Dead Cat Bounce

December 9, 2017

So it turns out, the only thing worse than having a dead cat slowly getting deader by the side of the road just at one of the steepest and hence slowest parts of your ride home – is when the dead cat gets moved off the side of the road and right into the middle of it, presumably by an ambitious buzzard, and then everyone proceeds to run over it. The result is even more avert-your-eyes horrific than the half badger of a couple of years ago, although at least the cold (and, having had the gritting lorry pass me with a cheery toot of the horn this afternoon, presumably liberal applications of salt) has at least kept it from getting too whiffy.

One of the joys of cycling is that you’re able to see and experience so much more than you can from inside a car – from night-time encounters with barn owls to being overtaken by sparrowhawks. But it also means you get to experience the grim reality of the animal carnage on our roads, up close and personal.

pigeon feathers

Some roadkill is more pleasant than others – pigeon feathers left by a snacking sparrowhawk

Still, at least I won’t have to witness the poor cat’s further decay. Tomorrow we pack up and head for Glasgow, and on Monday we fly to Minnesota and then Colorado where we hope some winter sunshine awaits. My father-in-law assures us the bikes are still there and in working order. Stand by for more adventures under blue Colorado skies.

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Put a Lid on it

December 7, 2017

While nobody would describe me as a dedicated follower of fashion, I do notice the odd trend as it whooshes past, mostly with bafflement (and seriously, what was it with the slits in the shoulders of tops this summer? Any future period drama set in this will leave the poor wardrobe mistress frantically taking the scissors to slash through the sleeves of every top, while people scratch their heads and wonder – not for the first time – just what we were thinking in 2017). But I was heartened to note that otherwise clearly fashionable and soignee young women had suddenly started sporting practical bobble hats everywhere, even indoors (indeed, even paired with tops that left their clavicles out in the cold). Not that I had any need for a bobble hat, having my magical tweed cap to keep my head warm and dry, but it was nice to know that if I did, I’d be able to just go out and purchase one, in an actual fashion outlet, and wear it safe in the knowledge that I was in with the in crowd. And also that young women were at least keeping their heads warm, if not their shoulders

And then, the other half came home from work with just such a bobble hat, knitted by a colleague (he has such lovely workmates) who had brought in her handiwork to share. I tried it on, and it was so cosy and comfy that it was quite hard to take it off, even though wearing a hat indoors seems like a step down a slippery slope that ends with never taking your fleece off ever, even in August. Feeling a little chilly at my desk the next day, I couldn’t resist sticking the hat back on, and was surprised at how effective it was at keeping all of me warm, not just my head (more results from the Centre for the Study of the Bleeding Obvious as they come in). I fear that a line may have been crossed here, and that fingerless gloves, scarves, and the dreaded fleece will not be far behind. It is perhaps fortunate that we will be off to America, a place where they heat their houses properly, before the habit can get out of hand.

rainbow

No photo of the hat – it might be fashionable but that doesn’t mean I don’t look ridiculous in it – but this was the weather on my ride home

Still, having got caught in an icy rainshower on my way back from fetching the paper, I can not only confirm that the new jacket is (so far) Waterproof in Scotland, but that a woolly bobble hat was a very welcome thing to come home to, especially as there is now snow on the ground. Here’s hoping that the fickle finger of fashion does not move on too fast and spares me my hat, at least until the weather starts to warm up again, in, ooh, about May.


N Plus Marathon Plus

November 24, 2017

Regular readers will probably be aware that if anyone’s keeping the UK retail economy afloat, it’s not me. The combination of a fairly frugal nature, a desire not to throw things away when they’re still usable, and (if I’m really honest) the ability to put off until tomorrow what really needed to be done today makes me a reluctant shopper. So you won’t be surprised to discover that, two and a half years since I was told that the Brompton back tyre needed replacing, and about six months since it developed a regular slow puncture, and approximately three months since I arranged with the bike shop that if I sorted out ordering a Brompton tyre, they would happily replace it for me (look, it’s a hub gear, it’s the rear wheel, and anything to do with a Brompton is extra fiddly) I have done nothing except look online at Brompton tyres, realised that I had to decide between various different types, gone ‘how much?!’ at the price of any of them and decided to sort it out another day.

hedgecuttings on road

So when our road was looking like this,* I have absolutely nobody but myself to blame when I got precisely 100 yards down the road yesterday before my Brompton’s back tyre went completely flat (it’s never a good sign when you try pumping it up and you can see the air bubbling out of the tyre in multiple places). This was unfortunate as I was on my way to catch the bus to catch the train to get to Embra for two different meetings which were more than two miles apart and for which a Brompton would have been very handy. Having had to route march a combined distance of almost 4 miles to make it to a meeting and then catch the last train home, I was pretty weary when the train finally pulled in.

Still, at least this has made my mind up to get the Marathon Pluses for the Brompton. They may not be entirely thorn proof, but they have proved a lot better than anything else. Especially if you can get someone else to fit them. Although that said, it was snowing last night and our drive looked like this this morning so it might actually be time for the winter spikes …

icy puddle

There’s a joke among cyclists that the ideal number of bikes is N+1, where N is the number of bikes the cyclist already owns. On the whole, I’ve resisted this tendency and have stuck with my two – the big bike and the Brompton – without too many envious glances at other people’s steeds. This is partly because I don’t do that many different kinds of riding, so I don’t need multiple bikes, combined with the aforementioned frugality and sheer idleness. But it’s also because I know that if I started multiplying the number of bikes I had then the ideal number would indeed be N+1, where N was the number of bikes I had sitting unrideable in the garage while awaiting some minor but fiddly repair …

* As I set out gingerly on the big bike (with the ice and snow mostly melted) to brave the Bastard Big Thorns on the way to get the paper today, I was greeted by the sight of the two farmers from down the road, carefully sweeping all the hedgecuttings up by hand. This actually made me feel quite bad (I had had a bit of a moan yesterday after the Brompton puncture even though it was largely my fault) although not so bad that I didn’t let them get on with it.


Slime vs Bastard Big Thorn: no contest

November 22, 2017

I was a little disappointed in my Slime inner tube when it failed me yesterday, but having investigated a bit more closely I’m inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt.

You know how frustrating it can be, trying to track down the source of a puncture with nothing visible to the naked eye, and no sign of what might have caused the problem? That definitely wasn’t the case with this flat.

second thorn

First thorn

I think Slime works by centrifugal force – as you rotate the tyre, it is forced out of the hole under pressure and then sets to form a seal. That assumes that the hole is on the outside of the inner tube, and that the Bastard Big Thorn(s) didn’t end up going all the way through the inner tube and out the other side.

extracted thorn

This wasn’t even the one that caused the worst damage …

As it is, my backup innertube was a normal one, so it’s going to have to battle through the thorns unassisted.

mud under mudguard

At least this shows my mudguards are doing their job

As you can see from the state of my bike when I took the wheel off, the local farmers have not been very assiduous at sweeping either the mud or assorted hedgerow debris off our road. I have now cleaned my bike, but that’s going to last until the next time I cycle out of our front gate.

Our neighbour up the hill actually has his own petrol-powered mini road sweeper (it’s like a giant carpet sweeper) because he was sick of his car getting punctures. I have to admit, I was amused by this at the time, but I might have to borrow it if today’s rain hasn’t swept the worst of the hedgecuttings away.


That Hurricane Damage in Full

October 17, 2017

Having read some of the tweets from Ireland during Ophelia’s visit yesterday, I’ll spare you my eerie calm before the storm and weird blood-red sun anecdotes (but you know, it was very strange). When the storm finally arrived, we lay in bed last night listening to it hammering around the house hoping that the greenhouse would survive and glad that at least we’d given the two trees most likely to cause any damage a haircut.

With the cold light of morning we went out to survey the damage:

headless daleks

De-cap-it-ate

Our dalek army had been decapitated (fortunately, we had spent Sunday filling the two new bins with the contents of the pile-o’-stuff, so we only had to retrieve the lids, not go hunting for the bins themselves).

felled tree

One of our wedding anniversary twiglets had been blown over, although it was possible to resurrect it as it had only bent, not snapped.*

battered tree

The cows’ tree – whose tree tube had suffered somewhat from their enthusiastic attention – appeared battered but unbowed.

And you’ll be pleased to note from the photo above that the greenhouse is still standing and indeed completely unscathed, testament to the efforts of the other half and a friend, who spent two days constructing it.  Other than that, as the wind had helpfully blown away all the leaves that had fallen already, the garden actually looked tidier than it was before the storm.

Tomorrow we set off for Northern Ireland – or what’s left of it – for what we’re confident will be a sunshine break, very glad that we didn’t book the ferry for today as we had originally planned.

* I would claim this as a metaphor but two of the other trees we planted this spring didn’t survive, so I’m not reading too much into their fate, just at the moment.


Hedges have Ears

October 10, 2017

That feeling when you’ve stopped your bike by the side of the road to take an important phone call …

cows listening in

“she said what?”

… and you just can’t shake off the feeling that somebody’s listening in.

The cows may have left the field next to our garden, but that doesn’t mean we’re safe from Moo I 5


Never on a Sunday

September 12, 2017

I have exciting plans for Friday, but they are of the ‘better to ask forgiveness than permission’ kind, so I shall refrain from posting them here just now, although I think it’s unlikely that the powers that be are monitoring me that closely.* However I do have other exciting plans for the weekend because it is the Cycling Embassy AGM this weekend, which is venturing north of the border for the first time ever, to Glasgow.

This means a full on weekend of bike riding, kerb measuring, campaigning chat, pub going and general gadding about, and a chance for two of my cycling worlds to intersect, as up to now the Scottish cycle campaigning scene has been a bit divorced from what’s going on down south.

It also means that I don’t have to lug my Brompton half way across the country to take part, as it’s just one train up to Glasgow from Bigtown and it takes loads of bikes so I can bring the big bike. Frustratingly, that doesn’t make it any easier to get home than if we were in Cambridge, Leicester, Brighton or any of the other places where we’ve had our AGMs over the years. Because it is decreed that no train shall move on our line on Sunday until After Kirk, and even then extremely reluctantly, so I shall have to cut the festivities short in order to get home at all …

* other than Moo-I-5, who spent most of the weekend staring at our pile of woodchips in case it turned out to be edible and magically became available