Thursday, 13 January 2011

Round Britain is moving to a new site

Hi there
Just a quick post to let you know that this blog is moving to my new site at the following address . this is purely and simply to allow me to set up a future website for my adventures:
http://graemewillgress.com

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Merry Christmas to everybody

Merry christmas to all those reading this blog. It's certainly winter now, and the last month has seen, firstly, ice everywhere and this was followed by about 8 inches of snow which is still everywhere across West Devon where I live.
It's made cycling really interesting for those of us stupid enough to want to try and keep getting out in it. I borrowed some MTB tyres from a friend in order to keep riding, and it's been quite successful. You cant really do anything on ice, other than fall over!! and it's impossible to get anything delivered at the moment, so studded tyres are out completely. Barring a few incidents wher the bike and I have ended up pointing the wrong way ,or just up ended, it's been great fun in a smal boy sort of a way!!!!
The scenery is stunning and the lack of any cars make it real fun. I saw a tractor the other day, nothing new in that, but behind it was a bag of feed on a long string, with a small boy sat on top!! he had a grin the size of Cheshire and was obviously really enjoying it.
i also saw three Fallow Deer, grazing right next to the road. I think they were as suprised as I was as the stared for a long time before bouncing off into the scenery.
Clothing wise, I've taken to ski salopettes, the warm kind, a woolly hat and windproof gloves. it all works rather well with a fleece and jacket over the lot, unthough it doesnt look very cool! I cant get very far unless the road is solid snow. The bike fishtails around all over the place, making for a very strenuous aerobic workout. What fun though, falling off in snow is quite acceptable really and doesnt hurt. There's no point to it whatsoever, as walking is easier, but I had a big cheesy grin by the time I finished.
So, dont commit your bke to the shed for winter, get out and have a laugh. I hope the New Year brings you whatever you desire. It will certainly be an exciting one for me, and I cant wait.
Happy New Year to all of you.
Graeme www.justgiving.com/Graeme-Willgress

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Graeme is literally 'On One'

Since I last posted, I've made the decision to change the frame/forks on the bike. The main reason for this was that I've always found the Cadenza a little too 'twitchy' for my relaxed style of riding, especially down fast hills.

I decided that if I was going to do this, I may as well go with my longer term plan to build up an Expedition bike that I could ride anywhere, on any road surface (tarmac or otherwise). This meant a Cro Mo steel frame and forks. You see, I've always been a mountain biker at heart, with tours through Picos de Europa and all over Western Scotlands tracks and trails. Although these were, literally, decades ago, it's what I really want to do in the future.


So, with this in mind, I started researching stuff on the www. I considered one of Thorns beautiful bespoke machines, but didnt agree entirely with the philosophy of 'we know best' (sorry Thorn, you may well be right). There seemed little choice over major things like whether to run discs or rim brakes. Also, their bikes are built to carry massive loads and I use a trailer. In a nutshell, I don't need that kind of bike. I can run lighter wheels as there is no real stress on them and enjoy a bike that always feels the same and not like a tank. In the event of my going offroad seriously, I will use an Extrawheel Trailer instead of my two-wheeled Carry Freedom City trailer.
I wanted to use cable operated (mechanical) discs as I like the power ( in the wet and dry), easy maintainence and see no reliabilty problems with them. For flying etc, the discs are easily removed, and taking a spare rotor and pads adds little to the load.


Research ,and the wonderful 'Adventure Cycling handbook' lead me to a Uk based MTB company called 'On One'. They were really keen to help, and offered a substantial discount on an 'Inbred' frameset. They also advised on the best frameset for the job in hand. This frameset has been used by many adventurers on a budget. Well built and thought out, and a very good price. Although the frames are now 'disc only', they still offer rack attachments and it is possible to fit mudguards with a little thought (and bodging!!)


Using the Inbred frame meant losing the 'Cane Creek' Thudbuster seatpost I was given. This was a toughy, as the Thudbuster works really well, is well engineered and costs lots!! After much thought, I decided to keep the Uk theme (Frameset, Trailer, chewy bars, Sleeping mat, bag and silk liner etc) and replace my B17 Brooks saddle with a Brooks Flyer (boingy saddle). The B17 can go on my small wheeler. It's the same saddle but sprung, to take the buzz out of our potholed roads. The B17 is incredibly comfortable for me, and the flyer has the same leather upper. It hasnt arrived yet, but I will post on how good this is (or not) once I've done a few miles on it.


I also chose the 'Slotted drop-out' frame as this allows for chain adjustment when running hub gears. The whole thing arrived quickly and a very excited Graeme dragged the lot out in the lounge ( I live alone) and project 'Eddie' was underway. It doesn't take that long to swap the gear from one bike to another, but I took my time, setting up the discs and running the cable for the hub gears where I felt it should go ( along the top tube). Prior to the frame arriving, I took the time to strip the hubs and regrease everything for the winter. No major problems arose. I had to replace the existing BB with a slighly wider one, but that was it. Everything aligned really well and fitted where it should!!




The frame is a 20", 'On-One' recomend an 18", which would be spot on for mountain biking. The frames have long top tubes and the 20 is perfect for my short fat hairy legs, with a long body type of shape! It also means I can set the bars level/ just above the saddle height, which I need for comfort. The picture shows this set up, although the stem will get replaced soon with a rebuilt Flexstem ( remember them?) and then, I will shorten the steerer tube. This way, I can play with it to my hearts content BEFORE chopping it down.



The handlebars you can see in the picture are Thorns own 'Comfort bars'. They are riser bars with a sweep backwards and were designed to put your wrists in the anatomically correct position whilst riding. I have used them for a month or so, and they are really comfy. As well as that, I don't feel the need for bar ends anymore giving more cockpit room for my broad hands.


I'd tried butterfly bars and quite liked them, but the piece your hand sits on to brake is very narrow, which is not too good on bumpy downhills, giving you less control!!!! They are great uphill and on smooth roads though. You may also notice the funny looking chain thingy that lurks around said chain. This is a simple push on/ pull off chain guard that goes around with the chain. Dahon cal this a Freedrive and when I first saw it I laughed and became very cynical!! I had to eat my words though because it actually works really well at keeping crap out of the chain, reducing maintainence and prolonging chain life. So, after a rocky start, it's now on the new bike along with the SPD's and Kinetix cranks you can see.




Finally, I fitted an old Madison rack from the depths of the shed. Even this was a pleasant suprise as fitting racks to disc braked bikes can be a pain. The disc on the 'Inbred' slotted frame is mounted in front of the seat stay between it and the chainstay, so a normal rack will fit, no bother. As I don't intend to carry big loads, this rack will do. It's somewhere to strap the closed cell sleep mat I have decided to take along ( with a very light 3/4 lenth self inflating mat for extra comfort).

And that, as they say, is that. The bike is still running the Shimano Alfine 8 speed hub, but I really want to change this. If I do, I will probably go the whole hog and put a Rohloff on it. The new Shimano 11 speed Alfine sounds good, and reasonably priced, but there's no way it will have the durability of the Rohloff and may prove to be a false economy. I hope I'm wrong, but I dont have great faith in Shimano making anything to really last, it isnt their market strategy as far as I can tell. That's all pie in the sky anyway, as I dont yet have the money to even contemplate this properly. The eight speed is incredibly smooth and range OK as I've shifted it all down by using a 23 tooth rear sprocket. I don't have high gears, but as I always say, it's touring ,so who cares? I can still do 20 mph, a figure I'll rarely exceed with full kit!!
If (when) I really go for it on a full expedition abroad, I may well replace the rack with a Thorn or Tubus offering for added security and peace of mind, just in case. I will also add a Chris King headset, as and when I can afford to. Another botlle holder will appear, although the trailer allows me to carry as much water/food as I'm ever likely to need (max load of 45KGS, 30 if I buy an Extrawheel for rough stuff).
I've riden the bike now, with the trailer, to do my weekkly shop. It's a twenty mile round trip and the bike was impeccable. I
very little flex in the frame and was supremely comfortable ( I still need to micro adjust all those things like bars and saddle to get them perfect) The bike was very stable, which is what I wanted and I could happily let go of the bars, even when the trailer was full of shopping, something I couldnt contemplate before. It does nothing drastic at all, it just goes along, which is exactly what I wanted.
5 months to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Take a look at On-Ones web page at www.on-one.co.uk

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Beautiful hand-made head badges for your bike.

Hello again, twice in one day!! Whatever next?

I'm having a sterling silver head badge made for my bike by a lady called Laura Crawford. She is on an extended bike tour with her partner and is a Writer and Jewellry maker. Take a look at her site at http://tangerinetreehouse.com/headbadges/index.html It's truly lovely stuff and covers that horrible cheap manufacturer badge with something you love. You can read about their adventures at ,The Path less Pedaled, blogspot.
You can design you own piece and Laura will make it for you. Brill'. All is explained on the blog.

Getting closer!!

It struck me yesterday that two thirds, of the year and a half I had allowed for preperation, has now gone!! In six months, I'll be leaving for 4 months on the road, just me and the bike/trailer. It all seemed to become VERY real. What do I mean by that?

Well, in the beginning I stated, quite publicly that I was going to do this long journey. It seemed resonable and possible, as long as I looked after myself and trained well. There were markers to reach that built steadily towards departure, and I could tick them one by one. Actually leaving seemed a zillion miles away from where I stood, so I could always back out if I really needed to.

That distant horiizon is now much closer. I have lots more experience and knowledge of what the ride involves, and how I cope on the road. I have sponsors, and some people have already donated, so I'm really commited.

All of us can handle the nice days. It's the crap ones you prepare for. As somebody else said, "better a bad day on the bike than a good day in the office". I couldnt agree more, but you have to acknowledge the loneliness, hardwork, fatigue, rain etc and have some idea of how to deal with them without going bonkers (it's debatable whether I already am bonkers!!)

I've done allsorts of things on my prep' rides. Focus on the effort, focus on something else, sing, stop and eat, take in the view, and, stay in bed until tommorow (one of my favourites, but not too good for mileage!!) slow right down and remember why I'm there. There are many more and they all have a place to play in a four month journey.

The thing is, that as time starts to 'squeeze', I have a million things to do. Shirts to buy and print, banners to make, flags to find, friends to send parcels, fundraising to do etc etc. I try to do at least one or two things a day. I've also stopped trying to find perfect solutions!! Maps, yep, 1-250, 000 OS, that'll do. Distance each day, yep 4 hours or so on the bike and find a site, less if that's how I feel (with a little pre-planned knowledge). Route, yep, turn left when you want and right when you want, if it's on the map you should be able to find it!!! If I don't do this, I will go bonkers before starting.

That's why the planning takes so long for me (and you?) It begins with an idea, all the maps come out, websites are visited and digested, what to take, where to go, when to leave, what to carry, when to stop, how far to go etc etc. It's very exciting too. Then as experience is gained, you grow in confidence to do your own thing, do it 'your way', regardless of the opinion of others, which is, let's face it, quite strong in the cycling world.

So, as a consequence of what I've learned so far I'll be 'winging it' route wise, I'm riding the coast so that sort of limits where I go a bit (barring excursions that is). The gear I've used to date works and isnt heavy, bonus. The trailer works well and I love it, and a new, updated, Teepee is soon to be winging it's way from the States & food will be bought 'en route' and I'm leaving (possibly!!) on 2nd May 2011, a Monday.

Internally, things are different. I'm slowly building up the natural turmoil that is needed to believe you can do this type of thing. Yes I'm already nervous. Can I do this, will I run out of time, steam, money, etc, will people donate?. This is the 'big fear', the fear of failure, not doing it and feeling let down by myself, fear of not starting!! From my days climbing and flying paragliders, I know this fear well. It's needed and neccesary, I can't perform without it. Even in these 'jelly headed' days I rely on this to know where I really am in my preperation, to know I can relax and not cycle, to know I'm not being too intense or too relaxed. It's perfeclty natural and if I didnt feel it, I wouldnt go, simples!!

Mentally, this year has been better, why should next year be worse? I have lots of strategies for managing this too, but lets face it, it's better to be on the road than stuck at home. I naturally relax when I go camping, it isnt stressful for me. Combine that with being on the bike, solo and i can pretty much do as I please. I am learning to listen to and recognise signals from my body better, where before I would plough on regardless, I will now stop and rest, slow down, eat and drink and generally take it all a little less seriously.

My mind is like a shape shifter, I never know day to day where it will be, but I do know that unless I'm really fatigued, I can ride 3-4 times a week and maintain it, because that's what I've done for the last year. I also know that when I need to rest, it's ok, I can stop, where, when and as long as I like. To not do so would threaten my health hugely, so that dictates my life patterns on the road.

So, it's getting closer and closer. It'll be Christmas soon and then New Year. I'll be a year older, and a year fitter. Some of the things I 'have to do', will get done and some will be dumped or passed on to others who are kindly helping in the wings. I shall keep riding, writing and planning, dreaming and thinking, right up until the day I leave. I have no idea how I will feel then, as I've never been there before!!

Please remember, you can donate at www.justgiving.com/Graeme-Willgress

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Oop, ooer splat!!!

As the title suggests, another crash was not enjoyed last week! It was down to diesel this time and there was bugger all I could do about it. One minute I was riding along and the next, everything went sideways with the inevitable SPLAT at the end. Landing heavilly on my thigh/elbow I slid to a halt yelling blue murder at the person who'd done the deed in spilling said diesel!!! I wouldnt mind so much but all the other diesel patches were either visible or you could smell it. Not this one though, definately not cricket.

As I went inside a kindly lady's house for a cup of sweet tea, head spinning and rather a large piece of skin having gone astray, the builder next door came in to say two cars had just hit each other in the same place!

What happened next was obviously the local highlight of the week as police and paramedics turned up to check us all out and the village suddenly came alive with rubberneckers who came to see what was happening. Not much really, I was on my second tea, being given the once over from the paramedic (who noted my excellent blood pressure and heart rate readings!!) the young woman in one of the cars was hysterical from shock and the passenger in the other suddenly decided he had bad neck and back pain ( despite a collision speed of 4/5 mph!!)
Another kind gent offered me a lift home, and I folded the bike and accepted his offer.

The rest of the week was a bit like the Hartland trip, but worse. The next day I had 2 wisdom teeth removed, just to ensure the whole of the right side was in pain at the same time. The car alternator packed up, and muggins here must have left the handbrake off or something because after a sleep I went out to find the car gone! It hadnt gone far mind, I found it embedded in the downstairs toilet of one of the neighbours. Boy, it had really made a mess of the extension wall.
So, I think I might put that down to being a bad week!

The week after was mostly about dealing with the missing skin, bruising, car insurance, teeth and increasingly sore neck, but not to be perturbed, I eventually got back on the bike and 'hey presto' all of that was put into perspective.

I'm off to the shops now. A lovely 20 mile round trip with the trailer. The sun is shining, and I'm hoping lightning doesnt strike twice, at least for a while anyway!! Take care out there, it's winter.