fingers between the skirts and rails hard enough to make you take them out very quickly! 

Anyway, I have now refitted the Vetta SL to the Trykit and given the B17 a further tension. Then applied a good dollop of Proofide inside and out. Carefully applying it in every nook and cranny with my bare fingers works best. I haven't done this for ages as I was trying to prolong its useful life before it went all soft on me. I also refitted the rack and Carradice Camper while I was there.

It is hardly 60F out there but baking hot in the late afternoon sunshine protected from the wind. And now a late result: Cambium 0 Chris 0 after extra time and penalties. Don't assume by this that I have the slightest interest in football. I must still have been at junior school when a fellow student told me that the star of the local football team came from another town. From that point on football has given me a very wide berth. And I it! 31 miles in total today. None of them remotely to the level of comfort to which I am accustomed. I do have [some] standards, you know! ;ø]

Click on any image for an enlargement.

9 May 2015

9th May 2015 Saddled with a Cambium!

Saturday 9th 47-53F, 8-12C, cool, overcast, windy and grey. Showers or rain are forecast. With a risk of a clearing late morning. Expected to gust to 25mph later. I should have had a proper ride yesterday but was feeing tired, head-achy and unwell. Possibly the result of trying to capture that sprayer, but who knows?

I was up early today so had another look at the C17 in flat morning light rather than bright sunshine. I also sat sat  rather briefly on the C17. It hadn't become any softer overnight. Though I resisted the temptation to give it a good dollop of Proofide. This was meant as a rather silly joke but I did wonder how the cloth and its bonding would actually respond to waxing. Presumably the top would get a coat of whatever escaped through the rider's shorts. By which I mean sweat and any padding lubricant the rider might employ. Hopefully the surface waterproofing process will take care of staining even in the longer term. Though I wouldn't suggest draping a dirty chain over a Cambium saddle!  

The very open weave of the cotton cloth seems to be only lightly embedded in the surface of some black substance on top of the rubber base. This black substrate [for want of a  better word] is visible through the weave and around the rivets. As can be seen in the image alongside. Others have shared similar images and incorrectly supposed this was wear. When in fact the bonding agent is simply exposed locally by the manufacturing process. Perhaps a worn press pin which distorts the carcase too much for the cloth to remain perfectly adhered in such tight radii? Or simply wear on a mould.

I have drawn a line on the image above to show the depth of the original spinal sagitta [downward curve] from new. The leather saddles are similar in form but gradually sag deeper with wear. Re-tensioning is possible with the leather type. The Cambium presumably remains the same shape into ripe, old age.  In case there is any doubt, I set up the Cambium dead level with my 2' builders spirit level with the trike on the level floor of the trike shed. Trikes and bikes with a [modern?] sloping crossbar do not lend themselves easily to any other means of checking if a saddle is level. Using a level on non-level ground is very apt to waste your time.

Brooks do offer an extended, ten year guarantee for the Cambium. Which shows considerable faith in their longevity. One presumes they have accelerated wear and weathering testing facilities in their R&D and quality control labs. It is said that the Cambium has been years of steady development in the making. Some early owners have remarked on solar bleaching. Which some will probably prefer as a badge of honour from honest use. Much like the leather saddles take on a character of their own with exposure and normal riding abuse. At first glance I had assumed my own Slate model had been sunbathing in a shop window but the effect is much too even for this. The cloth is the colour it is. Spanish slate rather than Welsh, isn't it?

The shape has obviously been honed by marketing and R&D and is certainly very elegant. It belongs to what I call the "lollipop" family of saddle forms. [Without getting too technical.] That is, a rounded rear with long, thin nose. This can help to avoid chaffing of the lower buttock line compared with shallower angles between the seating platform and the nose. Like many other saddles the Cambium seems to completely change shape depending entirely on the angle from which it is viewed.

I read a lot of online reviews, including Brooks own, before ordering [and afterwards when my nerve had failed!] There was repeated mention of firm but not painful. The problem is knowing from which previous saddle and riding behaviour such comments arise. Few high mileage cyclists would leave home for a ride in jeans. The seams on the popular denim garments are bunched together precisely where one should never [ever] place a saddle! So are only those who wear "proper" racing shorts or preferably bibs the most reliable reviewers? How can one tell?  If only one had this information from glancing through the usual short text reports attached to Amazon and the other online cycle dealers.

Rider weight and personal padding over the sit bones will have a considerable effect on perceived comfort. The rubber will deform to sudden upward movements of the machine pressing against the sit bones backed by the considerable momentum of the rider's heavy bod. Pressing a saddle with the fingers or thumbs is rarely an accurate test of flexibility in actual use. Getting someone in high heels to stand on the saddle makes [only slightly] more sense.

You could always weigh yourself and calculate the cross sectional area of your sit bones. Then see if you can emulate that same pressure by squeezing a pair of bathroom scales in the hands. Of course your entire body is not entirely supported on your sit bones but quite a lot of it isn't constantly pressing down on the pedals or resting on the handlebars. The more upright you sit the more weight there is on the saddle. The weaker the rider pedals the more pressure there is on the saddle. Pushing really hard on the pedals can actually lift you off the saddle. So as you tire on a long ride you are reinforcing the saddle pain for all the above reasons as you reach for the tops of the 'bars to relive your aching back.

The manufacturers have to take all this into account before releasing anything onto the market. The young teenage "stick insect" on a bike will feel a very different saddle to the aggressive, 20 stone "weekend warrior" mashing the pedals.  Both will have certain tolerance levels for pain and discomfort depending on their mileage and enthusiasm.

One high mileage Brooks B17 user gave the Cambium a go but soon found it wanting. I hope I don't have the same experience! Getting away from the B17 break in/broken down routine is my real desire to extend the potential length of my rides. The plastic-based offerings which I have tried so far have [sorely] failed to please. Only the Vetta SL keeps returning to my trike for one [more] last go. I think its secret, apart from the padding, is its relatively flat shape. Nothing else I have tried [apart from a B17 frozen in time at break-in] is remotely so forgiving.

It remained grey and windy but dry for my walk until the very last moments when a shower arrived. I saw a fat brown field bird sitting on the track. After deliberately leaving my trike out in the rain I discovered that the water does not readily bead off the Cambium but is partially absorbed by the cloth. The result of its first short shower are seen above. One presumes it would eventually have darkened all over. Given how little free cloth is actually exposed one assumes a quick squeegee with the bare hand will dry it sufficiently for further immediate use. The wind is already roaring in the trees so I hope they were right about the brightening.

And, no, they weren't! It rained and then it tipped down and then it got worse! I was soaked to the skin over most of me except my torso. My scull cap was soaked and cold as were my socks and everywhere the waterproof jacket wasn't actively covering! The water was running down the Medusa's dreadlocks on my calves and into my MTB boots. My gloves were soon saturated and cold.

I spent most of the ride hopping up and down trying to find a comfortable spot on the Cambium! Most of the time it felt like a badly shaped block of wood! Selle-r-Brooks should have aimed for a perfectly broken in B17. Not a brand new, rock hard one, straight out of the box!!! Not a happy bunny at all! I wonder how many decades it will take for a C17 to increase in value as a collector's item because of its incredible rarity? I bet it's the same structural fabric which ruined the Nidd! Huge potential utterly wrecked by insecurity over longevity. The only chance of the sit bone area sinking is a direct hit from an asteroid, a falling Russian rocket or aeons of constant exposure to weathering! 23, very unpleasant, miles.

8 May 2015

8th May 2015 Brooks C17 Cambium.

Before you start wondering how many saddles I have now, I do have ample justification. I find the B17, in all its varieties, is superb just as it reaches a certain point somewhere between just broken in and saddle-backed. Beyond that point my comfort is rapidly limited to a few tens of miles before I become acutely aware of the saddle beneath me.

I tried tying the saddle cheeks together on the advice of one whom I call truly expert in these matters. This delayed the depression but could not put it off altogether. The sag forces one riding position on this particular rider. Trying to sit further back puts me on the [relatively] raised cantle plate. Moving forwards puts more pressure on the soft bits. Gravity inevitably pulls me down into the lowest point.

The C17's initial appearance is very odd having removed it from the usual Brooks packaging. They do like to impress the buyer into believing they receive value for money. Or do at least remember the new arrival.

The "Slate" grey I had ordered was much lighter and had a definite "brownish" warmth in the bright May sunshine which I was really not expecting. From reading online reviews I thought I was getting very dark grey bordering on anthracite black.

The "cloth" bonded to the top also looked rather rougher than I had imagined from the images shared online. I was surprised that the C17 looked strangely "big" and wider too than the B17. Though it proved to be only a minute 4mm narrower at its widest point. 163mm to the B17's 167mm is hardly a worry. Though the C17 is much more curved across the back than the B17. Which really was slightly worrying as this effectively narrows the saddle where the seat bones rest. Quality of finish was fine and actually made the B17 look rather scruffy in a side by side comparison. Previously I had admired the  B17 for its obviously man-made qualities, hand beaten copper rivets and gently ageing but stained, real leather. Now it just looked stained and much used. The C17 alongside looked rather 'posh frocks' and more obviously a factory made and carefully designed product. I was caught somewhere between admiration for both and unsure quite what I felt. Had I seen a C17 in a shop I might have responded differently. It was certainly not love at first sight. More grudging glances at its fine form and figure.

My recent longer rides on the B17 have been marred by discomfort despite wearing quality bibs with excellent padding. I can't say that I was in agony but when I start lifting off the saddle quite often something is definitely wrong. Some ten miles then pass when I remain very aware of the saddle before a new sense of numbness takes over. Only toothache outdoes saddle discomfort for prolonged misery.

As regular readers will attest I have tried many saddles with very mixed results. Initially promising saddles have joined the others in storage in a series of slightly less than expensive mistakes. Even this fool and his money have never been sorely tempted by a really expensive saddle. I may fondle a Fizik in the privacy of a dark corner of a bike shop. But have never actually left the premises with one secreted about my person to the detriment of my all too frequently overheated plastic.

But! In my defence: I have saved a fortune over the last few years by only rarely using the car. The trike is my daily transport and my long distance shopping trolley, bus, delivery van and taxi. Not to mention my private, fresh air gym and exercise machine. Is that enough justification for yet another saddle? Suit yourselves.

Fortunately for the saddle manufacturers I keep trying their wares with a degree of optimism they probably don't deserve. One size fits all makes no sense to me. So I risked my saddle purchase optimism yet again and ordered a C17 rubber jobby from E-Bikes in Copenhagen. For a very comely price indeed too compared with the usual UK dealers or Brooks themselves. With free shipping, within Denmark, only gilding the lily yet further as rapid delivery followed. 

I swapped over to the C17 from my B17 'Special' after riding 6 miles first on the quality Brooks leather. Just to remind myself what I liked about the B17 and what I didn't. The C17 has proved much firmer than I had hoped. Which is slightly at odds with the ease with which one can depress the textured top with assorted, experimental digits. The middle is most easily flexed downwards. As are the minimalist skirts. While the sit bone, VIP reception area, is much stiffer. There is vague talk of structural reinforcing fabric. A material which had quickly undone another of my previous purchases based on the B17 [The Spa Nidd]. Though that one was made of real and very thick leather. There is also a difference in shape between these two. With the C17's rear end more obviously accommodating. The lack of side skirts make it look sleek and fast and curvy.

The initial sense of firmness gives an immediate sense of speed compare with the [relatively] sloth-like B17. The C17's sweet spot proved to be well behind the broken-in B17 Special's. At least an inch further aft and perhaps more. I found I had to move the C17 right forwards to match the B17's sunken in the middle, riding position despite its recent re-tensioning. Otherwise it felt as if I was back on the Higgins and desperately trying to reach the handlebars! 

First riding impressions matched the stationary one: Firm but not exactly hard. I have to ride the 200 yards of rough gravel drive before I can even reach the road. The road itself was resurfaced with huge gravel and has not smoothed out much despite the constant traffic. Which includes many lorries, buses and agricultural vehicles. The C17 did not hide the 'buzz' produced by the road gravel. In fact it felt as if I had just inflated the tyres by another 10psi. However, it was not all bad news. The C17 certainly felt firm but not really uncomfortable. I had no desire to lift off, get off or even take it off altogether. Let's just say I was now, suddenly more aware of my sit bones. On the B17, earlier, I was aware of an area forward of this but not my sit bones. The sit bones only came into prominence when I tried to slide back on the B17. But it is impossible to maintain that position for long.

Further research proved that the C17 offers some useful low frequency isolation/suspension on the slightly bigger stuff. Things like sunken drains, hardened farmer's mud and raised tarmac patches were not so harsh as the B17 transfers to the rider. I deliberately sought out some more lumpy bits to confirm my findings. Loose, large gravel was noticed but not jarring. I am a skinny looking 12 stone @ 5'10" after gorging on birthday chocolates. So that may affect matters of suspension frequency and travel on the C17's rather firm rubber. I usually hover at about 11 1/4 stone in the summer when I am riding further more often. Or perhaps I just don't eat so many chocolates in the summer?

I had added rather too much height to the seat post to compensate for the difference in rail height. The C17 is a low 45mm profile to the B17's 50mm tractor-ish clearances. So I returned home after a quick loop to correct my settings by lowering the pin and moving the C17 well forwards. I then rode a longer loop and was more comfortable in both reach and saddle height.

Sitting down again after climbing out of the saddle was not an unpleasant surprise. Much too early to say so I'm not making any promises about longevity in use this time. The C17 is not remotely as hard as a new Brooks B17. Not by several nautical miles! The C17 is firm but much more curved than a broken in B17. It has a strangely flattened nose. Which I failed to capture in my images but was a desperate attempt to spread the load without spoiling the look of the slender proboscis.

The cloth finish does not grip my DHB shorts as much as I feared. I was easily able to adjust my position without needing to lift-off. Though it lacked that perfect subtlety of free movement possible on well polished Brooks saddle leather. This may be an advantage if it stops me sliding into the middle as I do automatically on the B17. Though I do not think I need fear sliding into the middle with the C17. Tomorrow will tell whether I can learn to live with the C17. Let's just say that I ought to have ridden much further today but felt disinclined.

Click on any image for an enlargement.