30 Mar 2016

30th March 2016 A martyr to wind.


Wednesday 30th 39-46F, 4-8C, strangely dark at 7am with heavy overcast, breezy with rain forecast for this morning. Nearly the end of the month and not many miles added to my yearly total. Taking so many rest days really eats into my averages. If words were miles I would be well ahead of average.

Butterbur throws up lots of strange flowers long before coming into leaf. Its leaves look like a kind of false rhubarb and it often grows extensively and untidily on the verges. Later in the year it gets even scruffier as the leaves are shot through with holes presumably made by caterpillars. The Butterbur provides a little early colour in an otherwise drab season. Thanks to The Head Gardener who provided identification.

I have a potential target on the east coast of Fyn but weather and wind have denied me the longer ride. Fyn is the island, on which I now live and the central landmass of the three which form tiny Denmark. The big bit to the left of Fyn is stormy and can be considered merely an extension of northern Germany. As is evident from the number of "beach occupied" towels and summer house names in quaint, italic Germanic. While the snobbish, overpriced, easterly bit of Denmark is more a suburb of  Malm√∂ [Sweden] despite its delusions of grandeur in having the Multicultural capital stuck on th coast more as an afterthought. Meanwhile, the central island of Fun [Dk.Fyn] feels far bigger than its 36 miles wide by about 40 miles high, rather lopsided, blob on the map. I'm ignoring the "sticky-out" bits on the edges for the purposes of this argument if you will forgive the geographic technicality.

Of course any journey on a trike strictly requires a "there and back." Preferably in one day. Living on the left edge of Fyn means any journey east must be doubled into quite a significant ride. I'm talking relative here because I am no longer a mile-eating teenager with the spring fully wound up on a lightweight bike. The mileages above are also beelines and life is rarely that simple. By the time all the "wiggles" have been added up the "simple" 35 miles to get there has risen to well over 80 for the round trip. Even Google earth is calling it 60km each way which is around 40 miles, in old money. Not to mention my "unique ability" at getting lost. You might even call it my very own "super power" if you were very unkind. We'll gloss over the time I drive most of the length of Wales in completely the wrong direction following a particularly exhausting camping holiday. Even having all the villages on my route listed on a [damp] piece of paper, or cornflakes packet off-cut, holds absolutely no guarantee of my finding signposts at really vital crossings and junctions.

Like most semi-civilized, Western countries, Denmark employs a signposting system intended only for locals and is meant to be completely ignored as means to actual route-finding. So one often finds a turn-off, which really ought to be marked in even a modestly fair world, but isn't. Having a map doesn't always help either. I would need to remove my choice of sunglasses for the hour, polish the thick mist from my reading glasses, now safely extracted from my jacket back pocket [without losing anything else secreted there] and then find the wrinkly map in the bottom of the saddlebag under all the other stuff, only to find the map was not sufficiently detailed to show small villages. Nor even name quite large towns most of the time. I find there is always a huge element of luck in these matters!

The weeping birch was the most noticeable landscaping decoration when I first moved to Denmark. That, and corrugated, fiber-cement roofing.

In a bout of terrifying logic one might have fitted a map case on top of the handlebars. But then how, on earth, will I read my cadence or trip mileage on my, now completely obscured, "bike" computer? Not to mention, not being able to climb with my hands on the handlebar "tops!" I am not the owner of a "quite bright but lacks concentration" mobile phone. Let alone having a really smart one! Nor do I even have "a tablet" to my name. So don't go taking any of these for granted based on your own highly connected, multimedia, multicultural, cross-networking, electronic smog,  Elysium!

I tend to think of my mobile phone more as a form of one-way, remote control from Home Base. With similar properties to a very long but inflexible length of bungee cord. It stretches just enough to avoid snagging, or having to roll it up neatly on a drum before leaving. But a has a closely defined length beyond which 'diplomatic relations' are likely to be suddenly withdrawn "on the slightest whim."  

Besides, the wind drag from an unfortunately angled tablet might affect my forward velocity to the tune of several grams/centimeter/watts/sec, or something like that. Even if I had something "really fancy" fitted to the trike's 'bars I would have to remove it to go into the shops on the way back. With all that entails, including careful calculations for remaining elapsed time, relative to air temperature and expected solar influx and average insulation values in watts/centimeters/minutes, before the frozen stuff is likely to go off. Even a "GPS friendly" trike computer would cost as much as a 1960s fortnight's camping holiday in Wales and I hate camping anyway.

These longer routes now have to be very carefully considered because such distances are at the very limit of my stamina for a one day ride on my typically loaded shopping trolley trike. Such mileages obviously demand a minimum number of daylight hours for safety reasons. So tend to crop up in the summer "silly" season rather than in the darker [miserable] months at 55N. It is not that I could not ride in the dark but rather that I should not for inherent safety reasons. Getting lost is only the most obvious of them. While drunken/typically lunatic commuters must also be factored into the survival equation. Their sociopathic needs are always far greater than the lives of "we lesser mortals." They've seen the car maker's propaganda and believed it to the very last syllable and enhanced pixel. Their minds are always on anything but their actual driving and whatever tasks that might suggest. E.g. Lifting one's foot, however slightly, off the 'idiot' pedal never even seems to occur to most of them.

Crossing the relatively new, north-south, Odense-Svendborg motorway has also become a "more interesting" hurdle than previously when it was only a heavily congested, main road. All thanks to a financial limit on how many rural lanes and minor roads were considered worthy of their own tunnel or bridge. So detours may well rear their ugly heads. Pushing me well off-course from the tightly stretched, ultra- linear, tape measure provided by Google Earth.

Even their route finding services are just, plain silly. I have lost track of the number of times I have been sent to the far reaches of Fyn before being offered a return to normality in roughly the right direction of my intended goal.  Only by choosing the "pedestrian" mode of transport does the line become less deviant in its route suggestions. A mere cyclist is expected to get to his bottom right target via Odense which is near the top of the island and a city best avoided unless life and limb are considered potentially disposable. So what Google is thinking of I have no idea at all despite Odense's pretensions to grandeur in the global, city cycling stakes. The city may well call itself "cycling friendly" but that is absolutely no reason [at all] to detour forty miles out of one's way on a trike. Not with those narrow cycle paths and countless red lights, it's not. Several decent cycle shops notwithstanding, none of them carry Campagnolo anyway. So Google's cycling route idiocy might be ironically amusing if it were not so serious on the day!

Now add in the wind. I'm a martyr to wind on my trike. Denmark always seem to be windy and wind is a huge factor on any ride where the "pedaling pedant" has to provide the only power available. Gravity doesn't usually count because it averages out over most [return] routes not actually involving a one-way descent from some high, mountain pass. The wind decides if I can manage 8mph, with a drippy nose, or can cruise fairly effortlessly at twice that and smile at the world's usual hardships. If life were really simple I could fight a nicely light crosswind to get there and then enjoy the usual sine-wave of increased tailwind speed on the way back. Easy peasy! Except that it rarely is. Even a wind at right angles to forward progress is a headwind on a bike or trike. A headwind on the return leg is a trial beyond human endurance when tiredness has already set in and all the mature Cheddar sandwiches have long been consumed.

My trike computer tells me I average a little over 11mph but it obviously hasn't heard of natural stops, eating and photography. So I tend to use a round figure of 10mph for the average duration of any "staying out for the sake of it." Simple maths suggest miles / 10 = number of hours expended, more or less, unnecessarily. The morning ritual of coffee and marmalade on toasted rolls tends to push my start times slightly forward of "the crack of dawn." Which has implications for a later hour of return from such cycling madness exhausting marathons adventures. Sandwiches have to be made before leaving and all the usual items accounted for before lift-off to achieve low Fyn orbit. Heaven help me if I ever forget my 'phone! Been there. Done that! Logic suggests a pre-ride routine but that would assume some degree of normality exists between this particular pedant's audio reception appendages. Rather like Pi, aroundtoits tend to come in threes and continue almost indefinitely. And then you die. Leaving behind an untidy mess of largely unspoken resentment without nearly enough storage boxes to contain it all.

After a morning of rain I chose a bright period for a brisk stroll down the road to play chicken with the traffic. It was decidedly chilly, not even bare hands comfortable, despite the 42F on the thermometer. Then the sky started spitting so I headed back home again with less than half an hour on the [life] meter. It's always a difficult balance between life-enhancing exertion and using up your allotted time in slow motion.

I was just reading a Danish running coach saying that beginners should start by walking briskly before beginning to run to avoid injury. I am often tempted to run but don't own any trainers let alone "running" shoes. Interestingly[?] I read another coach's advice saying that any "running" shoes would do and that the fetish for having shoes chosen and fitted by "specialist" running shops often failed to do other than empty the runner's pockets. I've tried running in my £5 [charity shop] Ecco walking boots but they seem a little "over the top." Mind you, soldiers run in their boots during training if the films are to be believed. Though I'm not sure I could manage to chant "Chump, Chump Chump" for very long without becoming bored.

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