Monthly Archives: April 2014

First Few Days In Spain..

Postings are going to be very difficult it seems. Especially with pictures so I am thinking I will not write anymore until I am home and can edit down my photos to a suitable posting size. Then I can do proper photo galleries. So I’ll just give brief updates of progress as I go for now.
It’s been a bit too busy to find time to write much so I have kept putting it off until now, day 4.
The crossing/cruise from Portsmouth to Santander certainly made life easier and more relaxed travelling by boat rather than car. It might have been costly, but when set against the time and hassle saved with driving here. Also the the fuel costs and probably 3 overnight stays have to be taken into account as well. The ferry ‘Pont Aven’ one of Brittany Ferries ships was large and spacious with plenty of entertainment laid on. Crossing the Bay Of Biscay was no problem either, the ship was very stable due mainly to its size I guess.
The twenty four hours soon passed, having slept through eight of them. We left Portsmouth at 17:15 and arrived at Santander around 24 hours later,18:15 local time.
We made a beeline for our first nights stop at Oyambre, a 45 minute drive from Santander. Getting out of the port was a nightmare as the roads on the Sat-Nav didn’t coincide with the actual roads that were there now due to a new layout. However by simply following the truck in front we got out OK.
Once out of the port I was really grateful for the Sat-Nav as the route out of town and onto the open road was very convoluted and it would have been a nightmare trying to negotiate it with a map.
The site at Oyambre was very nice, quiet and with good ‘facilities’. The weather for the three days we were there was better than forecast fortunately and managed a trip out each day in sunshine. There was some rain but at times that it didn’t interfere with our plans.
Yesterday we moved on to Navarette in the middle of the Rioja wine region, we are surrounded by vast fields of Grapes.
Today we move on further east towards the Med.


Two For The Price Of One..

Two rides to blog about now, a ride I did on Thursday and Saturdays Team MK ride, or as much of it as I did due to reasons to be explained later.

First, Thursdays ride..

Which was in a pretty much westerly direction from my home apart from a few miles north first.  I then headed in a southerly direction before coming back in an easterly direction.  It was a repeat of a ride I did late last year.  One of those rides when my phone let me down when I wanted to take some pictures.  I left home with a fully charged phone this time.

The first picturesque place I came to that you haven’t seen before was the little village of Blakesley.  The houses are mostly made of the Northamptonshire sandstone, giving then that deep yellow colour.

This is a view up the High Street that I had just come down..


I then turned round and took this picture of the way out and the way I was heading next, straight ahead down the lane…


After that I started to head south for a while and away from the north west wind that had troubled me for the first part of the ride.  I went through the village of Slapton and then to Wappenham and left via a very short, sharp steep hill until I got to this stretch of road that I remembered from my previous visit.  I remembered it because it reminded me very much of a French country road,


It wasn’t the best of days to see it as by the time I got there the sunshine I had started out in had now disappeared and it was not only grey but cold as well, you can tell by the sky I think.

This road would make a good alternative to the club ride route for the cafe at Turweston as it avoids a long stretch of rough road and another long stretch of main road.  Hopefully next time I go on a club ride to Turweston I can guide some people down this new route.

My next photo stop was at this little bluebell wood just outside Stowe House National Trust estate.


This should be one of the signs of Spring getting well underway but it didn’t feel much like it on this visit.

I continued a bit further south to Passenham just outside Stony Stratford before heading east for home.  I added an extra little bit on through Filgrave towards the end instead of the direct route back via Weston Underwood just to make sure the distance was over 100km and I made it by 1.7km’s.

The ride details cane be found Here

Saturday 19th April, Team MK ride to The Barn at Wilstone near Tring in Hertfordshire.

I rode over to Stony Stratford for the start of the ride but soon after the start I was plagued by a mystery noise that seemed to relate to one revolution of the pedals.  I thought I got a clue when my foot pulled out from the pedal cleats on applying pressure going up a hill.   When climbing I pull up on the upward moving pedal as well as pushing down with the other foot in the normal manner.  So I thought, ahhh, the cleat clamp on the pedal was loose or the cleat on my shoe was loose.  I let the group go on when we reached Mursley and I said I would either fix it and catch with them or meet them at the cafe or else do a loop of my own.

After much fiddling, checking and tightening I started off again but the noise was still there.  I was racking my brain to try and come up with another solution. The only think I could think of was the bottom bracket bearings but there was little I could do about that until I got home.  I didn’t want to get any further away from home than I already was so I set off on a loop of my own back home and didn’t go to the cafe.

While riding my brain was working all the time for other solutions.  I took a drink of water and I suddenly remembered I had this problem once before and how I cured it, temporarily at least.  The problem on that occasion was the saddle.  It was on another bike but the same type of saddle.  The saddle supports that are part of the saddle enter into the moulding that forms part of the seat and is covered by leather.  The noise on the previous occasion was a minuscule bit of movement between the saddle frame and the moulding.  I cured it by riding through a couple of puddles, fortunately it was raining at the time, and the water splashed up under the saddle got in between the two surfaces.  Fortunately on Saturday I had two bottles with me one with a prepared rink and the other plain water.  I stopped by the roadside, upended the bike and squirted water liberally on the offending area.   While this didn’t fully cure the problem on this occasion I did at least know now what the problem was and I could live with that for the rest of the journey.  Immediately on arrival home I upended the bike and spayed the underneath of the saddle with WD40 and left it that way overnight. I haven’t road tested it yet but I am fairly sure its going to be OK when I do get the chance.

Here are the details of my journey.. click the image for detailed ride stats..

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This will be my last blog post now before my trip to Spain and France.  I will be taking my bike and the wherewithal for blogging in the form of my iPad.  I think it will work OK.  The only problem is the availability of free WiFi.  I am reluctant to pay the exorbitant prices required by some locations for the used of the connection so the posts maybe somewhat intermittent.  I will just have to see how it works out.  The only fixed dates to the trip are the ferry out to Santander out and ferry back from Calais.  Everything else will depend on the weather and whether we like where we are or want to move on.

Chilly Morning Sunshine Ride..

Todays ride took me on one of my Grafham water circuits but I opted out of the extra loop that would have taken me to the cafe there.

It was a bright sunny morning with a mainly easterly wind which was the deciding factor in the route I would take.  I opted for shorts and short sleeves today and I fairly soon realised I should have had some long sleeves or arm warmers.  My legs kept pretty warm as they were working but I had cold arms.  I told myself it would warm up soon, but it didn’t.

I set out easterly towards Sharnbrook and then headed for Souldrop, only to see a sign saying the road was closed for a few days because of works to the railway bridge. Ever the optimist I took a chance and still headed on up towards Soudrop, hoping that there would be sufficient room for me to get through.  Sure enough there was more than enough room with just passable barriers either side of the bridge and nothing in between.

Next port of call was the village of Knotting, which is reached via the hill I call ‘Knotting Hill’ (Notting Hill, the place in west London and location for the film of the same name.. get it ?)

Start of 'Knotting Hill'

Start of ‘Knotting Hill’

The church at Knotting has a clock with only one hand, which I assume is an hour hand but whenever I go past its never pointing at the right hour.  I fact I am not even certain that it moves but I can never remember where it was pointing when i last passed it, except that I know its never right.

Knotting Church Clock

Knotting Church

Knotting Church

I pressed on through more villages until I reached and passed through the picturesque old village/town of Kimbolton, home of Kimbolton School, a big public school.

At Great Staughton I changed direction finally and had a tailwind and I took this picture as I entered the old part of the village just off the min road.


I took a bit of a diversion from my normal route later at the village of Keysoe.  Instead of turning right there and heading across to Riseley I carried on for another couple of miles and then turned right to Thurleigh and through to Milton Ernest.  At Radwell I took pictures of the river as it is now..



Compared to how it was a month ago in an earlier post when it was all over the flood plain..


The flooded flood plain, the pictures above were taken much further along in front of the sky line at the bridge

Things are much calmer now.

Here is a view from the top of the hill at Chellington showing the church and the landscape also in the background you can just see Harrold church.  It was at the highest point I would achieve on my way home from now on.


Here is a view closer to home of Olney across the meadows and the River Great Ouse, taken from the road between Clifton Reynes and Emberton on my way home.


Olney across the meadows

It was a ride of just over 80km, nice riding weather, except a bit too chilly but I enjoyed it very much and didn’t even look at my average speed until I got home and was pleasantly surprised.  Ride details and map can be found here..  I guess I am quite lucky to live in such pleasant countryside, with plenty of route options and especially so when the sun shines.


Team MK 'C1' Club Ride To Castle Ashby

My first proper club ride for some weeks, discounting last weeks ride from North Crawley, which I am sure will be repeated.  Also my first club ride since the official splitting into two groups.

I picked the C1 group option which had a 9:30 start.  It was a similar size group to last weeks ride, I’m not sure if there were 11 or 12 of us but it was just the right size.  Large enough to have enough people to share the work around among those prepared to do it but not so large that it was unmanageable or unruly.  Everybody was within calling distance from the front or the back.

Click Image for detailed ride stats.

Click Image for detailed ride stats.

My route looks a bit strange on the Garmin plot.  I rode out from home and then we came back through Olney and then Harrold and Bozeat and round to Castle Ashby.  I have usually done the ride the other way around so it was a bit different to do it this way round.  Our destination was the  The Buttery Restaurant .  We went inside as it was quite cool outside.  I think we may have destroyed a few peoples quiet Saturday morning coffee as we kind of filled the place up.  We are always welcomed there with big jugs of water and glasses as soon as we arrive while they take our orders. They also give a discount to cyclists and walkers among others so thats a bit of an added bonus!  After some pleasant chat, a large black coffee that was refilled for free and a largish chunk of carrot cake we were off again.  Looking at the calories burned on the ride I think I might just have beaten those consumed with cake.. !!

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The Buttery Restaurant, Castle Ashby

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Carrot Cake.. I didn’t eat all of this, just one segment.!

It was a cruel restart as we went back down the hill that we had just come up to get to the cafe, as if we were not cold enough already and then straight into the climb up Whiston Hill from the south side, the first of three fairly stiff climbs in fairly close succession.  Next was the hill up into Cogenhoe and the one up from Great Houghton.  All of them are not straightforward as they have varying gradients throughout the climb, messing about with cadence a bit.

Once they were out of the way though it was pretty easy going apart from a headwind approaching Salcey Forest and then on through to Long Street at Hanslope.  Nearly home now though with a  tailwind to Gayhurst and then a slight diversion via Tyringham and Filgrave back to Olney.  This made the total distance up to 102km, a very nice ride with good company, most enjoyable, even with the hills !!

A Wide Ride Around Milton Keynes..

Today was too nice not to go out for a bike ride, I wanted to do around 80km (50miles).   Seeking inspiration I looked through the various routes I have created in Garmin Connect, they call them courses though.  I elected to go on this wide rural loop around the outside of Milton Keynes.  I knew the route so there was no need to load the route on my Garmin, just get it fixed in my head off I go.

Clothing wise it was a tough choice, the temperature when I started was around 10c but expected to get up to around 17c later.  I decided on short sleeves with arm warmers that I could take off later and 3/4 length bib tights, still intent on keeping my knees warm.

The first stretch was into the south west wind so I was going to have a head wind for almost the first half of the ride.  Its quite an undulating route though so it wasn’t going to be easy anyway.  I set off on the familiar route to Stony Stratford, the venue for club ride starts, this time I took the country route option instead of the easier but not so nice route through Newport Pagnell.

At Stony Stratford I veered toward a southerly direction so still with a headwind.  After I reached Stewkley I turned left and headed east, a tail wind at last.  It was then that I came across this field of rape in full flower, the first big block of yellow I have seen this year.

Panoramic view, its not really a corner just the effect of the camera  rotating

Panoramic view, its not really a corner just the effect of the camera rotating

Rape Seed Field

Rape Seed Fields

The road ahead and you can see another field of yellow away in the distance

There is a lot of rape grown around here so it is quite prolific for a month or so.  Its then followed by the blue of Linseed although that isn’t quite so prolific in these parts.  Then even later there are big splashes of red around the countryside from the wild poppies.

After leaving the fields behind I carried on down into the valley to The Three Locks pub where I crossed the canal over the old bridge from where I took these photos.

This canal side  pub is called 'The Three Locks', but I count more.. ?

This canal side pub is called ‘The Three Locks’, but I count more.. ?

Closer view of The Three Locks

Closer view of The Three Locks

After this the going gets tough as its straight into a big hill up to Great and Little Brickhill.  I had barely started when a cyclist came past me when i was about 200 meters into the climb on a 10% gradient.  he came past so fast that his tyres were making that ‘whooshing’ sound you get ties are pumped to high pressure and going very fast.  I reckon he must have been going at least 30kph (19 mph’ish) he was soon out of sight as I wound my way up the hill.  I think he might have been after a Strava personal best for the climb.  There is a level bit before you get to Great Brickhill then its up again, down a bit and then up some more to Little Brickhill.

After passing the corner of Woburn Golf Club there is a long descent of a mile or so down into the town of Woburn.  On leaving the town a cattle grid is crossed as the road passes through some big wrought iron gates into the ground of Woburn Abbey, the family home of the Duke of Bedford.  After passing through the trees you come out into the parkland where I espied these handsome fellows with their new antlers.

Deer roaming in Woburn Abbey park, open to the road that runs through the estate, motorists beware !!

Deer roaming in Woburn Abbey park, open to the road that runs through the estate, motorists beware !!


20140409-IMG_1171I was into the last third of my ride now with a mostly following wind as I headed back up across country to home.  The ride was a shade over the 80km but I was still feeling pretty good anyway.  Ride details can be found here if you are interested



Recent Rides Catch Up…

Two rides to catch up with, one from Thursday 3rd April, which as I recall was a much cooler ride than the previous two and not without incident and also todays club ride.

Thursday was at least a dry day but without sunshine.  It was very dull and misty and as I said earlier, cooler.  It was back to arm and leg warmers.  I am not sure if it was just the weather making it misty and keeping the sun out or if it had some of dust from the Sahara desert which has been polluting the skies in the south east of the UK due to the prevailing south east winds.  It has definitely been bad in London so it gets lots of coverage on the news!!  Apparently because the winds have been from the south east for a change it has been blowing pollution over the English Channel from France.  Anyway for whatever reason it has definitely been murky for a few days.

I had planned to take a few photos on my ride today, with a few locations ear marked for a good picture.  However, once again the photography gods and been at work and foiled my plans.  I just managed to take this shot of Towcester racecourse in the distance, through the hedge, and the gloom which is quite apparent here. This was taken early afternoon so the light should have been good.  I will take another when the weather is better so that you can see the difference.

Towcester Racecourse In The Gloom

Towcester Racecourse In The Gloom

However just as I was preparing to take another picture of this scene without the hedge I got a message on my phone to say it was unable to take the picture because there was no room!!  So that was my photography finished for the day, I wasn’t even expecting to see this one until I looked when I got home.  Further investigation was required.

Pressing on with my ride I was nearly finished with the headwinds just after this picture was taken so I speeded up a bit, knowing I wouldn’t have to be stopping for photos.  Hmmm.. not for photos maybe but there other hindrances ahead.  I was going at speed down a long gradual descent, only about 1% or 2% at the most but i was touching almost 50kph at times, really enjoying myself when I felt the chain seize up.  My first thought was it had come off and was trapped between the chainring and the frame.  This was not the case though.  By now I had dismounted and was inspecting the rear deraiileur area.  I couldn’t move the chain by turning the pedals.  First I thought maybe the cage was bent or something or the chain had come off and trapped itself between the rear cassette and the frame.  While inspecting this area I felt the larger sprockets move as I touched them, this gave me a vital clue, the cassette sprockets were loose.  What had happened was that the locking ring that holds the cassette on had come unscrewed until it was touching the wheel dropouts on the frame and could go no further.  To repair this properly you need the tool shown in the photo below, which I had in my toolbox at home and you can see in use in this picture.

Shimano 105 Cassette and the lockring tightening tool in use.

Shimano 105 Cassette and the lockring tightening tool in use.

I took the wheel out and tightened the locking with just my finger tips.  This was OK for about a mile when I got the same symptoms again.  Obviously some improvisation was required to get it tighter.  I got my multi-tool out and the little screwdriver tool ready for use.  I put the point of the blade against one of the little serrations on the inside of the ring hit the multi-tool with handily sized rock to twist it round and get it tight.  Its not quite as easy as it sounds but I managed to get it tight enough to last for the rest of the journey home.

Ride details here

So, two problems to sort out on arrival back at home, the phone and tighten the cassette block.  I had actually noticed that my phone was hot when I picked it up to take with me when I left home.  Apparently for some reason or another it had decided to wirelessly synchronise itself with my computer and fill all the available space up with photos from my computer so this was easily overcome, mass deletion!  The cassette was also easily fixed by tightening it with the appropriate tool as shown above.

Now moving on to todays club ride.  This was something of a landmark as there was  a new option to start a ride from North Crawley as well the regular rides from Stony Stratford.  North Crawley is much nearer to me than Stony Stratford so a good option.  Also the possibility of some different routes and new cafes.

In my opinion the new experiment was a success.  There were twelve of us for the ride and the riding was steady and orderly despite the varying experience of the riders.. This makes for relaxed riding.  We set off for a cafe at Southill, not far from Biggleswade and although they were not new roads to me as I have covered pretty much every bike ridable road within about a 30 mile radius of my home on my solo rides.  However riding in company made it seem different and less effort.  Definitely worth repeating although I understand its not going to be a weekly option, for now anyway.

My Garmin ride details can be found here.