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.

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

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 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

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.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

One of those days!!

I was intending to get up and cycle over Hartland way for a weekends camping. Sleep hasn't been coming easy lately and I didnt wake until 10.30 on Saturday. 'Oh well', I thought, 'I don't need to leave until later anyway.
After a slow start, coffee, rolly etc I got the trailer out, I'd already packed my kit, and lo and behold, a flat tyre! 'Hmm best sort that out then', I thought to myself and got on with the job in hand. It's hedge trimming time in Devon and the roads are paved with thorns. Job nearly done, I went to remove the seatpost pump from the little bike. Would it come out? Would it buggery! I heave and twisted and pulled and yanked to little avail until, eventually it flew out along with the metal sleeve from the frame, and the seatpost clamp. Bugger!!!!!!!!!!!!
it seemed that one of the rivets holding the pump in the post was proud and sticking to the inside of the frame. "No time to do that today, I'll take bike number two. Well that was a good idea until I lifted it out to find a puncture on the front AAAAAAAAAGH!
Ok, dont panic, you can fix this too. So I did. When I came to blow the tyre up, the handheld pump decided to break. Ever wonder if somebody is trying to tell you something?
Time was ticking on now, it was 1.30 and I was nowhere near leaving. having put both bottle holders on the 'little bike' I had to remove one of those and replace it on the Cadenza, along with the Brooks saddle, oh, and the bar bag.
By this time, I'd remembered the other seatpost pump that came with the Cadenza, so I swapped the boingy seat post for the one with the pump in and finally seemed ready to set off. By now I ws hot, sweaty, annoyed and anxious about the whole malarky, so, I sat down had another coffee and rolly and let myself calm down a bit.
I did get away at about 2.30ish and straight away relaxed and felt good to be going out again. The ride to Hartland was uneventful, with the toughest bit being the hills on the first 4 miles from home to Sheepwash, yes that's a village near where I live where they hate dirty sheep.
As I approached the coast, the number of cars increased, all trying to get to the end of the road as quick as possible.
I stopped and chatte with a lady who was looking after the chapel a couple of miles from Stibbs Cross (I don't know what he's cross about). Inevitably, she asked if I was going a long way. I said no, I'm only going to Hartland (which she thought was a long way!), but I was riding the whole UK coast next year. that seemed to end the conversation as she tried to get her head around that, but she wished me well and waved me goodbye.
Funny, but the front tyre felt a bit soft! Bugger (again, a double 'bugger 'day!). The patch I put on was right on a seam, so it wasnt ever going to last. Still, I pumped it up and continued to the campsite at Stoke Barton Farm. A gorgeous place with its own Tea Room, and reputed mega cream teas (now you see why I was so keen to get here.
Up with the tent, on with a brew, and chill. lovely lovely lovely. "you cycling around the coast then", said a man with a dog. "Not this year" I replied, to which he looked puzzled. I'm just having a weekend away. "Come far have you?" "No", I replied, "just from Hatherleigh". He looked more puzzled. 'Seems like a bloody long way to me, I couldnt ride to the local shop" Hmm, what do you say. To a cyclist, it isnt far, I thought, and talked about the weather instead.
Next up was a lady Shamanist Healer. she was lovely and peaceful and talked about all sorts, and how it had helped her. she had a caravan on the site permanently and came down, even in the winter time for quiet. She asked if I would like to join her and a group of friends later on, but I politely declined as I'd not slept until 4.30 am and I really needed some quiet sleepy time to myself. I did say I would 'pop over' tommorow though.
It was breezy that night, but warm, and despite the tendency to be fully awake and buzzing when I should have been ready to sleep, a peaceful night was had in the luxury of the Teepee with biscuits and tea for company in the long dark hours. The teepee wobbled in the wind and my brain wobbled in my head, full of emotions and fear, anxiety and stuff I had little control over. I did relaxation stuff, but couldn't switch off, so out with Josie Dew to read about her epic trip around the Uk. Josie's writing is so chatty, it feels as though she is writing just for you and I read this, by headtorch, eating cheese and biscuits, whilst drinking a cup of Redbush tea.
Eventually, I fell asleep, phew.
Sunday was windy and cloudy, but on the 'chearing up' side of raining. I ate sausage sandwiches for breakfast and set off on a walk down to Hartland Quay after coffee and another dose of Josie. the walk was pleasant and the views sublime as I approached the cliffs. This is one of the most impressive pieces of coast in Devon, and it isnt hard to imagine ships being wrecked here, amongst the fin like shards of rock that lie buckled and folded in wait. the wind was really strong now as I wandered around taking photographs and looking in the 'naff' trinked shops, bucket and spade anyone?
Most of the people here had driven down, taken a quick look (it was very windy) and then driven off, or, gone in the Hotel for refreshment. Even others from the campsite had driven!! but then they drove to the toilet anyway, because it is dark you know, and 300 yards! no wonder there's an obesity problem, sitting outside a caravan/tent, stuffing your face all day long tends to pile on the pounds, unless you're a cyclist when it doesnt ;-)
Back at the tent, I just dozed and chilled and ate and drank to my hearts (stomachs?) content. About three O'clock, I had to head to the Tea rooms (open weekends 2-5.30) for a cream tea. Wow, is all I can say. This was cyclist portions and they will even put the left overs in pots for you to take away, which I didnt do.
Sunday night was stormy. The Teepee Flopped, and flapped, but didn't flip fortunately. Rain hammered the outside and I wwent to bed with Josie (eer figuratively speaking). i watched the pole dancing (tent pole that is) and listened to the wind slamming into the Teepee and then spilling around the sounds like a clip from quadrophenia. sllep actually came a little earlier (2.30) and I tossed and turned all night, like a mad thing on acid!!
As it dawned on me that Dawn had come and gone, I stayed in my 'pit', made a brew and finished the book I was reading. I love the way Josie Dew is so chilled and doesnt really ever make any plans. That taked a lot of self confidence, but I gues when you are as travelled as she is, you have it.
I did eventually pack up. The rain had stopped and the Teepee calmed down from the storm overnight. I eventually packed up and set off, all mellow and in no hurry at all. at some point, I'd been looking for a place to stop and nibble some food. A nice parking place was up ahead with views as far as bodmin to the South and fine views of Dartmoor too. Just as I got within a hundred yards, a massive lorry came out of an unlikely, small lane and turned into the parking space, completely filling it up!! So, on I plodded, and as luck would have it, an even nicer spot came along where I sat rekindling my 'bannanergy'.
All too soon, the steep hills told me I was nearly home. I trundled up the close and unhitched the trailer. I was so relaxed and chilled which just goes to show that 'one of those weekends' can become a really good weekend, as long as you don't give in and go to the pub instead.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Planning, plotting and thinking (again)!

Here's my companion from the last Tour!!!! He was joined later by a sheep that was bought for me by a young mountain biker and his folks. Thanks Tom, Jude and Ashley :-)

Since the last post, I've had a good rest and are now pedalling again. It's so nice to have achieved the goals I set myself for the year, and in the case of the last ride, exceed all my original intentions.

I've always been a thinker and that process continues as I try to decide the best kit, the best clothing etc etc, but I've suprised myself by going back to the small wheeled bike and deciding I prefer it to the all singing, all dancing bike I rode for the last two tours.

Why's that then? Well, a few loud 'cracks' from the hub gears whilst in the middle of nowhere, and the reluctance of anyone to attempt to adjust the Bottom Bracket made me wonder whether or not low maintainence meant 'low anxiety'. On top of that, my back did it's best to feel like it might let go at any moment from the more stretched riding position. This is a major concern as I stopped riding after a Paragliding accident and previous back problem. There is no doubt that this is a great bike, and very robust, but I wasn't sure.

After 10 days or so resting and just stretching a bit, I took the Vitesse out to see whether I did prefer it and it's 20" wheels. I was expecting it to be less comfortable and harder work. Ha Ha Ha, how wrong I was. It felt nippy and alive and the front was softer and more forgiving. In short, I loved it. I decided to change to the 26" wheel Cadenza because it had disc brakes and hub gears, all low maintainence. Also, I'd worn right through a rear wheel last winter and wondered about durability of the rims.

What I have since learned is that all bikes bought complete will have areas where the producer saved pennies and pounds. I really needed to spec the bike myself with rims etc that would do the job. Before embarking down this road, I decided to ride the 'little bike' again. As it happens, some friends had asked me over to dinner and they live thirty something miles away, perfect.

In short, the 'little bike' was an absolute joy to ride, felling lively and quick,whilst being comfy and relaxed. by the time I'd ridden home again, I was completely smitten. a few bits from Ebay and it'll be as good as new, but with lowered gearing for hauling the trailer. The other bike will now be my workhorse, doing the winter training, shopping etc.

I think it's really important to be able to make this type of change when planning a big ride. it would be easy to beat myself up for being a 'spanner' and buying an expensive bike that I'm not going to use, but that would be futile, it's done, and that's that. it's actually showed me how good the 'little bike' is and I'm thankful for that.

It's also showed me a bit about how I want to approach the ride, relaxed and chilled and with time to look around. somehow this is easier on the 'little bike' with it's more upright riding position. I guess I just got lucky when I chose the bike, that it really is a 'good fit', for me anyway.
And that is how it is, and the reason I chose to do these preperation rides. I'm learning as I go and whilst most of the kit is now sorted and settled, I still have a few things to look at. it will never be perfect, it is always a compromise of weight, comfort and safety, but I'm collecting references each day I'm out there and feeling much better prepared than I could have imagined a year ago when I dreamt this up as a possibilty.

Snowdon in the background. I've just ridden uphil for about 15 miles!!!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Wales: 728 miles of Blood, Sweat and Gears!! The joys of camping

Hello again
What an amazing three weeks I've just had cycling from my home in Devon to North Wales and back again in preperation for next year. There were more mountains than you can shake a stick at and more metres climbing than I could imagine before hand, which is good because it might have put me off. Seriously, I chose the route because it's recognised as the hardest on the National Cycle Network. I wanted to know where the flaws in my prep' were to rectify them for next year.
Rather than a long winded story of the route, I thought I might write about some of the groups of people I met and observed on the various campsites I used. This is not meant to cause any offense to anybody, so I apologise in advance!!!!!

Annoying dad man ( the original idea was that of a friend)
ADM as I will call him rarely leaves his children alone for a minute. Ultra attentative he explains in minute detail why his way of doing everything is better than that of his offspring. " no, don't walk on the grass like that, it'll damage it. Do it like this" At this point ADM trips on his own shoe laces and plummets down a bank inot the river, his kids in fits of laughter. Not perturbed he stands up and exclaims "Did you see how I did that parachute roll to soften the blow". Very very annoying.

Keep it all in the car love!
Yes, they do, literally keep everything in the car. What's wrong with that? Well, at some point every night and morning they need whatever is in the car. It goes like this. Flash flash (disarming alarm which is truly needed in the middle of Wales), clunk (door opens), rustle rustle, clunk Flash flash. That's not too bad is it? No but they've forgotten something, Flash flash, clunk, rustle rustle, clunk flash flash. Then you hear. "did you get my toothbrush dear" flash flash, clunk, rustle rustle, clunk flash flash. This goes on & on & on. AAAAAAArgh!!!!

OK Corale
This may be a family or group of families. On arrival at the site, they erect the biggest tent (s) you've ever seen. It takes at least three hours to do. If there are two or more, they are erected some way apart. In between these are at least two gazeebos of extra large size. By parking there multiple vehicules, trailers, kayaks, bicycles and other stuff on one side, and fencing the other with windbreaks (at least ten), they create a massive coral that is THEIR territory. Once they've done this they can do what they like because nobody is going to challenge them even if they can get through the outer limits, they're likely to face to face with hords of kids with waterpistols who drench them within 3 metres. STAY WELL AWAY.

The Dingles

OK, you can see where this one's going. The Dingles are a law unto themselves. They get up and sit around eating massive a breakfast. this is followed as soon as possible by lunch, when it's ok to start drinking. By the evening, they will likely be completely pissed and not responsible for they're actions. Dad will probably get up and shoot this son in the backside with a ball bearing gun (yes I saw this). Guess how son responds? Yes, he shoots his father. Soon enough all the Dingles are running around the tents shooting each other, all armed with their own BB gun!!!! Whilst this is going on, the barbecue catches fire and threatens to burn the whole campsite down. The Dingles don't really care, cos they're all pissed up anyway. STAY WELL AWAY

Young Lovers
Bless, we've all been here. Arriving with a tent that is just big enough for a large airbed (that's all they need) they proceed to look totally confused at the instructions until a seasoned camper offers a hand to put the tent up. Bad move, as soon as the tent is up, the young lovers disappear inside to explore every sexual possiblity for two people in the middle of a field. They think they are being quiet whilst every other camper suddenly develops the desire to listen to their ipods!!!
Best thing to do here is to go for a long wlak, followed by a meal a bit of clubbing and a midnight hike up Snowdon. By the time you return, they might be exhausted, if not, you will be, so there is a chance of sleeping without the constant reminder of when you were young!!

Not at all offensive this bunch. They travel hundreds of miles pulling a lump of plastic or driving one to sit around for several days watching the telly. When not watching the telly. they can empty the toilet, empty the waste water and replenish the drinking water. These jobs take most of every morning, by which time the more senior caravanner is knackered and falls asleep.
When arriving at a new site, much time is taken getting the caravan exactly levl and square to the edge of the hardstanding. This, says the caravanner is a point of pride, and involves lots of driving forwards and backwards, giuded by somebody who probably hasnt a clue what she (cos it usually is) is supposed to do. Once in position the driver releases the caravan from the car and parks this exactly parallel to the caravan on the same side as everybody else!!! Then, just when you think it's over he will make minute adjustments with an radio controlled hand box attached to a driver on the wheels. After a cup of tea, the boot opens and the biggest piece of canvas you have ever seen emerges. This is what they call 'The Awning'. It's another wing, because the 5 birth double axle caravan isnt big enough for two and they dont really want to sit OUTSIDE.
This is struggled with for hours ensuring absollute depletion of the owners energy levels for the rest of the week. So now just the pot plants, decorations, solar lights, tv ariel................................

Ultralight Cyclist/Walker
Weight is the enemy for these guys. Half a toothbrush, half a saucepan half a sleeping bag (you can always put it on the cold side later!!), half of everything. Tiny cooker that takes a week to boil a kettle and precious little clothing means that these people are the more likely to need first aid than any of the above listed due to mal-nutrition, hypothermia, setting fire to the tiny tent trying to cook in the pissing rain etc.
They don't look healthy because they arn't. Camping too close means you will be kept awake by the constant coughing and farting from the poor diet and the failing body of the people next door. Not only that, they will leave at 4.30 am after rustling around with hundreds of plastic bags that get stuffed into panniers/rucksacks to keep stuff dry. Don't even think about going to the bathroom for at least a hour and a half adter one of these people have been!!!

Single Sex Groups
Very very dangerous whatever the sex. Over a period of hours a male group will degenerate into something akin to a troop of baboons. The more alcohol consumed the more you can clearly see the link to our furry ancestors. Within the corale they have probably created (see above) they will stack unfeasibly large amounts of beer and sausages, get completely pissed, attempt a barbeque which later becomes a bonfire and at some point they will run around naked taking pictures of each others genetilia and posting them on You Tube.

Girls,Safe? No Way. The conversations get more and more lude with the amount of wine consumed and the group of what appeared to lovely ladies, degenerates into a howling mass of gossip & laughter. All of the group will end up talking at the same time with no way of telling if anybody is actually listening to anybody else. The laughter becomes so raucous that from your tent you are convinced that the campsite is being invaded by laughing Hyenas, Jackels and the like and just when you think it can't get any worse, they start to play truth or dare whilst dicussing the shortcomings of their various partners sexual ability/genitalia. Stay well clear

These folk can strike fear in the hearts of family campers. They arrive on a variety of machines from Harleys to Hondas and proceed to put up tents, Fart and belch loudly, laugh raucously at very rude jokes and all this wearing leather. They take the piss out of each other, nobody is spared and they will build an enourmous bonfire, whether they are supposed to or not.
Eventually they're all completely pissed and go to bed.
If you get up early though, you might see the other side. Bikers heading to the toilets in their favourite pyjamas, clutching 'teddy' or 'Blanky'. There are reasons bikers never open their panniers in public you know!!!! Bless em, they are one of the nicest bunches of people you could ever meet, hidden by shows of ritualised behaviour.

That's it really. I'm sure there are other groups I havnt written about. Let me know

Monday, 26 July 2010

All ready for the Next ride!!

Well, not entirely, but almost. After a few weeks of being really mentally unsettled, things are at last calming down. I've just a few minor things to do this week and then I'm off again. this ride sees me heading for North wales from my home in Devon, and then back gain!!!

I chose to do this only after I completed the Cornish tour. I wanted to be on the road longer so I could get a feel for what it might be like on 'the big one' next year. It seemed a good idea at the time!!! After the last month or so I will have to 'suck it and see' regarding how much and how often I travel. The trouble with mental health is that you don't really ever know how tommorow will be!! I have had to back off the training rides somewhat to get through, but I havn't lost anything by doing it. I've just been sensible and really flexible about when I go out, how far and how intense. This means I have rested better, even though this has sometimes been an all day- in bed -,sleeping job!!

Cycling makes me feel better. Exercise always has and always will, provided I not feeling really bad before I begin, in which case, forget it, watch the telly, read a book and sleep, whatever the time of day. That is how I manage, it may be different for you, but I'm sure you can find 'a way' that works for you. I tend to pick much easier rides when I can or if I'm away, I slow everything down to a nice very gentle pace and try to chill. If I have a bad day on the bike, I ALWAYS take the next day as a rest, regardless of how long it was since the last. If I'm not brighter by evening, I take the next day as well. As I said, it works for me.

Since I last posted, I've changed a few things. Phil at 'Sat Nav Warehouse' sold me a great GPS at cost, which was very generous. So, I can now be a real saddo and spend hours plotting routes on the laptop to transfer to the unit itself, very nice. I still liked maps, so this is a departure for me and Wales will be the first time I've used it properly. With Tech stuff comes more issues eg: charging. I have a 'Power Monkey' and double solar panels to charge it. The 'Little Monkey' as it's known is great and keeps all my stupid tech things going!!! Why I don't just leave them at home I don't know. Answers on a post card please!

I'm changing the bars and stem for some trekking style 'Butterfly bars'. More hand positions and comfort, I hope. My poor old wrists are still really complaining after the front wheel incident and need all the help they can get. New Spd's replace the old ones, which are very creaky now and Andrew Fudge of Fudges Cycle Store, has given me a Cane Creek 'Thudbuster' seatpost which really reduces the shock tranferred from the road to my back. Also, teepee no2 has arrived from Arapahoe Outdoor. I've used it and it's wonderful. A big, but still cosy living area. I took it away for a stormy weekend and was really impressed. How many tents with one pole and no guy lines would you trust in storm. Great design I reckon.

Gear wise, I've settled on gas. It costs, but is light and convenient over the meths. Pans are smaller and lighter and I have a 1-2 season down sleeping bag. I know the disadvantages in our wet climate, but it's half the weight and size and I have a silk liner, you just have to be really careful with it and pack it in a dry bag. I also acquired a Therma Rest Chair Kit from ebay, man is that thing comfy.

That's about it really. Ready to rumble. I reckon three weeks should do the trick with time out to see friends in Bristol and North Wales from long gone climbing days. I won't be rushing, mostly because I can't, lol.

Take care and stay safe during the looney holiday period.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Heady Days

When I started this blog, I wanted to keep it positive and light. It doesnt seem right to not at least spend some time trying to get over to you, whoever you are what is like to live with a mental health problem.
This weekend I decided to cycle to the Cornish Coast and test the teepee that Arapahoe Outdoor in America have sent me as sponsorship. It was a typical weekend after a difficult couple of weeks mentally that have seen me reduce the cycling and shut down as a result of events in my home town.

It was a simple enough disagreement. A friend, or so I thought, decided it was time to tell a few home truths to me. The facts I needed to know were that I was well enough to work if I wished to, I was being a 'Namby Pamby' and I was difficult to know, even as a friend as I seemed to get emotional over small things with little prompting. The person who told me these 'facts' has only seen me on good days or part days and I thought I was sharing knowledge with somebody who was interested in mental health disorders.

The result of this 'conversation' was an immediate downward spiral, out of control, feeling I must have done something awful. Long conversations with Doctors and Therapists reassured me but didn't make the thing go away, Emotions ran and ran, out of control that is. I've not heard from that person for two weeks now, mostly because I hung up when they decided to reiterate their feeling over the phone and I said no more.

To not be believed is the worst thing. There are no visible signs to the untrained eye and I have learned over the years to put on a 'happy face'. The problem is that I am now cycling and look in good shape. I am, relatively, but that's physical, not mental. When I cycle, I am released temporarily, from the shackles around my head. I feel, for a while free and able. When I stop, the world starts spinning again.

So it was with this weekend. The chain of events had punctured my bubble. Society had rejected me and I wanted to hide, or so I thought. The previous weekend I went to North Devon and had been ok. This week was worse. I felt so alone and unable to cope that I struggled to cook and wash and all the basics I thought were solid again. I saw my Therapist on Friday, earlier than usual and decided I would go away again on Saturday, stay over Sunday and return on Monday.
Saturday came around quickly and I set off full of enthusiasm. I even met two neighbours as I headed off along the steep country lanes around my home.

After a chat, I was away, the first hill came, and I rode slowly up thinking "it always feels tough until I get going". Maybe it does, but the second hill was worse and the third just exhausting. Knowing there wern't too many hills like this I was soon 15 miles from home feeling exhausted. Should I turn around? Just to sit at home, NO. I'll keep going really slowly and it will get better. My head was stuffed so full, It felyt like lead. My legs felt like jelly, or was it the other way around? No power, No lung power, overheating with the humidity, I slogged on.

I wanted to cry, just let it all out, but my mind wouldnt let me. I couldnt see the beauty around me, just the pain in my head. I wanted to scream, like the picture, I wanted the world to see and for me to be free of it. So it was all day long. I wouldnt be any better at home I told myself and kept going, slowly. I ate, no difference, I drank lots, no difference. I sat on a gate and smoked a cigarette, no difference.

Eventually I reached Wainhouse Corner, a shop to buy food and drink for the weekend and only 3 miles from the campsite at Coxford Meadow. I was totally shattered, but I'd kept going somehow, knowing the weekend would get better, somewhere in my thoughts.

The owners of the site were lovely and I soon had a place to pitch up. I did this straight away, before I really stretched properly. I felt desperate to establish 'home', somewhere to shelter and hide. I ate organic yoghurt, Cornish biscuits, and made coffee and after some time, I forced myself to go and shower and change, the one absolute luxury after any day in the saddle. I( can't remember a day I have cycled when I felt this rough, but secretly I was pleased to be there especially as I could see the clouds gathering and heading my way.

I did speak to a few people that evening, but everything was really hard work and all my remaining energy went into cooking etc. Bed was bliss. This is my safe place at home, where I hide away until the bogeyman goes away. I try to replicate this in the tent. The Teepee is huge, 12 feet across the base and chosen deliberately as it gives me a real home space for me, the cycle and trailer.

I was too tired to write or read and too tired to even take in the sunset. I needed to rest. It was one of those nights when I went straight to sleep and woke up an hour later. Too hot, too lumpy, too anything you can think of. My legs were spasming in an uncontrollable way and my mind was angry and unsettled. Then I fell asleep again, waking up a little later and so it went on, and on.
The storm blew around outside as well, and the rain hammered the Teepee. It resembled a big top in a dream, seemingly lighter inside than outside, stripey andgently wobbling in the stormy winds. At least I felt safe in there.

Morning came bright and sunny and I brewed a coffee from my sleeping bag. I was in stage two now, an absolute soup like daze from which I was trying to rouse myself. Quite a long time later, I forced myself up and decided to head for the beach hoping the ubiquitous Cafe would be there. I struck gold and the choice was two Cafe's. I chose the more modern one and sat outside with more coffee and a paper. My mind had now woken up and it told me that my body felt like it had been kicked all over. Everything ached and hurt and I felt like I had cycled for the first time. I knew this feeling and knew it was not the physical effort of the cycling, but the exhaustion of emotional termoil. I spent a good while there, eventually walking on the beach, watching the young surfers at the surf-school. People were everywhere, families and couples, people with dogs etc, all enjoying the sun.

The tiredness that overan me sent me back to the campsite up the hill from Crackington Haven. I move slowly like a much older person. On arrival, it was really quiet, flapping back the large doors on the teepee, I created a lovely funnel for the breeze to blow through. I lay down and slept. This was how the rest of the day was. I'd sleep for a while, eat, drink and sleep. Later on I read some of the book I had taken and slowly, slowly slowly, life began to return.

By the evening, I was feeling fine again. My head was strong and all the aches had disappeared. I'm always amazed at the calories I manage to comsume, but I enjoyed a really good pasta dinner with lots of fresh veg etc. People were all back on the site now and I did the rounds with my flyers for the ride next year, chatting and laughing, finishing the evening with shared tea and rasberry/white chocolate biscuits, lovely.

I never rush to pack up and slowly dawdled about letting my head wake up. There was no sign at all of the exhaustion that Saturday brought along. I talked to a couple walking the coast path, and a lovely young women whose brother had sadly ended his own battle with mental illness. A very sad affair, but it happens a lot. I always feel like "there but for the grace of god.........
Eventually, I said goodbye to the couple next to me who were planning there lives together and specifically a 'world travel' type trip, and off I went.

There was not a sign of Saturdays struggles today. My legs felt really strong, my lungs massive and my head clear to everything around me. Cycling was a pleasure again and I felt stronger than ever!!!! Funny things those 'Heady' Days, weeks etc. That was how it was all day. Cycling was a pleasure, as was the scenery, the sandwiches and the arrival home.

I'm not telling you this for any other reason than I want people to understand that accepting mental illness as real, really helps us that suffer. Being open is not asking for pity, just understanding that people like me (and many much worse off) can actually achieve things within our illnesses, but it doesn't make us well. Being able to talk and to be listened too really helps. Having to not mention the M.H issue makes it a deserate struggle. It would be so nice if it was accepted like a broken leg, but that's a dream, isn't it?

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Cornish Tour 2010

Wow, what a ride. 360 miles, 9 cycling days and one rest day around the tiny lanes on the Cornish cost. What's more, only one wet day, and boy was it wet!!!!
I'd had a crash, ten days or so prior to leaving when the front wheel departed the bike of it's own accord. head, shoulder, ribs, wrists etc. OUCH!!! fortunately, nothing was broken and my friends 'Arnica' and Ibuprofen helped me through.
Mentally, it did me no good at all, linking to other traumas and leaving me completely exhausted. So, I slept and slept and slept the week before the ride, only receiving the bike back one day prior to leaving!!! When it did return, it was with a solid axle with nuts!!
I was pretty nervous before leaving. I had trained and done a short tour, but nothing like this. It was the moment of truth, could I manage away from home, under stress, living in a tent. If not, the whole 'Round Britain' effort would fall away and cease to be something I could aim for.
As I moved off down the road, the trailer felt heavy and my body tired. I had a heavy strapping on my right wrist and could hardly bear weight on the bars. The first 15 miles have plenty of big hill as I headed for Holsworthy. My legs felt fine, despite the lack of riding and the sun was coming out, which really helped. I took it easy on all the hills, knowing there was a series of 33% gradients later in the day!!
A buzzard, and a Deer crossed the road in front of me, bringing a big smile to my face. The lanes to Bude, on the coast, ease after Holsworthy and I arrived at the Castle Tea Rooms feeling good and ready for some Tea and Cake. People buzzed around in the sun, heading for the beach. The temptaion was enourmous, but I had to face the hills after Widemouth bay and headed for the campsite at Wainhouse Corner (Camping and Caravan Clubsite-Bude).
it was never going to be easy on that stretch, especially given the pain in my wrist, but all the hills were ridden, with a few 'breathers' half way up.
The campsite staff were friendly and helpful and lots of interest was shown in what I was doing and the Ultralight Teepee I had chosen to use. Wrapping the food I had brought in foil and bagging it, I headed for the shower, possibly the greatest pleasure a distance cyclist has. a chance to wash away the sweat and relax. On my return, I saw a large crow/raven heading off into the sunset and an empty food bag. Little Herbert ate all the sausages I had cooked and frozen along with the bread etc, Leaving me to utilise what the tiny camp shop had to sell. Note to self: 'Don't leave food outside'!!

The second day dawned bright and breezy. I felt refreshed and really pleased at the Teepee I had been given by a new American company called Arapahoe Outdoor. It was a lovely space to live in and made such a change from a backpacker type coffin that pretends to be home as you fold yourself up to get in/out.
I was heeading for Trevose Head, a few miles from Padstow and would travel over Bodmin Moor and onto the Camel trail, one of 'Sustrans' great successes, 17 miles of traffic free riding right into Padstow itself.
I tootled along talking to the ponies on the Moor and a guy who was training to lead a ride from Cornwall to Paris for charity. Quite the opposite of my ride, with more miles per day, back-up and no camping gear. I took the oppertunity to eat and drink as we stood in the early morning fog on the moor, by an old airfield. You could visualise the planes coming in to land during the war, shot-up and belching smoke if you were one of the lucky ones to get back at all. I don't know if the reality was like that, but I've seen too many films.
Picking up the Camel trail, I needed some sustaintance, and a few miles down the trail i came across a wonderful cafe, built into the bank of a cutting and hiding in trees with covered tables in the undergrowth. It had to be a cream tea really, didn't it? It was fantastic, with oodles of fresh cream and jam and beautiful home made scones. I lingered for a while, a couple of guys had stopped me to see if I'd seen 'Little Johnny' a boy who had headed off the wrong way up the trail. I told them I had and they set off in search of the missing lad. he turned up, with said adults a bit later, embarrassed and having gone the wrong way after re-joining the trail from Bodmin.
I could have sat there all day, but needs must. As big a fan as I am of Sustrans and their work, I hate these railway paths. They feel soulless to me, as if they are completely utilitarian and nothing else. The surface hammered my wrists and the pain was excruciating. There were plenty of people around, all of whom seemed to be riding slower than me, leading to constant overtakes of familes and friends having a nice day out. The surface is quite dusty and by the time I reached Padstow, I was looking a bit pasty from the white powder, as was the bike.
Padstow itself (nick-named Padstein after Rick Steins business efforts) was heaving. I dismounted and walked, sat on the quay and smoked a cigerette, another unhealthy habit that depressives like me find helpful.
I walked the bike through the masses of ice cream munching people and swooping Seagulls (they like ice cream too) and headed for Trevose Head and the camp ground. Now, chance meeting play a big part in trips ike this and I happened to bump into two really significant people. One of these runs a 'tracking busines' and wants to track and promote 'Round Britain'. The second, recycles cycles and wants to make me a 'Flexstem' for my trip (remember them folks?). If I hadn't crashed when I did, i wouldn't have met them. Hmmm synchronisity at work. Note to self: Trust the Universe.

I woke up and took a look through the tiny window in the Teepee at the outside world. As I woke up more, I remembered there were no windows!! Aaaaah, a smal hole had appeared in the Teepee's bonded seems, and a second. Bugger, a production problem. I emailed the company who were so apologetic. A new bonding table had been layed AFTER my Teepee rolled off. A new one would follow me home. Not wanting to disply the Teepee with patches, I decided to send it home and pick up a Backpacking 'coffin' in Newquay.
This was all easier 'done than said', yes that's what I mean. I cycled into Newquay, there was a shop, and the deal was done. Off we go again to pick up the coast and follow it all the way down to Gwithian, North of Hayle. Now, this section of road has a secret, each hill is massive but never quite pushes you past the limit. Steep and long, they get tougher and tougher as you go. There is enough (just) space between them for recovery and for our short memories to forget the pain they create!!! You know the feeling, Groundhog day, that was the steepest hill today, that was the steepest hill today, that was the steepest hill today....................
Ah, the relief when Gwithian came into view. Everybody was leaving, it was Sunday and the forcast was poor for Monday. It was the usual routine for me, stretch,tent,drinkl,shower eat, relax. I wandered down to the amazing beach. dogs and children ran around and had a great time. Others surfed and swam, whilst some held hands and looked lovingly t each other in the evening sun.
I talked to a lovely women who was camping with her children. I told my story and she opened up about her husbands battle with depression and how he had taken his own life. The impact on her had been enourmous, but she talked openly and honestly and I listened. This scenario has played out many times since I decided the best plan of action was to be totally honest about my own struggle. I think we both gained from the conversation.
As the sunset, I dry roasted some fruit and nuts and mushrooms to add to an Ainlsey Harriett Couscous. Lands End tommorow. Note to self: DONT sit up fast cos your head will go through the tent!!

It wasn't too bad when I got up. All the gear was packed away dry and I was heading into Hayle to post poor old teepee home to myself, which felt strange because I knew I wasnt there! The fanily I spoke to the night before had gone, I never heard them pack up, I must have been dozing. Hill wise, today would be much easier, although the wind picking up and the building cloud told the story of what would happen. That's the trouble with being an ex-paraglider pilot and climber, you can read the signs!

It started raining almost straight away. By Hayle (7 miles) it was heaving down. I stopped in another amazing cafe, having spent 30 miutes in the Post Office, testing their knowledge and skills of the postal system regarding sending yourself a parcel when you're not there to receive it. They were really helpful and it got sorted, so I now had 3kgs less to haul around and decided to make that weight up with a large breakfast!!!
I was alone in the cafe, the proprietor was having problems with a homing pigeon who had decide that this was in fact home!! It kept coming into the kitchen after whatever it could get! Two more cyclists came in. they were on the 'End to End' as were most of the cyclist I met. We all chatted and joked, drinking copious amounts of whatever, trying to pretend it wasnt so foul outside. Of course, we eventually said our goodbyes and left, them to a tailwind and me to an 'on the nose' wind.
The storm built and built as I tried to circumnavigate West Penwith. My poncho (big mistake) became parachute like as I found myself more and more in lower gears despite the easier terrain. By Zennor, I had had it, screaming at the wind,cross with myself, cross with the poncho-parachute I had taken. Then a cafe appeared. Cake, Rooibosh, rest, respite. I turned the cafe into a puddle, but the staff didnt mind. I was so wet that I couldnt get my hands dry enough to make a successful roll-up. Disaster.
Something happened there, something changed. It was just as foul when I emerged, still drowned rat like. It was different, I didn't care about the weather, acceptance was to hand. I just got on and rode slowly, like I did on big hills. As I approached Lands End, I felt really emotional. Tears began to stream down my face and I wanted to wail out loud. I'd had no idea that this was such an emotional thing for me to do, but try as I might the tears just came and came, washed away by the rain and wind as they fell. Tommorow was a day off at one of my favourite sites, Treen, is a beautiful place. I'm not going to try to describe it except to say there is a wonderful Beach, campsite, pub and cafe and no roads running past at all.
The weather stayed foul as I erected the 'coffin'. I managed to bungee the door flap to give me anough room to see out and cook under the given shelter. As evening progressed, the weather teased as only Cornish weathr can. A little sun, more rain, gusty wind dropping and picking up again, torrential down pours etc. Note to self: DUMP that poncho.

A day off, bliss. Reading, snoozing, eating, stretching, showering, drinking (tea and coffee) and looking, absorbing, listening, watching, soaking up the beauty as the sun comes out to re-charge my batteries. Note to self: Resting is good!!

Today I head for the Lizard. I'm rested, keen and packed up reasonably early having eaten and prepared myself. My friend, Mr Wind, had swung around after the storm to ensure he was blowing in my face again. I didnt care, it was sunny. Today was one of those days when you have overcome all the initial fears and expectations and you are now just riding a bike in lovely scenery and don't really care about how far you go or when you get there. I found a lovely bench for lunch and a car boot sale that I just had to go and explore. I rode a fair bit on the main road, and everybody was polite and courteous. The day just dirfted along, as did I. No chance meeting, no contact, no phone signal, just cycling.
Arriving in the Lizard, I followed signs for the campsite. When I thought I was there, I asked, "is this a campsite". "Yes it is", replied Jo, the owner. What a find, an amazing site and a candidate for my favourite site ever. It was like riding into El Dorado, plam trees massive plants, all manner of animals, a great shop, Fire braziers and pits, sculptures and murals, Nirvana.
I pitched up and chatted to a couple with a hired VW called 'Van Morrison' I wandered and shopped, showered and then met another two couples who were on the previous site. One couple were pitched in the 'Jurassic Garden' Don't laugh, that is exactly how it feels.
That evening we sat around a firepit, drinking (Stella in my case) and chatting. Is this the way life should be, simple shared experiences at a really basic level. It was lovely and really enjoyable. Note to self: A simple life really suits you.

I didnt want to leave, my friends asked me to stay, but I wanted to know whether four days riding with four days off followed by the same again worked for me, so reluctantly, I left. Today we were mostly going to Boswinger via the ferry at Falmouth. I love ferries, there are loads of them on my Round Britain ride next year. There's something about travelling, even a short distance over water that is really cool. My wee journey to St Mawes could have ended in disaster as I struggled to get the bike and trailer down the steps to the boat, but a kind staff member came and helped me out shortly before I ended up in the drink!!
I have to say I can't remember much of this day. It was windy (on the nose again) and there were the usual hills to climb. the scenery and weather continued to be stunning and me and my bike (Den) plodded along enjoying ourselves. When in hilly terrain, the mind plays tricks on you. As you spend so much more time and effort riding uphill, you mind only remembers that. It feels as though you have only cycled up one big hill, all day long. I deal with this by stopping and forcing breaks in the day to break it up. Today lacked good cafes, but had an excellent stone circle. these are always nice to sit in, peaceful and quiet, a great place for a ciggy break!!!
The ferry bobbed merrily over the choppy sea and deposited me in St Mawes, all ready to cycle up a hill very similar to the one I came down to enter Falmouth. After what seemed to be an age, I found a campsite. It looked posh and expensive, boasting a pool etc, but in actual fact, the staff were lovely and the price very reasonable. It was howling that evening, forcing me into the tent to read and think. The site shop was great, although I didnt need a lot for the evening it would provide breackfast, I'd promised myself a Bacon Butty followed by some yummy organic yoghurt. Note to self: Bee more forceful about what pitch you want when windy!!

Today was always going to be tough, as I rode along the coast past Mevagissey, St Austell, Fowey and Looe. This coast is stunning with lots and lots of picture postcard picture opportunuties. There would be another ferry too, goody. I made an early start (by my standards) and it was a baking hot day. plenty of liquid on board and on the bike as I set off. I only met one person all day. She was from Torrington, just up the road from me and pushing out of Mevagissey up a massive hill I was glad to be going down!! I left the road on the way to St Austell to ride the Sustrans route up past the 'The Lost Gardens of Heligan' It was a lovely excursion with only one really sharp uphill bit, where 'no traction' from the road tyres saw me hiking for 50 metres or so. The run into St Austell was fabulous, initially following the road but leaving it to folow the river all the way to the town. I managed to cycle in a great circle around St Austell, following Sustrans sign all the way. It was fine going North, But I was Going East and it wasn't signed well at all. Arriving back at the point I'd started, I cursed a bit and headed off along the main road for Fowey and my little ferry.
This ferry was cuter than the first. Less steps and i arrived with just five minutes to wait. It deposits you in a sweet Port, and leaves you at the bottom of a steep hill where the road goes straight up, no kinks at all. First gear seems a good selection here, and then very steadily, I plod my way up, and up, and up, and up. Cornwall has another trick. Hills start steep, level a little and then always steepen again, sometimes two or three times before giving up. You get used to it after a few days, but it can be a shock to the system. I headed for Downderry on the coast dropping down a massive hill to Seaton. The campsite was well signed and I turned up to find it was in fact a Naturist site. I wasn't bothered about that. I didn't have the energy to notice anyway, but the £17 a night for a coffin and a bike was too much.HOW VERY DARE YOU? NO THANKS.
This left two options, B& B or the massive hill up from Seaton would have to be climbed to the new site at the top. I went to the shop and bought food and drink and rested. After a bit I reckoned the cycle up the hill was just another one and set off. It ws a real test after thinking I had done for the day, but my mind switched to the task and up I went to find myself the only person on the site. £10 meant that my hill climb had payed for dinner and breakfast. Note to self: Believe in yourself more.

The joy of being up here meant that the start of the day was a lovely big downhill. Wicked. Rested and fed I felt good. by the end of the day I would be back on familiar territory on Dartmoor. Superb. There were lots of hills, but none too big as I climbed up to and followed the ridge to the ferry at Cremyl. I never thought that I would be glad to see Plymouth, but I was. It was beautiful and sunny and the ferry rocked it's way gently over to the city. Sustrans route out of Plmouth was easy to follow and took in all the best modern and historical bits that Plymouth offers before heading up the banks of the river to the inevitable Tesco Superstore (well almost). From here I followed the Plym trail, another forgotten railway track developed by Sustrans, running all the way up the valley and beautiful. lots of people were enjoying this and I chatted to a young couple out for a mornings trail riding.
I sat undr a tree eating lunching watching a man 'face-plant' himself into the ground!!! Lots of people ran over and helped, so I didn't. All the excuses under the sun came out as to why he'd crashed, when really he was being a 'cock', trying to impress his girlfriend and the onlookers over a jump!! ten out of ten for intention-Zero out of ten for execution.
Wandeing along the moorland roads felt familiar and I was glad to arrive at the campsite, high above Tavistock with plenty of time and energy to enjoy the afternoon sun. There were two other pairs of cyclists here, with one couple having ridden from Switzerland. They were heading for Scotland. We all chatted and then went seperate ways to enjoy the sun. I sorted my tent and put it up for the last time. Although I had done my 'four days on' and was due a rest, I'd decided to try day five and see how it was.
Note to self: It's good to finish early enough to sunbathe

So, here I am, on familiar territory, heading for home. I know this part of the route reall well and find myself ready to leave really early (8.10am) All the other cyclists are making a move and it's certainly nice to ride in the cool of the morning. I felt like I was plodding along. Familiar villages came and went and I stopped at Bridestowe for a final calorie upload and liquid refrehment. It's a very beutiful village and nicely kept too. I was leaving Sustrans 'Coast to Coast' route here to cut across one of my favourite rides home. The hills eased and my tired legs were glad of it. hatherleigh got closer and closer and when i arrived I slid up the main hill through the town unoticed as everybody was supporting the Ruby Run, a charity half marathon raising funds for the Devon Air Ambulance. It was so tempting to ride through the finish, but I resisted and carried on to my house.
That, as they say ,was that. I was home. Ten days, 360 miles and lots of fun later. There was a cost though. My head has been very strange since getting home, lonely, lost, sad, depressed. The mental health stuff is never far away. I'd had a respite, and now it was letting me know I had pushed it hard. Tears came and went, sleep is disrupted by nightmares and home is not yet a comfortable place to be. this will settle and I will build to my next ride carefully and slowly. Me and 'Den' get on well, we've shared the same sights and roads and we will be out there again, soon

Sunday, 30 May 2010

The Waiting game

It's been a while since I last posted on here. All sorts has happened since then. The Teepee has finally arrived and it's fabulous. I pitched it in the play park where I live to have a look at it. It has so much space and is really easy to pitch with just one pole and ten pegs.
As soon as it was up, loacls started coming over and looking at it!!

I did a four day tour of Dartmoor last month and a weekends camping. It was so nice to be out there enjoying cycling and not training, just travelling. It was such a lovely route. From my house I followed the Devon 'Coast to Coast' South to Plymouth, skirting the Southern flanks of Dartmoor before heading North from Ashburton across the moor proper on roads I hadn't been on previously. Wow, what a lucky boy to live here, it's so beautiful.

Camping is always a joy, but I was amazed how much fuel I used to keep my engine going!!! Unfeasibly large amounts of food were consumed enroute! Even more suprising was the weather. Beautiful, sunny skies and cold cold nights. Hmmm, I suppose it guarenteed an early start. Waking up and getting a brew on straight away, was the main feature of the mornings, coming slowly back to life as the sun gained warmth, a bit like a lizard on a rock.

I've always struggled with mornings, I hate them. I don't want to eat, need lots of coffee, and force myself from a reasonably comfy bed in order to get ready to move on. Then I can eat and get into the day. It's always been the same.

Plymouth was a laugh, I followed the National Route 2 sign and ended up in a housing estate with no particular place to go! Out with the iphone gps and I wriggled and wiggled my way back to the start of route 2 before the battery went flat! LOL, you have about 90 minutes from a full charge to 'no way Jose' Still it worked and all the sites happily charged it up for me.

The third day, over the moor was sublime, stunning scenery all the way to my campsite with views back towards the moor for the evening. I was the only person in the backpacking area and the couple running the site were lovely. This was just the start to touring I needed.

This week things were a little different. I got my new bike, a Dahon Cadenza XL. A 26" folder that looks and rides like a mountain bike/ Hybrid. I was just leaving the town where I live when WALLOP, the front wheel came out and I hit the deck head/shoulder/wrist etc. I was really shocked and still don't know what happened? I gues I may never find out, but it took a week for my head to clear and things to start to settle down again. The bike is back at the shop who are trying to understand what has happened with it?

So, after a week off, mostly sleeping, i went out today on the old Vitesse. Just over thirty miles confirmed I'm fine and ready to rumble. I just need a bike now, and the I'm finally off around the Cornish/Devonshire coast, returing home up the old faithful Coast to Coast. I will write it up here after it's done. it should be a good one
Be careful out there

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Spring has sprung

Hello again
It's spring at last and the days are getting slowly longer and warmer. I thought it was time to tell you what has been going on recently as I approach my first cycle tour since some time in the 1980's!!

The Teepee I'm waiting for has been delayed in production and the cycle I will ride is also late in delivery. This is quite normal and why I decided to ask for these early on. It guarentees I have them for the second ride in August. So, based on this, I've delayed the first ride for a few weeks.

I've been busy tracking down and buying the kit I need. Everything from stoves to waterproof socks. as well as the Teepee I chose for extra space, I've decided to take a Gelert Pod sleeping bag, despite the extra weight. I don't know about you, but I hate the restriction of mummy type bags for more than a couple of nights. So, a big comfy 'Pod' is the answer with a silk liner for cold nights.

My health has been up and down, due to the powers that be trying to halve my income!! I'm fighting this the best I can with support from the Doctor and the Therapist I use. It means I have cut down the hard training so I can manage it, and the stress this is causing.

Despite all this going on, I managed a fifty miler this week in the cold and wind, and felt physically well enough to get on the bike the day after. I didn't, but it's good to know that I'm getting fitter. This ride was really tough, big, big hills and a strong cold wind on my nose for 30 of the fifty miles. A big patch of partly melted ice saw me doing something akin to a salsa dance on the bike with no idea how it stayed upright!! I was doing around 25mph at the time and it would have really hurt, lol.

Ebay has been a great source of kit and a great way to reduce my bank balance. Most of the stuff I really need was sourced from this great shopping mall. It's really hard deciding what to use. If I was twenty something I would simply pick the lightest and be done with it. At fifty, it a different ball game. Broken back, ankles, two shoulder operations, removing bits of clavicle, and a double arthroscopy to remove cartelidge from my left knee have taken their toll over the years. I always joke that when I die, ny arms will fall off, my back will be in pieces and it will look like a ritualised murder!!

So, I'm, allowing for more comfort as that is the only way I will manage several months in a tent. Several waterproofs have been rejected in favour of a poncho type cycle top. It works well and protects my legs too. Waterproof socks are essential, and I found some really well made cycle tops for a song and a sweet little folding stool for comfort.

I bought some maps to cover the ride, 1:250,000 with great coverage per sheet. Shame I can hardly read them, even with my glasses on, lol. Back to the drawing board there. The iphone now has an App avaivlable that will let me download maps and the Sustrans Cycle Network. How cool is that? I will be able to use the built in GPS and charge it from the bikes dynamo.

Food still worries me. Moreover, shopping and cooking after a hard day on the bike, but I reckoning on a good old fashioned routine to get by this one, emulating what I do at home on riding days. The fear factor of what I am trying to do is looming. This is good, as it means I'm seeing it for what it really is, a long hard slog in a predominently wet country. Still, I have lots of time to have fun on the way, so that's great.

Finally, it's nearly time to launch the appeal for donations, so if you have any spare cash, spare a thought for this really worthy cause. I have the flyers and sponsor forms ready now and will start spreading the word on my first tour. See you in Cornwall and South Devon if your around. I'm the one on the funny folding bike pulling a trailer, with a 'hippie' style tent.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Blimey what a lot a paperwork!!!

It's all very well training for the cycling, but I reckon I need to train to cope with the emails. I've always been pretty crap at typing but 'm getting plenty of practise now! This is my highest risk area for an injury, RSI from constantly sitting at the laptop. If Mum was right I'll get 'piles' too!!!

Snow stopped play. Been there, done that. Lovely memories of riding a mountain bike up Snowdon in the snow with fat Knobblies on it. Just me and my mate Adrian, first thing in the morning. We reckoned we were safe cos the 'Bear Trap' pedals would act like an ice-axe brake if we fell off!! It was great and we rode most of it (a regular occurence when I lived up there) . It was the descent that was the real fun. Every so often, the front wheel would sink and we'd fly over the handlebars!! The look on the faces of the climbers, all roped up with axes as we appeared in their horizon riding down, was priceless. Good memories those, we were even down in time for breakfast at Pete's Eats in Llanberis, the centre of the known universe.

Anyway the snow came and went (enventually) and I was back out again. A week or so after that the rear wheel made lots of funny noises and it turned out that I had two broken spokes and a crack in the rim. So, another was ordered and another break enjoyed by doing too much typing and stuff.

I joined the Cycist Touring Club-Inclusive Cycling Forum. What a great bunch of people. All manner of Disabilities and all cycling. I felt a bit of a fraud amongst this company, but convinced myself that Mental Health, although invisible, is a worthy reason to be in the group. They're really keen and supportive too. If you have any physical ot mantal health problems, take a look.

Shortly after that, the powers that be (Department of Work and Pensions) threw me a curved ball. Firstly my DLA will stop in May, and then, because I get a higher level of Income Support, this will follow suit. This means that I am looking at a weekly loss of £100.00!!!! I've complained about this as there was no letter to my Doctor or Therapist to ascertain how I'm doing. It had a great effect on me, causing a complete panick attack, and an 'emergency' visit to the Doc where gibbering and confused, Itried to explain what was going on. All the usual questions: "do you want to harm yourself", and "Are you Safe" followed. Answer is "No, but I'd really like a pop at those bastards" LOL

Anyway, this has slowed me down a bit as I have to rest up and 'equalise' a bit. Aside from those things, the training is going well. I feel stronger than ever and excited about Touring Corwall and Devon in April. My Teepee will be here from the 'States' in March, and the whole project is gathering momentum. I will be armed with flyers and sponsor sheets, so be warned if you are heading to Cornwall at Easter.

A local paper has cottoned on to the story (The North Devon Journal) and they are printing an article next week. The photographer came over to take piccies of 'moi', bike and trailer. All good stuff. I hope it kick-starts the fundraising.

I also bought some maps for the trip. Oh Dear, I can no longer read 1-250,000 maps without glasses and struggle on the detail with them on!! I spent some very therapeutic time tracing my route onto these, only to decide the Sustrans maps are better!! I shall try using one of them in April, so if I don't reappear on the blog, you know I got lost and I'm somewhere in Corwall riding around aimlessly!

The only other disaster bestowed upon me this month was a relatively minor one. I went food shopping in Okehapton and bought rather too much. Piling it all into the trailer bag, I stupidly lifted the bag by the strap. The strap is not designed for this load, as it is a 'City' trailer. All the stitching on one side let go. Feeling very embarrassed, I limped home with it and had to get the needle and thread out and make a couple of mod's to it. It's well again now and I've learned a lessson! There's no chance of this happening on the trip, because I couldn't cycle every day with that much weight.

Like all distance cyclist and walkers, I've a keen eye on weight. I even weighed all the gear so far to see where I'm at! How sad is that? You see, it's not just about weight anymore. At fifty, my body has had a really hard time from the climbing and the Paragliding crash. Lots of broken, but mended, things which make camping a challege, especially for four + months. I could take a really light tent, but I need space to live, recover and work on the bike. I could take a really light sleeping bag, but It'd be like sleeping in a full body condom! So, that horrible word 'compromise' has reared it's ugly head. I've set a weight limit of 15-20kgs all up. 15 kgs for the gear + food etc.

I find I keep looking at big comfy sleeping bags and reckon that It'd be worth the extra, until the first hill that is!!! I'm sure this will work itself out. I've two tours until it really matters anyhow. Other items are trimmed right down. A 'spork' instead of cutlery. A virtually maintenance free cycle, Lightweight pans and a stove weighing 78 grms, yes just 78grms! Travel towels cut in half and light, light clothing. It's all compromises. Well, apart from the mini 'Bodum'. I just can't survive without decent coffee in the morning. LOL.

Lightwieght summer sleeping bag and silk liner (donated kindly by Ok Leisure in Okehampton) should be enough. Cycling tops, thermals and one pair of trousers. Crocs (not yet purchased) for around the campsite and a folding seat of the 'closed cell foam' kind rather than a Thermarest chair kit. The sleeping mat is a Gelert 3/4 length ultralight job and seems dead comfy, even my insulated mug has gone for a stainless one I can use on the stove with a bit of insulating tape around the top so's I don't leave my lip stuck to it at the first sip. Ah yes, experience is a wonderful and painful memory, mostly of not doing this many years ago!!

So, there we are. Dont you just love it when a plan comes together, as George Peppard frequently said in the 'A-Team'. I do, I'm excited and already nervous. I can't wait to start touring again after so many years away. Bugs in your teeth, wind blasting you to a standstill, and the joys of packing up wet gear on a daily basis. Reality and fantasy are always quite a way apart, and I prefer to remember reality cos then , when it happens, and it will, I'm ready for it.
See you all soon
Graeme :-)

Friday, 22 January 2010

2010 feels much more urgent!!

I havn't written anything here for a while, mostly because I spent christmas hobbling around with a very sore toe following the dislocation. I did get out on Boxing day and New Years day despite the ice everywhere, and then we got the snow, lots of it and it stayed for a week.

Also in this period I became 50, yipee, Saga holidays, NOT!! I have to say that it felt really good to get back on my 'normal' diet after the festive season. I didn't really overdo it, but I missed stuff I would normally have. So, it was back on the bike and off we go. 2010, the year of fundraising and lots of miles. I'm already planning a 'cake-bake', yes really, a market stall to raise the profile of the ride/Sustrans and a pub quiz, which a friend is taking on.

The riding is going really well. I've had to look at all the boring stuff like what I eat & drink when I'm out, as well as what I eat and drink when I am in recovery. Boring it might be but I have found tremendous gains in performance and endurance here, suggesting I was doing it all wrong LOL.

Gear is coming in from sponsors and I'm really excited about the Ultralight, bonded, Teepee that Arapahoe Outdoors are modifying and sending over from 'The States'. Should be here in March, so I'll post some pictures then. I'm also building up to my first tour in April. A trip of 350 miles or so around the South West Penninsula. Lots of steep hills and puffing and panting (from the cycling). I can't wait, I just a few items to buy to set me on my way.

The bike itself is morphing slowly. I'm getting the new wheels shortly, with said Sram Dual Drive and a Son Dynamo on the front to charge stuff. Should be wicked, I'll let you know with a few photo's of that too.

Talking of photo's, 'Buff' have requested some pictures of yours truly 'wearing their Kit'. Male model poses? I don't think so, or at least I hope not!! Yes, some of these will appear here and on Facebook etc.