I seem to have bumped into lots of these signs recently. A few days away in Norfolk saw as many as six routes I wanted affected. Another few days away to the New Forest saw more, and a recent spate here in Leicestershire meant much map reading or dismounting and walking past on the verge or foot- path.
Whilst very annoying and frustrating, I have to temper my annoyance with the knowledge that they aren’t there just to annoy me. Some are due to services, such as gas, water, electric or other utilities works, and others for major roadwork.
As I use all of those, I have to remind myself that if I want to enjoy being warm and watered and riding on decent road surfaces I must put up with some disruption. As the saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs!
I have recently had to point out to some club members who were moaning about the state of the roads here in Leicestershire, that those in many other counties are much worse, so well done Leicester- shire & Rutland County Councils!
I hope you all enjoyed the recent gorgeous warm weather that was so unusual. To still be able to cycle in shorts in late October and even into is something I could get used to, but fear will not happen again for a long time.
As I type this, the temperatures have dropped to single figures and the rain is non stop, even bouncing off the road at times. That’s more like it(?)Contents
2015 - how can it possibly compare to 2014? After the glorious Summer which stretched well into Autumn, records were set for our weather. And the crowds for Le Tour also set records; it won’t be long before it is back. What a year for cycling!
Thanks to all those who joined me on my President’s Ride. It was good to meet up with so many from around our area. I hope you enjoyed the route, the weather and the pub. I fear I was the last to leave!
The year was tinged with sadness as we lost two of our longstanding CTC stalwarts – Dennis Heggs and Bernard Brittain. We also learnt of the passing of a fairly recent Hon. Secretary Syd Smith from Lutterworth. We will remember them.
We end 2014 with the Carol Service at Shepshed. This promises to be a star-studded event, including an MP and local Councillor amongst the readers. Another brilliant job by Keith Lakin and Ray Clay.Contents
by Ray Clay
Just returned from a week's holiday in Devon to see the grandchildren for the autumn half term. They live in Dawlish, a delightful little place famous for its black swans and Gayes bakery. The bakery is to be avoided if you are on a diet. The cake portions are enormous and very reasonably priced. Despite the hills, I saw numerous cyclists and the Braking Wind cycle shop seems to be doing a good trade. The weather, for the end of October, was amazing. It was so hot with apparently record breaking temperatures. Difficult to believe that it wasn't so long ago that the railway line made national news when it was washed away by giant waves.
It was also nice weather for a change at Meriden this year. It was quite well attended and it was special since, for the first time, we remembered also the cyclists who perished in the 1914-18 great war. The band were in good form and wreaths were laid around the monument.
After 13 years, I'm ending my involvement in organising the cycle camping rally at Beaumanor Hall. I just feel I'm at an age where a younger person should take over the reins.
When I set it up, I was hopeful that it would take off. I like to think it is a successful event and it has increased in popularity each year. As an East Midlands CTC event, I've been able to get ride leaders from neighbouring counties which helps. I have managed to find a replacement for me – Ian Alexander from Derby. Keith and Jean Lakin are also cutting down their involvement. Obviously, we'll advise Ian where necessary. But I'm sure he will have his own ideas.
I very much enjoyed the recent LCA over 60s reunion lunch at Gynsills arranged by Eileen Johnson. It was well attended and it was a very nice get together particularly for some who don't ride much anymore.
We must thank David Grimshaw for his efforts in organising the David Sulley Memorial Ride. It was particularly successful this year with fine weather (not like last year) and a good turnout. David did an excellent job considering the last minute problems he had with road closures. We are now looking for another organiser for 2015 since David feels he would like somebody else to take over. If anybody is interested, please let me know.
Similarly, it would be helpful if a volunteer could be found for the 2015 “Off road Challenge” ride.
I'm sure guidance would be available for route planning but somebody to run it will be required. I shall be submitting the 2015 rides list to National Office shortly so it would be helpful to have volunteers asap.
Coming up is the slide show/photo competition. Ron Johnson is treating us to an insight to his trip to Russia which should be interesting. Hopefully, the attendance will be better than last year. If it isn't, the committee may well wonder if the effort is worth it. This year, the invitation has been extended to the residents of Kirby Muxloe to boost numbers.
Keith Lakin has just about finalised the arrangements for the carol service at St Botolphs, Shepshed at 2pm Sunday 7 th December. We do have some dignitaries attending, including Nicky Morgan, the Loughborough MP, now Education Secretary and the deputy mayor of Charnwood.
To round off the 2014 events, there is the Loughborough CTC Mince Pie Run on 21 st December.Ray Clay
by Peter Witting
“Watch where you point that thing”
The Fly6 is a new rear light which incorporates an HD camera. Useful for recording dangerous drivers behind, especially in conjunction with a headcam pointing forward. Might get the registration number of an overtaking car that then cuts you up! I’ve seen a clip during torrential rain in a time trial on a busy 3-lane road. I was impressed that most cars moved out of the cyclist’s lane very early, having seen the bright light. Just remember if you stop for a “comfort break” you might be on camera – as the rider’s wife discovered!
DI2 for Offroad
The Shimano electronic DI2 gear change, used by the top road racing professionals, is moving into the off-road groupsets. ‘So what?’ you may say, as a touring cyclist! Well, if you want the lowest gears for climbing you need the off-road gear ratios. Shimano now force you to use their off-road levers fitted to straight bars. If you want to retain the dropped bars for a range of positions when touring, Shimano’s road levers have an incompatible cable pull, so they can’t be used with the lowest off-road ratios. But if the road levers are electronic and the off-road gear changers are also electronic, they should once more be compatible. Maybe one for Chris Juden, our CTC Technical Officer, to check out before I make an expensive mistake.
Apologies to the non-techies, but this is important. Potholes can only be filled if the council know about them. An easy way to tell them is to use a smartphone with the CTC’s pothole reporting App – providing your phone is an Apple iPhone. For other phones, using the Android operating system, we still await the new App from the CTC. It is currently (October) in beta-testing, despite being promised by July. Maybe it will be released to coincide with a new smartphone in your Christmas stocking. Then there will be no excuses for not reporting dangerous potholes.Contents
Leicester Easy Riders
by David Smith
We have had some lovely weather, and our last ride in July was no exception. It was a lovely hot day when we cycled to the Post Office in Medbourne for our elevenses, sitting outside drinking coffee out of china cups, very upmarket for us. We carried on to Great Easton for a welcome drink at the Sun Inn, fully refreshed it was only a short ride to the Rockingham tea rooms for lunch. On leaving Rockingham we cycled through Cottingham and Ashley finishing up at Church Langton for afternoon tea, from there we all parted company a lovely day out.
The beginning of August found us cycling to Ullesthorpe going via Croft then on to Lutterworth. The following Sunday was torrential rain so no one ventured out, however the next two Sundays were fine and saw us all on the 24 th . Sitting in Twyford churchyard eating our lunch.
Our first ride in September we met in Oadby then cycled through East Langton and Thorpe Langton to have coffee in the deli at Great Bowden. We then carried on to Waterloo Farm just off the Brampton cycle way to have lunch. The afternoon took us to Marston Trussell where we were saddened to see that the Sun Inn was almost demolished. On through Theddingworth and Foxton to our favourite tea stop Church Langton. The rest of September's rides were well attended. Quite a few members attended the funeral of Bernard Brittain who had been a member of the Loiterers and photographic section for many years.
Thanks once again to all members for their support.Contents
South Leicestershire Autumn 2014
by Tony Davis brings us up to date with this active section’s rides
Shane Blower took the photos at Crick Wharf
Sunday 1 st August
Fourteen of us sat outside in the sun at The Moorings, Crick and nearly everyone went on to lunch at the Saracens Head at Little Brington. Only Rachel turned off early for the long ride home. This ride marked the return of Mick Harvey to Sunday club rides. Mick was one of the two founders of our South Leicestershire group. The wind had picked up a bit since the morning and it wasn’t quite warm enough to sit outside for our lunch.
Sunday 8 th August
The remnants of Hurricane Bertha arrived in the UK bringing torrential rain and high winds. Jayne, Gillian Stocks and I got our dose of exercise by going to the spinning class at Lutterworth Leisure Centre. We followed this up with a drive to The Old Vicarage at Naseby. Peter had donned traditional yellow cape and sou’wester to combat the weather. He was sitting with Mick McAteer, Colin Porter-Pountney and his wife. But Peter was the only one of us who had arrived by bike. The Old Vicarage cakes were as fabulous as usual.
Sunday 17 th August
As it was the height of the English summer I had hoped that Jayne and I could be out on our lightweight road bikes, however the forecast was for heavy showers. I was in the middle of pre-paring our touring bikes for our holidays so I had to do a little rapid fettling so that Jayne could ride her touring bike with newly fitted drop bars. Unfortunately due to the haste with which the job was completed I hadn’t got the adjustments quite right so Shane rode on to the meet at Broughton with a message to carry on without us.
Gill Stocks, Mick Harvey, Peter Witting, Shane Blower and Neil set off for coffee at Launde Abbey. The ride to Launde was quite long and lumpy which combined with the delayed start meant we arrived just before noon. Ivan and Judy had ridden direct to Launde from Leicester and had been waiting for a while. Launde Abbey proved a good late coffee/early lunch in a beautiful setting. The hills continued for our ride on to Bridge 61 where we stopped for drinks and sheltered from a short shower.
Jayne and I were away cycle touring in Croatia for the last week of August and the first week in September. We had ridden the northern end of the Dalmatian coast a few years ago and returned to ride from Split to Dubrovnik. As a consequence we missed Peter Witting’s President’s ride.
Sunday 21 st September
Another new café for Sunday riders with a visit to the café at the Nevill Arms, Medbourne. The café was full so we had to sit out in the courtyard which was warm enough if you were in the sun but chilly if you weren’t.
Sunday 5th October
This Sunday was a motor-assisted ride so that we could explore new roads and cafes. Jayne doesn’t like driving to ride a bike so we set out from home on our new to us, (1979 built) Mercian tandem to ride to the Friends Bistro at Grafton Underwood . Unfortunately this first longer ride was where we discovered what happens to bikes which hangs in a cellar for a long while.
The rear gear spring failed at East Langton, which left only the front mechanism to give two gears. A while later the cable outer for the front shifter burst leaving us with a single gear. We rode on to meet Peter, Neil, Judy and Shane at Grafton Underwood.
We decided to head direct for home and I gather the others struggled to find a pub lunch in Oundle. This was to become a theme over the next few weeks but you will be glad to hear Jayne and I have ironed out the teething problems with the tandem.
Charnwood Generals Report
(Photos by Pete Gale)
At the start of 2014 my husband Pete commented that at least this year, without the wedding to take up our time, we would have a lot more opportunity to do as we wanted. Well the summer certainly showed that up, as we did a lot of cycling, but most of it was out of county or with the Tandem club, which meant we missed a lot of the local club runs, which of course went on without us.
At the beginning of July we led the car assisted ride, starting at Somerby, visiting Wymondham Windmill for elevenses, crossing the A1 at Stoke Rochford (lovely lane but such a dangerous crossing that the Red Arrows did a fly by as we crossed to celebrate), lunch at Burton-le-Coggles and then back to Somerby via the garden centre at Cold Overton. Of course I say we led the ride, but we were the only two on it!
We then weren’t out all day with the section until the President’s ride at the end of August. Martin, Keith, Pete and I were joined by Jim Gerrard at Newbold and cycled across to Shearsby, with an elevenses stop at Thurlaston. We arrived before the main group led by Peter, but enjoyed the sunshine in the pub garden whilst we waited. Once everyone had arrived and we had caught up with those we see only occasionally we departed, leaving Jim to ride back with Norman, but collecting Mick and co. Because it was such a nice day, we decided to reward ourselves with tea and cake at Desford Tropical Bird Garden before making our way home.
In September we took ourselves off to a cottage in France near Romans-sur-Isere for some cycling up in the Vercors and the surrounding area. It was over 20 years ago accompanying Ron Johnson’s group on a cycle twinning trip between Coalville and Romans. This time we went with the tandem, and it was a bit of a relief that Pete actually liked the Vercors plateau after I had convinced him the climb up there was worth the effort. It is truly stunning and an area of France that is still relatively unknown, well worth a visit if you haven’t been.
The end of September was Keith’s ride following the Trent to Beeston Marina, then up as far as Clifton Bridge before returning down the other bank and across to Gotham. The weather was wonderful and a large empty back garden at the pub made for a very pleasant lunch.
We have had some lovely weather during October too. Last weekend was a little breezy, but after my mum (Gill Bull) provided us with a wonderful breakfast, we visited The Jubilee Inn at Newbold Verdon for lunch where Margaret and Roland joined us. We have never been there before, but they made us very welcome. It doesn’t do food (but does put snacks out on the bar), let us eat our sandwiches and I understand the beer was good too. One for your notebooks!
We had our AGM recently, and created a new post of Social Media Officer, which Stuart has taken. We now have a Facebook page, so if you would like to follow us, search friends for Charnwood CTC.
British Cycle Quest, Cornwall
by Mark Jacobson*
Not like riding the Sulley Challenge, nor like CTC day rides: the British Cycle Quest (BCQ) is more about exploring. I do this on solo trips. Each county has 6 sites to be visited, giving a total of 402 checkpoints. I started towards the end of 2011 and, having visited over 130 of these, am now doing those further afield.
In September I chose to visit Cornwall. In travelling by train, I use my Brompton, which makes that easier. Arriving at Penzance, I then rode to my first camp site near St Ives. From here I visited the sites at Zennor and Poldhu Point. Moving on fully laden, I chose an inland route to the King Harry Ferry, lunching at the Roseland Inn (and brewery!) at Philleigh en route to my next camp site at Veryan. This allowed me next day to visit the site at St Mawes, having first mounted St Anthony's Head to find a mobile signal!
Cycling these lanes out of season had not been difficult: at no time was I harassed by motorists, even when on the busier links between lanes. Next came crossing to the north coast, via Bodmin. After lunching in the town, I located the Camel Trail and took the northern arm at the junction. The sign here shows Wensfordbridge at 6 miles and Camelford at 9; the shortest distance between these two is 7 miles, by road, not by the cycle route!
The other thing I had noticed about signing on cycle routes, especially on Roseland, is that this only done in one direction! If travelling the opposite way, you have to look back at each junction in case the change of route is behind you!
I camped next at Tintagel. This was probably the most scenic part of my trip. The castle is stupendous, part constructed on the island and joined by means of wooden walkways. However, steep granite steps lead from the high cliffs to the low bridge; even when dry, cleats do slip! [Note: must use normal shoes for these searches!]
Apart from exploring the immediate locality, I cycled to Boscastle for the Quest. All traces of flooding have been removed but it easy to see the vulnerability of this narrow river valley.
Moving on that Sunday, I skirted the northern edge of Bodmin Moor to Callington for the Quest and a goodly lunch, after which I proceeded to a camp site near Trerulefoot, attempting to cross the A38 at Tideford! Non-stop traffic in both directions! Eventually a motorist stopped to allow me across the never-ending stream, thank goodness. Arriving at Trerulefoot, the indoor outlet centre was open, and I thought to inquire the exact whereabouts of my camp site. Fortunately, one assistant knew it, as it unsigned and lies alongside the dual carriageway of the A38, and we worked out a mainly lanes route to reach that, with just about a quarter mile of A38.
Next day I checked on my return train from St Germans prior to riding to East Looe for my final Cornish Quest site, found on the seafront. This is still a working port, and has incredibly narrow lanes in the older parts, where pedestrians rule and motorists just have to give way! I returned to my tent via Liskeard, where I lunched. Back at the camp site, when talking to the owner, he asked why I had cycled to Looe when there is such a good trains service to there!
For my trains I try to stick to London Midland or Virgin, both of which have no time restrictions for those using a Senior Rail Card; the route through Birmingham is priced by Cross Country, which does have restrictions. By their ticket, I could not arrive in Penzance before 5:15 pm, whereas by buying a Virgin ticket to London Euston and another for First Great Western to Penzance, I arrived at 3:15 pm on the earlier train, at a cost of 30p more! All this entailed was a cycle ride between Euston and Paddington stations.
*For those who don’t know him, Mike rides with CTC Rugby, Wednesday group as well as solo touring. The photos are all his.
Dennis passed away recently and two of his old friends reminisce about this great character
Morgan Reynolds writes...
We first met Dennis in 1961- and that is a long time ago! We moved to Earl Shilton in Leicestershire that year and Sergeant Heggs and his family lived in the Village Police House. He kept us cycling lads on our toes with our dodgy bike lights in the winter months in those early years - lights were pretty poor then, “Bobby Dodgers” we used to call them.
Dennis had always been a cyclist, as a young man racing with the Loughborough Wheelers - him living in that area. Always a big CTC man, and in the mid-Sixties Hinckley CTC group was re-formed and, as families with children, we all cycled together. Even now I am amazed at the distances we used to cover!
For a period, and probably on leaving the Force, he became dedicated to Horticulture, taking exams to further his passion. We thought at one time he was aiming to be self sufficient - not an easy thing to do.
His cycling passion took over again in the 1980s, full on with Leicestershire CTC organising, and riding, many events, becoming a keen AUDAX member, especially at long distances. He instigated our David Sulley memorial reliability rides, always held on the first Sunday in March. This event reached its twenty fifth edition in 2014.
Dennis served three years as D.A. Secretary and in 1991 two years as D.A. President. In 1997 he was awarded the CTC Certificate of Merit, quite an honour, and presented no less than by Phil Liggett of Tour De France fame!
He also had a couple of holidays cycling in Provence using the Euro Bike Bus. Beautiful cycling, good companions with Dennis finding a taste for red wine - now that’s another story!
Dennis had a very full life, well read - he loved his books and music. Chairman of the local Parish Council, and not to forget his time with the Concordia Theatre in Hinckley. He worked many hours backstage, preparing and painting scenery, etc. - all those jobs few people hear about. Then at front of house on performance nights, spick and span in full dress suit and, being a tall man, looking good!
His life had its very tragic moments, losing wife Kath and eldest son Michael at relatively early years.
About 1978 Dennis and friends reformed the Nuneaton CTC Group, the Thursday rides especially took hold, meeting for elevenses, a twenty mile ride to a pub lunch, real WOBBLY WHEELERS, and still going strong today.
Twenty or so years ago, Dennis acquired a Trike - a three wheeled bike! He made many friends with the Tricycle Association, especially trips to France and Belgium in his later years. We think he impressed the French in his blue lycra!
Seven years ago last April, Dennis had a stroke having just arrived home on his trike from a Thursday club ride. After short hospitalisation in Nuneaton, daughter June and granddaughter Drew made a home for him with them in Northampton. They have been real stars to their Dad and Grandad - not an easy path to tread, but BRILLIANT!
Dennis slipped away, aged 87 years, on 21st August 2014, just a few weeks after six of us, his friends, spent his July birthday with him in Northampton.
The cremation service was held locally at Nuneaton on 8th September 2014. All his mates appreciated the family gesture of bringing him home to his East Midlands roots, as evidenced by the colourful turnout of bikies on the day, many having travelled many miles for the farewell.
The final piece of music at the service summed up the very full life of Dennis Heggs, music made famous by one Frank Sinatra - “I DID IT MY WAY”
Peter Hopkins writes ....
Margaret and I always thought of Dennis Heggs as a Man of Iron!
I first came to know him exactly fifty years ago. In the Autumn of 1964, I was planning a week’s YH tour to the Cotswolds and Wye Valley for 2nd-year boys at Loughborough Grammar School, where I taught. Michael Heggs, who must then have been about 13, approached me to ask whether his dad could come along too. Now, when you’re taking youngsters, an adult co-leader is very valuable in case of emergencies, and I didn’t have one – so of course I jumped at this unexpected opportunity! Furthermore, there was a bonus. I knew that Dennis was not only a parent, but a policeman: what better companion could you have in the event of any problems! As it turned out, he was an excellent partner in every way, and I was so glad of his company and friendship on two successive annual school tours.
In April 1965 we led our little squad of enthusiasts south to Greens Norton YH for our first night. In those days, most of the lads – flat-barred ‘roadsters’ with chainguards, Sturmey Archer hub gears and all-steel components. Even Dennis was equipped like this. I seem to recall that, although a former tourist and time triallist, he was not at that time active in club life – and he told me he felt he might as well come along on his bike as equipped for his policeman’s beat, rather than altering it just for a week’s tour. Our last night a week later was at Leamington – a youth hostel long since closed, like Greens Norton.
Spring in 1965 was quite mild, but for our tour the following year it was much colder – and in North Wales we even had snow. For the first time when leading a school tour, I wore warm ‘legs’. But not Dennis! I clearly remember him in corduroy shorts at ‘World’s End’, on the high road between Minera and Llangollen, carefully adjusting a boy’s brakes, with deeply-banked snow piled on each side. It was the same on the high route (then still a rough track) between Bala and Trawsfynydd, known as the ‘Midnight Road’. He seemed impervious to the cold!
That summer (1966) I left Loughborough for Bradford. When I returned three years later, married to Margaret, I was delighted to find that Dennis had obviously resumed his club cycling and was now a well-respected activist in Leicestershire CTC. I remember our participating in an enjoyable BCTC heat he organised, based at Cadeby. By then he had moved from Loughborough to Hinckley, so I saw him only in DA activities, and my memories of his toughness certainly returned when Margaret and I rode a 50 miles in 4 hrs event, probably in 1970 or 71.
At that time the 100 miles in 8 hrs was run in April, concurrently with the 50. It was a bitterly cold and wet day that year. Dennis was there in his corduroy shorts. I hope I’m not doing anyone else an injustice here, but I seem to remember that, after lunch, Dennis alone chose to go on and complete the 100 miles in those bleak, wintry conditions. The rest of us chickened out!
In later years I know he was active in the Fellowship of Cycling Old Timers; Margaret and I attended a very successful Meet which he organised at Ashby De La Zouch.
In these days of posers in lycra, 10-speed cassettes, carbon fibre, hydraulic disc brakes and sophisticated suspension, Goretex and thermal base layers, I sometimes think of Dennis in the Easter snow of 1966, pedaling his faithful Sturmey steadily up Welsh passes in his corduroy shorts and flat cap. It was a different world. He gave a lifetime’s loyal service to cycling and it was a privilege to have known him and a pleasure to have enjoyed his company on those school tours nearly half a century ago.Contents
Is this the last year for the Mince Pie Meet?
Derek Willans has some serious news about this popular event.
Following a recent decision taken at their AGM, Loughborough CTC has decided that after approximately 25 years, they no longer wish to run the event after the 2014 meet.
This year’s Mince Pie Meeting will be on Sunday 21 st December, the last Sunday before Christmas, at Belton Village hall, near Shepshed. Food and drinks will be available between 9.30-12.30. Last year we had over 400 cyclists from all over the East Midlands. The raffle raised £375 for the local Rainbows Hospice which looks after sick and dying children who will never have the opportunities that we all take for granted.
Every cyclist has spare cycle parts; cranks, brakes, pedals and other accessories, new or second hand that they no longer want (but isn’t rubbish). This year I would like the people who come to write a brief description of any such item they can donate, together with their contact details on an envelope. The envelope can be won in the raffle and thus the winner gets the part you have donated. There is no need to bring large or bulky items, the winner can collect them from the donor at a convenient time. That has to be a “win-win” situation for all parties.
I would like to thank all the volunteers who make this event possible, some of whom have been doing it for 10 years. Four of these will be retiring after this year, so we really do need some new volunteers to step forward and help. If you fell you can help, please contact me, Derek Willans on 01509 842571.
If any other club or organisation would be willing to take it over, please let Derek know. If it’s another CTC group that takes it on, there is a substantial sum of money that can be handed over, but unfortunately the money can only go to a CTC group, not any other body. You wouldn’t have to follow the same formula, you can change it however you wish.Contents
from Peter Hopkins
I was very interested in your ‘How things have changed’ article about black leather shoes, plus-twos, plus-fours, etc.
I’ve often wondered whatever happened to musettes (or bonk-bags, as we called them – rather embarrassingly, on reflection!) I think they first appeared in the post-War days of the BLRC, when League men were keen to copy Continental racing fashions. In something like the Tour de France, they were originally just the small, light, cheap cotton bags in which food was picked up by riders at the feeding stations. I suspect they were really ‘throw-away’ items in those days, but for many cyclists in the UK they came to be used for carrying light kit as well as food. In effect, they became replacements for the saddlebag (which was not very cool for a racing man out training!) In Britain they gradually became bigger, and in the early 1950s I remember seeing many (home?) made out of deck-chair canvas, much sturdier than the flimsy, disposable originals! Later, musettes bearing trade-names appeared, and local bike shops had their own customised versions. Margaret and I used them for valuables and small things which needed to be handy.
I can’t put a date on their final disappearance, but in Ken Pepper’s 1972 AIT Rally based at Loughborough, they were certainly still popular: rally participants were issued with a strong, waterproof musette printed with the AIT/CTC logos, date, etc.
However, I’m amazed to see nowadays keen young men on stripped-down bikes, but wearing increasingly enormous back-packs, presumably with hydration kits in as well as spare gear. They look much heavier than the old bonk-bags and must be uncomfortably sweaty for the back. As they get bigger, they remind me of the inaccurate ‘amateur’ notion of cycling in “Carry On Camping”, showing (I think) Terry & June slogging along on a tandem with huge hikers’rucksacks on their backs and not a single bag anywhere on the tandem! I took several generations of lads YH touring over the years, and this was always their idea of how they would carry their kit. I used to point out that, with saddlebag/panniers, they had a big advantage over the hiker. My dictum was always “Let the bike do the carrying”.Contents
How things have changed.
Dave Binks looks back
Continuing the trip down memory lane about how cycling kit has changed since I started riding back in the 1960s......
Unless actually competing, race shorts were never worn. Instead, ordinary shorts sometimes with a double seat for wear resistance were the norm, but no padded insert - you just wore your cotton underpants as usual and hoped a wasp didn't fly up your leg!
Racing shorts were from knitted wool and had real chamois leather inserts. The chamois was fabulous when new, but took ages to dry and then was like cardboard. If you got wet out on the bike, the shorts would absorb so much water that they got heavy and baggy and fell down when you got out of the saddle which could prove rather embarrassing - braces were a real necessity!
Nobody had invented overshoes - you just got cold feet. If you couldn't tolerate the cold, you just got off and walked for a bit to get the blood flowing again. Long sleeved cycling tops were not available, it was short sleeves and bare arms, or a shirt and jumper or jacket in the cold.
Layers of jumpers were surprisingly effective. It wasn't that unusual to go out with 3 jumpers on!
It should be borne in mind that folks were tougher then, with very few houses having central heating. Most people grew up in a house with just a fire in the front room, nothing else. Some houses had a fire in more rooms, but not many could afford to light them all at the same time. The wealthier family might also have an electric fire somewhere, but it wasn't on for long, due to the cost of electricity. Waking up in winter with ice on the INSIDE of the bedroom windows was the norm, as was getting dressed in bed before getting up. No I'm not exaggerating.
Clipless pedals (SPD, Look, etc) were undreamt of. The only thing that held your feet on the pedal was a steel cage (the toe clip) that held up a leather strap (the toe strap) so that you could slide your foot under the strap before tightening it, and thus hold your foot on the pedal. The design of the leather strap was ingenious, requiring only a one handed pull to tighten it, and a flick of the finger tip to loosen it. This was so useful it has been a clubman's best friend ever since, and has been used to hold anything to anything, including tying bikes onto roofs. Most older cyclists will have a bundle of these somewhere and regularly use them even today.
To stop your foot sliding on the pedal a slotted plate (the cleat) was nailed to the underside of your shoe. This enabled you to claw the pedal round, rather than just downwards. If you forgot to loosen the strap when you came to a stop, you fell over, much to your pain and embarrassment and the amusement of those nearby! Track sprinters, who REALLY pulled hard on their pedals, would use two straps, and it wasn't unknown for them to screw their shoes direct to the pedal. This of course meant they had to be held up whilst they sat on the bike and tied the laces. The process had to be reversed after they had finished. A crash meant they needed assistance to get up!
The cleat was nailed in place. However, there was no adjustment once you had fixed it, so you had to be careful you got it in the correct place. This meant either getting someone to lie on the floor underneath you and mark its position on the sole while you sat on the bike with your feet on the pedals, or riding without the cleat for a while whilst the pedal left its mark on the sole. Get the length of the nails wrong and they either pulled out, snagged your socks, or even worse, stuck in your foot!
The modern narrow (700 x 23) tyre had not been invented.
The only affordable choice was the 27" x 1 1 / 4 " Lightweight (roughly 620 x 32 in today's measures). The description "Lightweight" is only a relative term; by today's standards it was not light! There were racing tubulars (“tubs” as they normally called) but you needed to be wealthy to ride tubs all the time. Note that tubular tyres are not tubeless, they have an inner tube sewn inside a tube of canvas with a rubber tread on the outer periphery. Most racing lads would ride out to the start of a race with their pair of tubular wheels (usually called “sprints”) carried in little brackets attached to the side of their forks. There they would change the wheels for the race, then change them back again afterwards before riding home, or off to join the clubrun. Very few people could afford a car, so that choice didn't exist.
There was no such thing as a folding clincher tyre but if you knew how, you could do a sort of wrestling manoeuvre with your 27" x 1 1 / 4 " Lightweight tyre and get it down to about 1/3rd of its normal diameter. But if you then let go of it before tying it with some string, it would flip open again to its full diameter. Only long distance tourists bothered carrying a spare tyre (if at all), preferring to just change the inner tube or repair the puncture at the roadside.
Rims were wider, to accommodate the wider tyres, and thus heavier. They were also either steel, which meant really heavy, and your brakes never worked in the wet; or aluminium which were lighter, but rather soft and easily dented by potholes. Most riders had flat spots in the rims where they had been dented.
It wasn't until the 1970s that the modern narrow tyre (700 x 23) was introduced by Michelin, but they hadn't realised that the rims needed a "hook" to stop it popping off the rim. I tried them, but soon abandoned them because the tyre kept coming off. It took Mavic a few years to solve the problem.
Rims have got stronger and lighter. Denting a rim is very rare now but they do wear out more rapidly due to the thinner walls.
Spokes broke all the time. On a clubrun you could bet that someone would break a spoke. The material was a type of carbon steel that was not very tough, and would break at the bend. The really basic, cheap ones were painted black, but most clubmen’s spokes were plated, the so called "rustless" coating which was a not very bright finish. However, if you wanted to look flash, you paid more and used chrome plated spokes. However, the plating caused them to break even more often!
The modern stainless steel spoke is a massive leap forwards in reliability, looks good and doesn't rust. It can even be coloured without affecting its durability.
The number of spokes in a wheel has reduced partly due to this increase in strength and also the increase in rim strength. The standard number of spokes used to 32 front, 40 rear. On tandems, the rear sometimes had 48! It actually still makes sense to have more on the rear due to the weakening effect of the dishing, necessary to accommodate the freewheel, and the extra load. 32 spokes on the front was adequate. However, this meant your local bike shop had to hold stocks of two rim drillings, so once spokes got stronger, 36 front and rear became the norm for quite a while. Some argued this was too many on the front, but not enough on the rear. However, 32 front and rear is now becoming the norm, without any real loss in reliability for all but heavily laden touring bikes. Racing bikes have even fewer, sometimes down to 18, with rather fancy patterns of spoke groupings, but actually cost more!
The basic design of the hub hasn't changed much of course, but in detail there have been changes. The axle was clamped to the forks using hexagonal nuts on a threaded axle. The nuts needed a spanner, and because the axles were a different diameter front and rear, just one size was not enough. These basic nuts can still be seen on very old or cheap bikes and also, because of safety concerns, track bikes. Later on, racing bikes used a pair of wing nuts which was still a nut, but with "wings" instead of spanner flats. The wings needed strong fingers to undo! Famously, in 1930, the Italian racing cyclist Tullio Campagnolo couldn’t undo the wing nuts with his frozen fingers in one race, leading him to invent the quick release lever which we still use today. He was obviously a better engineer and innovator than racing cyclist, because he went on to found the Campagnolo dynasty of high quality cycling equipment.
The bearings themselves have slowly migrated from the cheap but easily adjusted and maintainable cup and cone style that use loose balls, to the more expensive pre-assembled sealed bearing. The latter cannot be adjusted, but usually having a water and dirt seal, and being perfectly assembled in the factory, have a very long life. They are very much "fit and forget". The flanges of the hub were often much larger than today in an effort to make the wheel stronger, but today's stronger stainless steel spokes don't really suffer from that problem, so large flange hubs are now rare on modern bikes.
Inner tubes were made of rubber which was slightly resistant to punctures due to its flexibility and stretchiness, and supposedly gives a livelier ride, but doesn't hold the air for long, which means much more frequent inflation. Rubber perishes quite quickly.
Nowadays a synthetic rubber called butyl is nearly always used. It's cheaper and holds pressure for much longer and is less prone to perishing.
Little change here, except that the materials used have improved.
The early mudguards were steel or aluminium, later to be replaced by a type of brittle plastic that was nowhere near as crash resistant as today's. The invention of the easy release fastening at the front fork which releases before the stick or stone that has caught in the tyre, jams itself against the forks and throws you over the bars, is a good safety feature. I have twice had this happen due to this, so it's not just theory! At one time, if your bike didn't have mudguard eyes and clearance it was very difficult to fit them, but "clip on guards" have allowed even close clearance bikes to have them fitted in this wet island of ours. Unfortunately, many riders refuse to use them, preferring to get a wet backside and spray their riding companions with filthy road muck.
Many were still riding, racing winning and setting records on a single fixed gear all year round. The first ever sub 4 hours ride for 100 miles was on a single fixed gear.
Hub gears were still pretty common, and only Nottingham based Sturmey-Archer made these. The usual was a 3 speed wide ratio version, but other types could be had including a close ratio one. There were lightweight versions with an aluminium shell, and a 4 speed one was available. There were a few hub gears of the fixed type i.e. no freewheel, but these were not common.
The very early gears were of varying designs, but the modern parallelogram type beat all the others into submission and the number of gears increased from 3 to 4, then 5, then 6.
However, indexed (notched) gears had not been invented and the levers were still of the friction type, mounted on the down tube. You just had to learn how far to push/pull the lever to change gear, but this didn't take long. The early front changers ("clangers" in the slang of the time) had a rod that went up the seat tube and you changed the front ring by twisting the rod. Shimano then invented the indexed down tube lever, but most riders thought they were "only for beginners and women" and never changed over.
Some riders had gear levers fitted into the end of their dropped handlebars and they had the advantage that you could change gear without letting go of the bars, but you still had to move your position a bit to get your hand on them, and they weighed more due to the extra cables. They were very popular with cyclo-cross riders.
Bar end levers had the advantage that it was more difficult for your opponent to reach across and flick your gear lever into top gear before he sprinted away from you!
None of these early gear change levers allowed you to change gear whilst out of the saddle - a boon when climbing or sprinting.
To be continuedContents
The story of a tour in a very different location, as described by Jeff Burton, Colin Gray, Caroline & Tim Smith, Ged Talty, & Derek Willans
We stood in a queue of jeeps at the port in Hirshals; nearly everyone had had a sticker on saying ‘Iceland Adventure’. If it was going to be an adventure in a jeep what on earth would it be like on a bike? We were soon to discover that Jeff, aided by Open Street Map, would not leave us disappointed.
We arrived in Iceland by three different ways. Colin and Derek left home two days early, cycled to Harwich and then up the west coast of Denmark to meet Jeff and Ged, who took a similar route largely by train. Two days later the ferry arrived in Iceland via a scenic tour of the Faeroe Islands. Straight out of the port at Seyđisfjorđur, the road went uphill and climbed steeply past the first of many spectacular waterfalls to 650 m. Lunch was taken by a semi frozen lake before the descent to Egilsstađir where Caroline and Tim had just booked into the first night’s guesthouse. They had flown to Reykjavik and after a couple of very wet days exploring SW Iceland had taken an internal flight to Egilsstađir. For those on a budget (all of us?) the good thing about a guesthouse was that it usually came with a kitchen, so we all dashed off to the supermarket where our wallets were quickly lightened. Iceland is not cheap.
Day 2 and our ‘Adventure’ definitely started. We set out early and the first 20 km on tarmac was easy enough. Then Open Street Map had picked up a useful ‘short cut’ along the old main road. Just after crossing a deep gorge and lifting our bikes over a fence we found out why the road was closed to traffic. It was deep gravel and only just rideable. Ged took a longer route round on tarmac. Soon the tarmac finished, more or less for the rest of the day.
Initially we bowled along on a reasonably good surface with a tail wind but that finished by the sign that announced a 15% climb to 650m. This was technically none too easy; vehicles had scoured out the insides of the hairpin bends so that our bikes tended to slide inwards. The steeper sections also had the worst surfaces with lots of loose gravel. At the top the wind picked up making it very cold and we were grateful that it wasn’t raining. The decent was rougher and steeper and a couple of the group decided walking some of it was a sensible option. Jeff just bombed down as if he was on tarmac. No kitchen at tonight’s accommodation, but we found a nice, and none too expensive, café in Vopnafjorđur for dinner with just an easy 6km to our destination at Hvammsgerdi B & B.
Day 3 was significantly easier, even though there was 30 km of gravel, with only modest climbs and another tail wind. Derek, who else, collected the first puncture; a snake bite either because his tyres were not hard enough or because of the extra weight he had put on now he was not living his usual frugal bachelor’s life. The first rain of the trip arrived but because we raced to the supermarket in Porshofn (it was Saturday with the possibility of 1400 closing) we missed the worst of it. Loaded down with two days shopping (nowhere usually open on Sunday) it was a quick dash up the hill to our guesthouse.
The following day was also easy and since it was fairly short provided time out to go for a walk after replacing Colin’s rear inner tube and repairing his tyre. It had almost certainly been damaged on the steep descent on Day 2 and there was a significant split in the sidewall. The intention was to look for some interesting Basalt columns below the cliffs, but the bird life, including a close view of a puffin, and the many wild flowers were more interesting. At the end of the day there was time to look round the local ‘Folk’ museum and the Earthquake centre situated right opposite Kopasker Hostel. There had been a fairly major earthquake here in 1976, (6.3 on the Richter scale) and whilst there were no fatalities there was extensive damage to buildings. The graphic accounts of the local school children were most interesting. Again the worst of the day’s rain arrived when we were inside and no wonder it was cool; we were less than 20 miles from the Arctic Circle.
In some ways Day 5 was possibly the highlight of the holiday. Again the cycling was relatively easy, the weather was fine, and we completed the 96 km to Husavik by 1700. This meant we had time to go Whale Watching. So after a decent fish meal at 20.00 we walked to the harbour in pretty much all the spare clothing we had, climbed aboard an old trawler, and donned thick waterproof suits. All of these were needed; it was bitterly cold in a brisk northerly breeze. We saw at least two large Humpback whales at close quarters and lots of Puffins. It was past midnight before we were in bed.
Another longish day to Akureyri, Iceland’s second biggest city, also proved relatively easy especially as we were pushed along by a gentle tail wind most of the day. Rain threatened, and arrived briefly in the morning but after visiting Gođafoss, Iceland’s third biggest waterfall, it warmed up considerably after lunch. As we headed towards Akureyri the group split up. Colin and Jeff took the gravel road option, not as steep as day 2’s climb but a bit more technical. The rest took a longer route on tarmac. Both options provided superb views of the snow clad mountains over the fjord leading into Akureyri. At the hostel we had the use of a self contained ‘Summer House’ complete with a hot tub.
Day 7 definitely proved to be the ‘Big the short route to Siglufjorđur, only 16 km involved two tunnels, 7 km and 4 km in length, the alternative was 61 km, largely on a gravel road that climbed to 400 m. The ‘Headbangers’ (Colin and Jeff) won the day and everyone followed them onto the gravel. Their reward, one of the most scenic sections of the whole tour as we climbed a lush valley beside a cascading river beneath snow clad hills.
At the top we paused for breath and lent our bikes up against a four foot high snow bank. The descent was interesting too; quite steep and loose in places and a short steep hill which was a good candidate for steepest of the tour. The last 20 km along the coast road into Siglufjorđur were tough. A succession of steep ups and downs through road works was the final straw for tired legs. Colin and Derek dashed off on this section arriving at the hostel just after 1900; a useful tactic as it took the warden another 30 minutes to arrive from where ever he was staying and check us in.
The ride to Saudarkrokur the following day was on the long side but again relatively easy, and you have guessed it yet another tail wind. After a short tunnel and retracing the previous evenings ‘lumpy’ finish the weather deteriorated and waterproofs were needed at least twice so with little need to stop it was a fairly early finish. The worst of the rain arrived as some of us walked back to Mikligardur Guesthouse from the supermarket and liquor store. You can only buy 2% beer in the local supermarkets in Iceland, which tastes even worse than Budweiser. Wine and proper beer are only available from state run stores, fortunately shown on OSM (Open Street Map) as any member of CAMRA will tell you.
All photos by Colin Gray
And finally ...........
A Silly Tumble.
He was nearly home when it started to rain, hard. Not wishing to get wet in the last half mile, he quickly pulled over to the left and out his foot down onto the overgrown grass at the roadside.
But his foot went down a lot further than he anticipated. In fact, there wasn’t any ground there at all under the grass - it was a ditch!
He toppled sideways, still with one foot clipped in, sliding head first further and further down, all the time thinking “I hope there’s no water in the bottom of this”.
Eventually he came to a rest, with his feet higher than his head, staring up at the sky. After a few seconds struggle, he managed to unclip, and drag himself back up through the long grasses, nettles and weeds to the roadside, laughing his head off once he realised he wasn’t hurt.Contents
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