29 Feb 2016

29th February 2016 I propose... Haaris or Hair Ice be better known.

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Monday 29th February 2016. 8F, -2C, hard white frost, no wind, distant mist clearing, heavy overcast. The forecast for the next week doesn't look much different. Frost every night and a bit of snow between sunny periods, now and then.  Have you ever wondered about time? Why is it wasted on the young? Who get to use great chunks of the valuable stuff just wishing it away. While the elderly have the time rug whipped out from under them as it accelerates towards infinite speed and the inevitable buffers.

They say you can't put a wise head on young shoulders but there isn't much wisdom in old age these days. It's mostly about surviving the slings and arrows of outrageous youth as we take the blame for mucking up their world. Not that we had much choice in the matter. We can only fall on our swords for having voted for the lamest bunch of self-promoting ducks in the queue for the musical chairs on the gravy train. 

What brought this on? The idea that on a particular day of, only one year in four, a woman may propose to a man. So, once every four years, a woman has a "sort of right" to do what men can do every day of the year, every year. In other words, women have  only 1/1461 as much "right" to propose as any common, or garden, man. It doesn't seem much of a reward for "burning their bras" half a century ago. It took that long for a popular newspaper to stop showing the results of that burning!

Moving swiftly on... the firm ground offers new route options usual denied to me in my desire to avoid mud collection. It's bad enough gathering mud on my tyres from just riding down the drive. That permafrost has a lot to answer for! Until you have experienced it you have no idea what you are missing. I walked the length of the more distant woods and back along the main road. Lots of Yellowhammers sharing the felled hedges with Chaffinches. Oh, and a road kill robin. Saw strange, snow white fungus[?] or [rather] Haaris-Hair Ice on fallen branches in the woods. So both ice and fungus in fact. I had never heard of it, until today.

Ice Formations Diurnal Freeze-Thaw Cycles

Mystery of HAIR ICE solved: Strange white frozen growths found on trees are engineered by fungus | Daily Mail Online

Mid afternoon shopping loop. Going well but it felt very cold. 20 miles.



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28 Feb 2016

28th February 2016 Visibility impaired.

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Sunday 28th 32-38F, 0+3C, dead calm, thick mist. Yet again the nearest buildings are completely invisible. The promise of sunshine has yet to be fulfilled by a wide margin. But yet, the sky has suddenly turned pink and it is snowing monochromatically into our misty, garden trees!

The high humidity adds another layer of discomfort to the cold. I tried to work in the shed at 40F, with 36F outside, yesterday. My hands were soon aching from handling cold metal despite wearing "thermal" rubber, mechanic's gloves. Now the mist has cleared remarkably rapidly so I had better take the binoculars after all.

I walked an equilateral triangle via two quiet lanes joined by a main road. The mist was very patchy and seemed to come and go without having visibly moved. I took thirty-three photos in nearly two hours as I tried to capture the moody lighting and lack of colour. At times the distant woods were lit with a magical white glow. And, in a few moments more, were lost to view again. Walking entirely on asphalt is hard work and my legs were aching towards the end. I have walked further and longer on rough ground and returned refreshed. The wind is still almost nonexistent so a ride is indicated. But first, I had to dismantle and clean the sensor of fluff on my Lumix TZ7 camera. Another roundtoit, I'm afraid, I have been putting it off for months. 

My brother has kindly sent me some fur-lined, handlebar mitts/muffs. Mitts for cycles and muffs for motorcycles according to Google image search. Obviously intended for straight-ish handlebars I wasn't sure they would fit my compact, dropped bars. But fit, they did, with a little experimentation. I was able to insert my hands effortlessly and apply the brakes and change gear. The webbing straps kept the mitts secure.

Ideal for those 5F, -15C rides when cabin fever has long set in. I'm sure they will be very cozy indeed. This reminded me of the agonies I went through on my first tricycling winters. Back then I was wearing only £5 supermarket "skiing" gloves. Usually marked 'Thinsulate' anyone wearing those on icy mountain slopes would soon be hospitalized with frostbite!

I seem to remember these handlebar mitts from my childhood. Were they a feature of Scott or LE Velocette motorbikes? Did police motorcyclists or telegram postmen use them? A Google image search shows that they are still far more popular than I would ever have imagined. Which is a popular vote of dissatisfaction with glove manufacturers.

Mid-afternoon ride chasing the sun's shadow uphill. No wind to speak of but still quite chilly. It finally cleared up late afternoon. Only 10 hilly miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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27 Feb 2016

27th February 2016 Misty? Driving? Whatever.

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Saturday 27th 32F, 0C, almost dead calm, very misty. Houses only 100 yards away are barely visible outlines. With light winds and some sunshine promised it would be an ideal day for a ride. I don't fancy my chances given my daily observations of drivers who completely ignore reduced visibility and speed illegally. Just as they do in all conditions. It is certainly brightening noticeably so the sun may burn off the mist by the time I am ready for a tootle.

A driver deliberately sped through a village yesterday where cyclists, including myself,  have to cross the road to reach the single, two-way cycle lane. He caught me halfway across the road and shared a a stolid stare without so much as lifting his foot from the idiot pedal. There are 50kph [30mph] 'lollipops' in both directions for literally miles along this stretch.  This is the exactly the same, blind village corner and dangerous crossroads, where I saw an ashen-faced girl sitting in a car which had been literally cut in half length-ways in a multi-vehicle "accident" inside a miles long, 30mph zone. No police? No cameras? No crime? No casualties?

Yellowhammers were chasing each other along the field hedges obviously with spring in mind. Some mists just make everything look out of focus. This was one of those. Partial visibility had almost doubled by the time I had finished my extended loop through scruffy woods. Have you noticed how much damage horses and ponies can do to grass? One return trip up the track to the woods and it is ripped to shreds! Back on the road and many cars were carrying smart MTBs to a competition in some woods not far away. Yes, I can actually find something in Danish, online! Though they usually insert incongruous links making it  more of a anti-decraption exercise than a simple search. I was quite tempted to head over there but decided against it when the last race start was already over by 11am.

An SUV passed me being driven slowly and sensibly. I was about to ring the Guinness record book people when it suddenly swerved twice, right across the double white lines! On a long straight at low speed! Obviously still too drunk to read the speedometer or to see the double white lines without a white stick. As, no doubt, was the young women who managed to put her car completely in the opposite lane on a local, blind corner, again with double white lines. How, on earth, do these morons survive? The roads are not a playground, fools! Deaths and injuries are not just another statistic! You do make me cross! 

I rode a hilly loop to get some more miles in. The lanes were very quiet and the villages deserted. Though not so the main roads I needed to reach my distant exit. I felt sorry for all the birds of prey perching in the wayside trees to save energy when food is scarce. They kept moving along the road and finding another perch only to see me trundling underneath them again. A black Scotty chased me up a steep hill on a quiet lane. I was only managing 7mph @ 100rpm in bottom gear and it was catching me quickly despite barking and howling continuously.  I wish I had that wind! Once I made the summit it hadn't a chance of keeping up but it must have covered a good half mile from home before finally giving up.

I spotted one of my favourite Corny dark chocolate muesli big bars on a supermarket checkout so that kept me going until lunchtime. It's becoming a bit of a habit but they aren't half tasty! Best eaten slightly warm to avoid breaking one's teeth in chilly weather. I just bung the bar in my back pocket and they soon become easy to chomp in big chunks. And no, I am not being subsidized by the weapons grade, sugary products producers. Corny just seem far better value than the bike shop energy bars and don't repeat on me. Mind you, you'd need a Bijou Camper 'Longflop' to carry more than half a dozen. Burp! 25 miles.

Sunday 28th 32F, 0C, dead calm, thick mist. Yet again the nearest buildings are completely invisible. The promise of sunshine has yet to be fulfilled by a wide margin. But yet, the sky has suddenly turned pink and it is snowing monochromatically into our misty, garden trees! The high humidity adds another layer of discomfort to the cold. I tried to work in the shed at 40F with 36F outside. My hands were soon aching from handling cold metal despite wearing "thermal" rubber, mechanic's gloves. Now the mist has cleared remarkably rapidly so I had better take the binoculars after all.

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26 Feb 2016

26th February 2016 Watch TV or go to prison!

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Friday 26th 31-37-41F, -1+3+5C, almost still, white frost, clear, with bright sunshine on the way. Another promising day. Two snippets of Danish news for the curious about the "happiest people on Earth" [Outside of North Korea of course.] The right-wing farming package, to allow farmers to shit up the countryside even more, is now close to causing a general election. The muck-spreading will also lead to an explosion of nettles. How utterly and entirely appropriate! ;-)

Some of the forest tracks are almost grown together in places despite the deep tyre tracks. Presumably the forestry vehicles just brush through. While I have to duck and even take detours just to get though without ripping my clothes on sharp thorns.

The second item will make even hardened communist dictators like "Putin the Terrible" take a sharp intake of breath: Three out of four Danes have to pay for commercial TV channels they never, ever watch. A TV "package" is a condition of home or flat ownership in many cases. We aren't just talking about the second highest TV License fee in Europe [after Switzerland] but compulsory commercial TV packages! Even old people's homes charge over £40, $56US [equivalent] per month, every month, to supply TV to every resident regardless of income status. The charge stands even if the elderly person is completely senile and they never watch TV! An impoverished, elderly person can actually be thrown out of their retirement home for not being able to afford the compulsory commercial TV pack! Only in Denmark! 

My walk extended to nearly an hour and three quarters today thanks to taking a long loop in the forest. I saw a splendid Nuthatch, bright, raucous Jays and a busy Coal tit. It is never really quiet in the woods even when there are no nearby roads. There is a constant background music of bird calls and warning beeps. The plaintive mew of the birds of prey is as frequently heard as the woodpecker's deep rattle.

I can never quite capture the warmth, beauty and uniformity of the fallen beech leaves on the forest floor. This bank is furrowed by a narrow stream and always seems to catches the play of light on its gentle contours.

The warmth of the low sun was as remarkable as it was bright. My early footsteps were met by hard-frozen ground. Later, the sun had already penetrated deep into the bare soil. To produce a foot mud bath when I tried to take a shortcut along the field tracks. Despite my steadiness of tread I was barely able to walk on the slippery mire! I now need a shoulder bag to carry my jacket, hat and gloves when it becomes too warm.

Quite a chilly crosswind on my late morning ride. I watched as a larger bird of prey chased another across the road causing a white van to brake hard. A lady cyclist asked me about the trike an commented on the fine weather. She seemed surprised when I said it was quite heavy and unstable. Legs much better today. I even remembered and enjoyed my forgotten Corny muesli bar. 14 miles.

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25 Feb 2016

25th February 2016 Eight deer! What's that, dear?


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Thursday 25th 30-40F, -1-4C, white frost, clear skies and bright sunshine with potential wintry showers.  The permafrost was back making progress considerably easier if a bit noisier. You should have heard the racket I made crunching through dead grass and last year's beech leaves! My usual climb was helped by the firm ground and new weed growth. I would not have expected such rapid improvement after the bare mud left by forestry vehicles. There are several springs on the climb which usually make the going almost marshy.

As I exited the woods I disturbed five deer. Three headed one way the other two quite another. A few yards later I came over a brow and disturbed three more. They trotted off across three fields, stopping regularly to stare back at me. I retaliated by staring at them through my binoculars. They seemed quite confused by the fallen hedges. Presumably they had accustomed squeezes when the hedges were still standing. This is the most deer I have ever seen on a single walk but it must be many months now since I last saw a hare. Though I do see their droppings quite regularly. So they must be temporarily nocturnal rather than merely shy. This is probably due to the complete lack of cover at this time of year. Most crops hardly manage a semblance of sparse grass over the winter.

An emergency vehicle was playing its siren as it sped along the road hundreds of yards before I reached there myself. It was fascinating to hear the effect on the sound as it approached and passed farm buildings. The westerly winds are supposed to peak at only 20mph today. I had better make the most of it!

The forest bank where the trees were thinned out is recovering from the heavy-footed forestry vehicles. This space always used to be full of birds enjoying the scrubby cover.



Rode to Assens to shop. Cold headwind going but better coming back. I was chasing a chap with white hair on a roadster and struggling to make contact. Suspecting him of concealing an electric motor, I finally caught up and overtook on a descent. We exchanged grunts of recognition in passing. I am definitely noticing my lack of miles this year. At least my back isn't aching. Climbing out of the saddle is becoming a habit to stop my quads from burning. I am torn between gracefully pulling a high gear and quickly running out of steam. Or dancing on the pedals, in a silly low gear, like a small child. The rearward saddle position is certainly helping my style. I took a chocolate muesli bar and forgot to eat it. So I felt as if I was verging on an emaciated POW inmate by the time I reached home.

I spent some time in the afternoon resetting the gear stop screws and adjusting the brakes. It was embarrassing to have the chain drop right over the 36t sprocket when I most needed it. It is impossible to lift a loaded 2WD trike or recover the chain by pedaling at a standstill. I am too mean with myself to turn around and descend just to fix such private matters. I might be overlooked!

So the clown on a tricycle quickly degenerates into a clown pushing a tricycle. I have absolutely no illusions as to my social status amongst the plebs. Satisfying myself, instead, with waves and grins from fellow cyclists to maintain the inner illusion of serious intent. Cycling suits a loner like myself.  Cycling in social groups is too tempting to the rabid competitor in me.I swear I was a bike chasing terrier mutt in a past life.

I had dropped the genial but tiny, split cable clamp on a Tektro brake and had then found only one half. Having gently worked myself towards turning a new one on the lathe the Head Gardener spotted a shiny object lying in the gravel outside the shed. What sort of fool has coarse gravel right near where he works? Don't answer that! I was going to pave the area with more slabs but the project became just another roundtoit. Everything is a catch 22 where I am concerned. You can't just have slabs without leveling [hard frozen] ground and fetching and compacting heavy sand, stabilizing/anti-weed material and all that sort of thing. If I did have slabs they would only collect birch seeds and twigs and would have to be swept regularly. The broom is on the other side of the yard. Life is short enough already and I have more than enough projects without branching out into landscape gardening. 19 miles. 

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24 Feb 2016

24th February 2016 White van man joins the club.

o\oo
Wednesday 24th 32-37F, 0-3C, breezy, skies clearing to bright sunshine. Showers possible. A Greater spotted woodpecker was battering one of our birch trees as I donned my walking boots. I soon had my jacket fastened up around my chin in the bitterly cold wind. A thin skin of ice on the ponds and puddles, with white frost in the shadows. Though the permafrost was gone today and I son had muddy boots the size of snowshoes. It, or rather I, had warmed up by the last leg in bright and breezy sunshine.

Wind-powered church? Well, surely it's better than being natural gas powered? Don't even get me started on the fact that they centrally heat churches even when they are empty from one month to the next. In Denmark the poor can claim money from charity to pay for confirmation parties, evening dresses and limos. No, I didn't believe it either. Aside from burials, weddings and confirmation most churches are so little used that one spokesperson suggested knocking them down to stop them falling into the wrong hands! I presume he meant nightclubs and strip joints. Many rural churches date back to 1200 or even earlier. They were probably sites of pagan ritual or burial mounds before that. Perhaps they should resurrect the standing stones instead? It would be churlish to suggest they be turned into the now absent, village shops. One hundred years ago many villages had a score or more of local businesses. Now even the Coops have gone to the spread of discount supermarket chains. Some of which are in serious financial trouble! What goes around, comes around. 

I rode off after morning coffee and rolls straight into the wind. It was eye and snot-wateringly cold! I got a bit fed up fighting for 12mph as it started raining. So I took the hilly detour through the forest for some shelter. Coming back, a huge cloud came up over the horizon and started spraying me with sharp hail. I was chasing waves of bouncing fine hail on the road at 20-23mph as it was coming at me from all directions. I felt sorry for an old lady walking the lane with her Zimmer frame as hail bounced all around her. She seemed to be leaving the village so may have had to do a quick U-turn. A pause for shopping at 15 miles allowed the first, big, wet cloud to pass over.

Then, as I climbed my way back home another vast cloud covered half the sky ahead of me. The distant scenery disappeared under a grey mist of falling hail as it crossed the sky in checkerboard sheets. Fortunately I never quite managed to get under it though the roads were soon sopping wet.

A moron in a white van blasted an old chap in his car for pulling out of a crossroads in front of him. The poor old devil in the car was so shocked he pulled straight into the opposite lane to avoid being rear-ended! Fortunately there was only myself approaching uphill in that lane. Had the van been doing the 30mph, legal speed limit there would have been no problem at all. He was in good company. Over 90% of all drivers completely ignore the speed limit signs on the descent to a dangerous, staggered, steeply sloping crossroads with a sharp, blind corner into a village. So commonplace was speeding in the following village that they actually had to increase the speed limit to avoid 98-99% of drivers breaking the law. Now, almost nobody sticks to the 60kph [37mph] speed limit but add the compulsory [in Denmark] 15-40mph extra according to personal taste. Fortunately, for them,  there is nowhere to hide for the police camera vans. 22 miles, not quite out.

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23 Feb 2016

23rd February 2016 Practice your smile.

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Tuesday 23rd 36F, 2C, breezy, sky clearing. Some sunshine with wintry showers possible. I really must make an effort to tune the gears. I could still see a slight kink along the chainstay cable run from my pull-ratio arm clamps. The problem with a kink is that it straightens out under the increased tension of an upward gear change and then relaxes to normal tension. So the indexed change may go well but then the RD moves over slightly as the kink reforms under the more relaxed tension. The kink effectively shortens the cable. Logic suggests that I just go out and buy a new cable. Yet so few Danish dealers have anything to do with Campagnolo. Buying a single cable means postal charges. Which I have always resented if they form a large fraction of the purchase price.

Complaining about postal charges is completely illogical, of course. I see it as a natural part of our money saving regime to have something left over for "toys." Driving the 20-odd miles to the city to buy a cable would be about as expensive in fuel. Few consider the costs in traveling time and negotiating the stop-start traffic system. I'd rather ride there and call it a decent ride even if it takes much longer. The exercise will be good for me and help to prolong my active life. So the risks of sharing the roads with traffic have to be compared with the risks of early death through inactivity.

The news seems to have been full of reported deaths of celebrities recently. Perhaps the news media is simply reporting more deaths because people like Bowie have recently lost the battle for life regardless of his lifelong personal habits. How many impressionable teenagers started smoking because they saw a pop idol smoking in public? Celeb status has its responsibilities in exchange for its bountiful rewards. The bad news is that great wealth may help longevity but it can't keep you alive when a health disaster crashes into the buffers.

Nor does our celebrity status make any of us irreplaceable. However much we might fondly hope the converse. As we turn up for work every day to fight for recognition and status in our very, very small worlds. Be gentle and be kind to others. Your sadism is as utterly pointless as your own inflated valuation of your jobsworth. A takeover, changing market share, or technological advance, can sweep it all away in a moment. To leave nothing visible behind except weeds. Where are the vast empires of past industry now? Where are the small tyrants who made life hell for their colleagues and subordinates? Tyrannizing worms? You only get one go at life. Don't waste it just because everybody else does. Smile often. Somebody else might need one far more than you could ever imagine.

I walked along the marsh and then took the lanes back home. Only three geese were visible and took off noisily in admonition of my intrusion. Constant sunshine was only slightly spoilt by a chilly wind. Very wet underfoot but it helped to clean off yesterday's mud.

Just a short ride between showers in the afternoon. Strong headwind coming home. Only 7 miles.

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22 Feb 2016

22nd February 2016 Hail floats.

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Monday 22nd 35-38F, 2-3C, breezy, rather cloudy but with clear areas of sky. Sunshine and showers promised with 15m/s, 30mph gusts later. My tinnitus has turned to white [pink] noise instead of a deafening whistle. Ever onwards.

I'm not sure exactly why but I find this particular landscape immensely satisfying. Sometimes it is decorated with scruffy cattle but not today. Not in midwinter. The scene has a timeless quality yet it is remarkably difficult to stop and enjoy as the heavy traffic thunders by. Is such a scene desirable as a private view from a window? Or does it quickly grow stale? I know I could not live just there however much I was paid. Nor do I care how much the "property" might be worth. Traffic is never a blessing except perhaps to the elderly lacking any other stimulus. I could no longer live in the city. Multi-million homes utterly blighted by traffic. Further blighted by lawnmowers, shouting yobs, dogs and sirens. A worse, non-living hell on earth would be hard to imagine.

I once lived on the edge of a city which stretched out below me. There was never a time, day or night, when the sound of distant traffic ceased. Does one ever stop listening to a local weir or waterfall? Or to the sound of the waves? Can one become benignly deaf to traffic through long exposure? Does the constant movement and unwanted sounds ever become quiet in the mind? A city is a wonderful convenience for one reason alone. It keeps the hordes well away from the peace of my countryside. Where even a clangorous church bell is welcomed only for its great distance. To remind me how incredibly fortunate I am not to be blessed with enough wealth, nor self-importance, to want to live in a city. Crushed together, cheek by jowl, with all and sundry.

Traffic and car ownership are a collective insanity. The big con, that expensive, individualized, personal transport offers privacy, the utmost convenience and wind-in-the-hair independence. One which, in reality, provides an average speed slower than any jogger or elderly cyclist while offering only shelter from the rain.

Escape to "the countryside" is to sit in an even longer queue. With slightly larger gaps between vehicles usually all carrying only one person. Commuting is the main purpose of car ownership. Diving every day to one's place of employment. Probably the last place on earth you would ever go unless you were rewarded for turning up. So, basically, you are paying for  a car to go to work to earn enough to pay for a car...?

An utterly selfish system of transport which provides the completely insane idea that overtaking one vehicle [usually illegally] will offer you some new-found freedom of the road. When, in reality, your "dice with death" only breaks the monotony of staring at the back of the same vehicle for a moment longer. To be instantly replaced with yet another. Do people speed for excitement? Or just to get the damned journey over with? What does that say about car ownership and the mobility devices on offer?

You think your car expresses anything about you? Try standing next to a manufacturer's storage yard. Your "uniquely yours" choice of accessories and finishes [at even greater expense] is almost indistinguishable from any other, or a far worse choice! Your choice of vehicle is exactly as prescribed by your income and social class. Where is the freedom of choice in that?  Keep taking the blue pill. The nurse will be along any moment now. ;o))

My walk in bright sunshine and an eye-watering wind was interrupted by hail. I could see the huge cloud coming over the horizon with its wet skirts dragging darkly across the landscape. It seems I might escape as it passed further north of me and a strange fog obscured my familiar rural views. Soon it was beating me about the ears and forming drifts against the verge. I tried to remember when I was last caught out on my morning walks but could not. Hail floats on water and huddles together in rafts. I wondered why I had never noticed this before. I knew that ice floats because it is less dense and surface tension will  cause huddling. But hail on puddles? When did that start? Every day is a surprise when you're an old fart. The Coots are taking up residence on their traditional ponds. Calling loudly as if to claim possession. The hedges are suddenly full of hyper-active Great tits. The sun has returned, not a cloud to be seen and all is well with my world. For the moment..

Having used up my quota of sunshine in the garden it turned wet in the afternoon. No ride today.
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20 Feb 2016

20th February 2016 Not a rant in sight?

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Saturday 20th 34-41F, 1-5C, overnight gales have rattled the windows. It was so dark when I rose that it could easily have been two hours earlier than usual. The trees are still rocking as rain spatters my window with a northerly view. Wind speeds are supposed to drop steadily from 45mph gusts to only 30 by lunch time. How the rain will behave is more of a lottery. There might be a window of opportunity for triking this afternoon. Though, being Saturday and Denmark only the supermarkets will be open by then. The majority of smaller shops and some builder's merchants close at lunch time.

A misty, rippled prairie awaits the arrival of skylarks, hares and deer. Shelducks sometimes frequent the ponds in the hollows. Though drainage is constantly attempted on the dampest soil. The overgrown hedges have been felled to spur thickened regrowth.

Despite the bad weather I shall make every attempt not to publish one of my usual rants. It is sorely tempting to sit here and rattle away at the keyboard to get something off my chest. A temptation to which I am all too prone. Like cakes and biscuits these things are best left where they lie. Bringing them home may make me feel better, if only for a while, but it achieves nothing except indigestion and sloth. Those who agree with my arguments will nod in recognition. Those who don't will merely close their minds to such transparent assaults on their rigid foundations of belief. The ranks close on right and left with an absolute vacuum in the 'no man's land' of the center, moral ground.

Is there relief from anger and frustration on an uninhabited island? Where the constantly bad news cannot reach to flay the souls of those who actually care about the world at large. Where only small worries and irritations replace "the bigger picture." Where the village mentality reigns and rules the roost. Where small minds are encouraged to take root and flourish into an impenetrable bed of thorny, toxic weeds.

It blew and it rained for most of the day. I had other things to do than risk life and limb getting soggy.

Sunday 21st 38-44F, 3-7C, light breeze, overcast. Walked my forest loop under grey skies. Not as chilly today so I went without gloves. The birds have started singing. Even last week's solitary Skylark has new friends. A Yellowhammer sang in a lonely tree only six feet from where I passed. The machine-felled hedges are still lying untouched. Will they still lie throughout the nesting season? Several miles of hedges have been razed to the ground. That's an awful lot of nests in temporary accommodation! Snowdrops and Winter Aconites are brightening the drab verges. Bright Cornus shoots adding their cheerful colour to the wayside gardens.

A late morning ride with fierce crosswind gusts pushing me off the road going and across the road coming back. Rain in the air but it only managed to wet my yellow lenses. Very quiet in the villages, the  shops and on the roads. Only 13 miles.
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18 Feb 2016

18th February 2016 It ain't heavy. It's my trike.

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Thursday 18th 29-34F, -1+1C, sprinkle of snow, misty, light breeze, overcast but clearing to watery and then brighter sunshine. Took advantage of the frozen fields and spray tracks to get to the far woods. I disturbed several large herons. Warm enough to remove my hat and gloves on the last stretch along the road. I usually brighten and increase the contrast on my landscapes but it often strips the image of its mood and mistiness. Left to its own devices an image can seem dull and depressing. Heads you lose.

Mid-afternoon ride for 15 miles  under grey skies. Big Dintex/Heatpax gloves going out. Gripgrab coming home. The gears keep improving and makes me wonder whether the kinks I put in the cable are straightening out from continuous tension. I really need to get the trike upon the workstand to fine adjust the indexing and end stops. I'm trying to avoid it until I am certain my back is back to normal. Getting the trike onto the workstand is a dead lift to neck height. I can reduce some of the burden by removing the rack and saddlebag.

Normally I would just lift the whole trike as if it were routine. My recent back problems were a wake-up call. To remind me that I am not still invulnerable as I rapidly approach seventy. For decades I would just lift anything that was necessary without suffering any real ill-effects. I have moved rocks the size of a mini, lifted cars, engines, vast concrete pipes, huge logs, steel poles, ladders, beams and joists, bags of cement, roofing materials and massive items at work. They were all just a bit of a struggle to be overcome and move on. They could be lifted by one person [me] or they could not. And, if they could not then there were always scaffolding poles or levers and ropes and pulleys where each method was more useful. You will have guessed that my existence is, and always has been, a largely solo affair. With the constant support and "advice" of The Head Gardener of course. 

Friday 19th 33F, 1C, heavy overcast, misty and rather breezy. Possible wintry showers earlier on but clearing later. I had better get a ride in today because tomorrow is forecast to be gales, with wintry showers leading to rain. It felt a little colder than necessary given the temperature. I walked my usual, loop in an anti-clockwise direction with an added loop via the fire tracks in the forest. The ground was mostly firm, the birds and animals largely absent. 

I have decided to resign my post as moderator of the on3wheels triking forum. It was not the place of the moderator to be quite so outspoken however strongly he might have felt about US digital dictatorship. I did not care for the attitude of certain members so used that as an excuse to "get my coat." My attempts to delete my own posts were unsuccessful but at least I managed to ban myself.  It was ironic that Kevin started the forum only 3 days before I had intended to do so myself. I delayed fearing I would undermine the TA. Only to discover that the octogenarian Luddites never cared for an Internet presence anyway. I quickly took over duties as moderator and set up many of the sub-forum headings and descriptions. It was mostly good fun and the vast majority of members were remarkably well behaved. May they go on to greater things in my absence. May those with an attitude suffer from constant punctures.

Some might argue that my blog has become more rant than stated context. But at least here I can speak my mind here without tip-toeing around petty, niggling critics. Anyone who has deliberately found themselves here, more than once, will know exactly what to expect. My blogs are my outlet for my cycling, my creativity but also my irritation at our barking mad world. Or rather its so-called "leaders." I wake every morning thinking it really doesn't have to be like this. Then I read the news and realise that there is absolutely no will to improve ourselves nor our only planet. It is all about greed. Greed for power and greed for unlimited wealth.


Our tiny blue speck, in an unimaginably vast universe, is run by the deliberately evil, the utterly corrupt and the clearly deranged. It really is that simple. We refer to countries as if they were somehow, collectively responsible. This is never true. It is always the deluded, or completely deranged head of state, who calls the shots, starts the wars and struts like a mincing peacock at the UN.

Sadly I lack the energy to try and achieve democratic change. It would only replace the present, rabid morons with yet another lot. Nor have I the common sense to realise I can do nothing about it. [Except whinge.] Absolutely nothing has really changed in my long lifetime. The faces on the musical chairs, constantly rearranged on the gravy train, may have changed but you can't trust any of them. Not even to run a school crossing without causing major conflict or global chaos. The system is badly broken. Those who broke it are still firmly in charge of their personal asylum. We, mere mortals, must try and dodge the artifacts of their raving lunacy. It was ever thus. 14 miles under cold, miserably grey skies.

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17 Feb 2016

17th February 2016 Y'all want coffee with that sugar?

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Wednesday 17th 30F, -1C, white frost, windy, very cloudy. The forecast is for sunshine but the solar train is running a bit late this morning. This is an obscure reference to the short but rapid moments of sunshine between passing clouds. [In case you were curious.] It will feel bitterly cold in this wind! 20-25 mph gusts.

I was just reading a story on the BBC New website suggesting that some takeaway coffee drinks have 25 teaspoons of sugar equivalent in a single cup! If the EU taxed sugar they could build more hospitals to treat more people daft enough to be damaged by the genocidal, American takeaway chains. Just think, if America sent troops over to shoot every fat person in Europe there would be an outcry. So they don't. They mass execute by implanting the suggestion that stuffing your face with fat, toxins and sugar will make you happy. Then they plant their clearly marked WMDs on every high street. Y'all couldn't make it up!


Why invade Europe when you can kill by remote control? Why darken the skies by sending vast fleets of bombers or drones to cluster bomb the entire populace? When their massed IED's are clearly and deliberately aimed at any passing child or adult susceptible to the endless, bawling, deafening propaganda.

I am tempted to ask whether the megatons of cluster-bombed litter, dropped by the American global domination program, could harm our wildlife? Are wild animals equipped to soak up weapons-grade, sugar concentrations from the glutton's "baby bottle," pram throw-outs? Could our fuzzy, furry little creatures, with their cute, moist little eyes and damp noses, be wiped out by these terrifying, take-way toxins? Is this the real reason for many domestic pet's crippling obesity? Are they all bingeing on the universal, takeaway litter, now adorning every corner of nature and every verge?

I suppose the world's government statisticians have already worked out, to the nearest fraction of a penny, whether shortened pension payouts, through early death, is more costly than treating their country's gluttons in hospital.

Just imagine retiring from a lifetime turning up every day for "work" for one of these "fast crap" chains. Or "working" at any other sugar bomb weapons manufactures, for that matter. Then suddenly realise that at 65 [or whatever] you haven't done a single moment's useful work in your entire "working life."  Unless you call mass culling "a living," of course. Sadly, I am not remotely cynical enough to suggest that they are "merely" trying to improve the human IQ by "taking out" its weakest members. That would be too much like [say] kicking a person in a wheelchair. Besides, what would be the point of improving the population in general if they then chose a dunce, like Chump, for president?

My walk was in bright sunshine but with a cutting wind on my cheeks. The ground was hard frozen making the tractor tracks a bit lumpy to walk on. I glanced back along the track as I approached the woods to see a darkly dressed figure following me several hundred yards behind. This is a rare event indeed! I doubt I see more than a couple of  people per year on my usual routes and then only in vehicles. As soon as I entered the forest I turned sharp right and climbed a steeply sloping, marshy hill that lead to the exit through the beeches. It is easy to resent the presence of another person when total exclusivity and privacy are the norm.

Just in case you haven't had enough rants for today: The pampered, Danish, coalition politicooze has just scored another, typically right-wing, own goal. In their desperate dash to relax all environmental restrictions they are trying to let farmer's shit up the countryside without limit. Including industrialized toxic attacks on the banks of water courses against all scientific and expert advice. But guess what? If a farmer chooses not to shit up the countryside, to personal taste, they can demand compensation from the water boards running into many billions! Why? Simply for not putting toxic chemicals into the drinking/groundwater! Woohoo! Only in "pseudo-environ-mental-quack-quack" Denmark!

BTW: 1-in-10 Danish farmers is already insolvent and can never pay off their debts. They aren't shut down because the banks carrying their debts would follow suit soon after. Not to mention overloading the already depressed, rural housing market with yet more empty, former farmhouses. The politicooze set aside funds for demolition of derelict and abandoned and rural homes. Nobody was buying at "market prices" when all they had to do was wait for the forced auction. Then buy the same house for only a couple of thousand. There was talk of housing the millions of refugees in unsalable homes but then they started putting up tents in camps instead. That was only so that they could centrally heat them while they were empty! Only in Denmark!

Having exhausted myself at the keyboard it was only a short ride today. The temperature had soared to a balmy 36F, +2C. The problem was the headwind going out was viciously cold and the GripGrab gloves completely hopeless at keeping my aching fingers warm. They and I were fine on the way home though. So it's all about wind chill, a lack of insulation and wind-permeable linings. I saw an interesting one-wheeled bike trailer with a huge yellow bag. The 'Yak' and 'B.O.B.' seemed made for each other. I'd need one with a '700' wheel to get over the frozen lumps and bumps of farmer's mud. Or one with skids [or floats?] for when the permafrost melts. Only 7 miles. I'll be glad when the weather allows a decent ride and I can get off this keyboard!

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15 Feb 2016

15th February 2016 Chilling out.

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Monday 15th 30F, -1C, breezy, cold and grey. I walked a longer route through the forest than usual. A large deer dashed across my path and vanished into the trees. Moments later a large fox crossed the track, popped back out of the brush and stared hard at me for several long seconds before turning tail and rushing away over the brow. I had watched it though my binoculars and it was a fine specimen with a very thick winter coat. Crows were worrying a buzzard overhead. I walked back home along the road from my or distant exit with the cold wind picking up. The greyness did not inspire me to take a single photograph. The temperature and colour of the sky never changed all day despite DMI promises of later sunshine. No real need to go out so I pottered on a project in the garden instead. Another rest day.

Tuesday 16th 21-32F, -6-0C, clear skies? No wind? Must be a mistake! The DMI have forgotten to wind up their seaweed this morning. I have two goals for a ride but 10 miles in opposite directions from the trike shed. Perhaps I'd better take two chocolate bars? Just in case. Famous last words: I forgot the chocolate bars but found one in the saddle bag from a ride last week. Helped to stave off starvation and hunger knock. Fingers a bit cold at -6C cruising at 16mph.

Really enjoyed the hills around the place I was going to. They couldn't help but gave me a useful address where they had exactly what I needed. Great service all round and customer friendly. 26 miles with quads getting a bit sore on the last leg. [Well, it's true!]  Still frost on the grass in the shadows at lunchtime but warmer in the bright sunshine. Ice on the ponds and field floods with ducks and geese looking strangely tall as they dozed on the ice. Traffic non-existent at first but still quite light later on.


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14 Feb 2016

14th February 2016 Buddy, can you spare some [UCI approved] Swarfega?

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Sunday 14th 32F, 0C, quite windy, with a heavy overcast. Expected to stay grey with increasing winds all day peaking at 25mph gusts around lunchtime. Possible light snow showers again though it stayed dry yesterday. I am grateful for my yellow lenses in this weather.  A young chap went past on his bike grinning  like the proverbial Cheshire Cat with what looked like totally black lenses. I'd want to put myself under a lorry wearing those. Assuming I cold actually see the lorry coming! Spot all the TdeF rides wearing dark sunglasses during equally dark weather. The world's professional elite cyclists in the biggest race in/on the calendar and they haven't invented Campy Spar Record winter gloves, Duro-race snow goggles or Sram Raddish clear glasses yet? Dugh?

What are they waiting for? Some 'big name' sponsor to hand them a load of "free samples?" So called "top riders" were dropping out like pond flies due to the "unusually cold and wet" conditions in one big race. When does total equipment incompetence and lack of preparation begin to look like a deliberate act of sabotage on your own team's riders? Does the team owner run around half naked in bad weather? No, they sit in a heated limo! Just as they sit in luxurious comfort at a football match. Do the players come off the field when it rains or snows? Nope. They'd be lynched!

If the cycling rules demanded that riders had to wear "proper" cycling gloves below a certain temperature then "proper" cycling gloves might actually need to be invented! The present crap on the market is woefully inadequate! They soak up rain like a sponge and are as windproof as a pair of kiddy's summer socks.

The present crop of pampered, "fair-weather" riders make the early tour racers look like invulnerable superheroes! Winter training in warm conditions in backward countries in case the temperature drops below 75F? Or they might meet a vehicle going "the wrong" way? Today's wealthy "heroes of the road" wouldn't last a hundred meters under the early road conditions, rules and having to do it all on an all steel bike! Though, I suppose they'd all be fully at home with the early drug culture. Mending their broken, fragile egos and increasingly disposable £XX,000, one-stage machines, at a local smithy? Perhaps not.

Imagine, if you will in your wildest fantasies, that the Utterly Corrupt Incompetents demanded that a machine and its wheels and tyres must last at least a full calendar year. [Just as a first, modest proposal.] Punctures were to be mended beside the road by the rider himself, completely unaided. That mechanical problems may only be mended by the rider or he/she drop out of the race.

The result? Overnight improvements in machine and equipment quality and robustness. Fully puncture-proof tires almost overnight. How many riders would actually need to carry a 5 gallon pot of UCI approved Swarfega in their compulsory toolkit to avoid the team leader having dirty fingernails on the podium? The simple answer? None. It would never happen once the early mechanical development setbacks were over.

There would no longer be the annual obsolescence of the groupsets for obscene profit. Instead of shaving 3 grams from each part, as if it [remotely] mattered, equipment and machines would be built for increased mechanical and cosmetic longevity. How many potentially competitive riders give up because thy can no longer face the sneers of their wealthier clubmates over their woefully obsolescent machine spec? How dare they continue to ride [and win] while they are still sporting the 2015 Durex model of lever rubbers? Don't they know that the hoods have been updated to Spring 2016 non-backwards compatible, 0.0002W spec? As smilingly "approved" by some grinning and suntanned "god of the road" from the exclusive foyer of the 6-star Elysium Hotel. As the plastic cycling culture basks in perpetual sunshine under UCI rules. Haven't they heard of the dangers of UV exposure on plastics?

A walk along the marsh but there were only a few miserable Mallards bobbing on the pond/lake. In a fit of courage and near-revolutionary zeal I walked along the back of the marsh on the field edge. Having disturbed a solitary Heron I returned to the road to brave the Sunday drivers practicing their pathetic cornering skills. My fingers were freezing despite the gloves. A bit of sunshine wouldn't go amiss! And dark grey, windy [and miserable] it remained. No pressure to go out. So I didn't.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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12 Feb 2016

12th February 2016 Very, very dark!

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Friday 12th 30-36F, -1-2C, white overnight frost, calm with low, bright sunshine. I walked an unusual loop with fine views across the valley and out towards the sea. I could see over a dozen wind turbines, scattered at intervals across the landscape, and all standing still. The large pond/small lake was partially frozen but still well stocked with Mallard, Shelducks, Cormorants, black headed ducks and a solitary Grebe. Far too warm in my down jacket so I had to carry it over my arm most of the way. The council had been cutting the roadside hedges and leaving a terrible mess.

Left into bright sunshine after coffee for a goal 10 miles away. Very weird that my legs were back to normal after yesterday's aching and heaviness. Though my chest is still bunged up, making climbing a breathless affair. Cold, breezy and overcast on the way back. Saw a black and white polecat/ferret. It was moving between a pond and a hedge on rough ground. I thought it was a Magpie at first but then saw it had legs and was running. First live one I've seen after passing several road kills. Saw several birds of prey including one being harassed by crows. Gears much better today. Moving the cassette over, by removing the top gear sprocket, has worked wonders for chain clearance. 20 miles.

Saturday 13th 29F, -2C, light breeze, heavy cloud, light overnight snow. More snow showers possible. The week ahead will be up and down around zero. Thanks to the light winds it didn't feel cold on my walk. Most of the wind turbines were standing still again. I used the lightly frozen soil to walk the tractor tracks for a slightly different viewpoint. Four deer were grazing but had the wind behind them. They glanced up but decided against running away.


Left on the trike after morning coffee for a shopping trip. Going well again and keeping my revs up. The rearward position of the saddle feels strangely wider but I am still having to constantly remind myself push myself back. The odd thing is that my recent back problems seems to have cured my [cough] back problems on the trike. The longer handlebar extension feels nicely comfortable and I am resting my hands on the hoods rather than the bends. 20 miles.
   

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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8 Feb 2016

8th February 2016 On not going camping with a Camper 'Longflop!'

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Monday 8th 40F, 4C, 45mph gales, rain, heavy overcast. The wind rattled around the house in the early hours and is not expected to drop below 30mph gusts until lunchtime. Rain and more 20m/s [45mph] gales are forecast for the next two days. Even when it brightened up mid-afternoon it continued raining and blowing. Rest day.

Tuesday 9th 40F, 4C, gales, overcast with rain again. Expected to clear up in the afternoon with the wind reducing. Promises-promises! Yet again they were completely wrong. A short bright period around lunchtime and then dark skies and continuous rain afterwards. Left in light rain on very wet roads but it stopped eventually. Only 7 miles but at least I made the effort to avoid another rest day. Lighter winds and grey tomorrow looks more promising.

Wednesday 10th 37F, 3C, breezy, overcast, raining. It is supposed to clear up again but with winds gusting to 25mph still with showers. It never really stopped raining for very long and with no pressure to go out I remained dry indoors. Puddles are appearing everywhere on lawns and fields. Everything is saturated. Rest day.

Thursday 11th 37F, 3C, heavy overcast and a bit misty. The on3wheels.myfastforum is discussing trike carrying capacity for camping. I was going to subject them to one of my endless tirades but thought better of it. So you, my poor readers, will have to put up with me instead. There is a lesson to be learned from all of this: 

My almost, daily shopping needs are very different from camping. I need constant access to far more volume than the silly little Submicro-Carradice Camper 'Longflop'. Worse, the shopping has to be graded and regraded according to weight, hardness and fragility outside each shop I visit.

I have now settled on leaving the Bijou Camper fixed to the Trykit rack. Though I'd much prefer a saddlebag of the same height and width but much deeper from front to back. Perhaps if it was remotely to specification it might actually be useful. My Nano-Camper 'Longflop' will barely take two 72mm wide milk cartons, one in front of the other. Yet claims to be 23cm deep! Any infant with a calculator and one snotty finger could tell you that three milk boxes deep should be easily possible. With room for an organic Pastella packet as well. But no! That would be asking [far] too much! [Quack-quack-quack-quack!]

 Carradice Camper longflap saddlebag

I now hook a large sports bag over the saddle pin and this is taken into the shop when I arrive. After further purchases are re-sorted into the remaining volume available, the sports bag rests on top of the Mini-Camper for the next leg. When I first started I used to break eggs, split milk boxes and dented tins. Needless to say 'The Head Gardener' did not tolerate such sloppy behaviour! Many a time I was hauled into "her office" to be, not so much educated, as "improved!"

Lest thee think I exaggerate the problems and difficulties of "mere" shopping on a trike: I sometimes have to visit disparate shops over twenty miles from home. Uphill and own dale it must all arrive home fresh and and completely undamaged. Some of it may even be frozen. So an insulated 'cool bag' must be taken along for the ride. No 'dawdling on the way back' that day!

Initially I used cycle shopping as my reason to go out regularly on the trike. Had I not we would probably have gone without food and essentials. Or I would "simply" have taken the car. Had I succumbed to such laziness I would probably be a 15 stone 'blobby' and dead from lifelong high blood pressure or depression. Or something far worse!

It's absolutely amazing how many miles one can do just visiting three or four distant shops per day. Never visiting the same shops more than twice in a week helps to add novelty and keeps my rural routes fresh and interesting. I highly recommend it as a training regime and for building self-discipline. It would be so easy to drive to the nearest supermarket and stock up [say] twice a week. Or to go several days without a ride because of "heavy dew" or "the sun might be in my eyes."  I chose not to and it literally changed my life for the better.

The fixed rule for tricycling shoppers [there are always arbitrary rules] is that one absolutely must overtake every cyclist ahead of you on the road. Bark-bark-bark! Yap-yap-yap! No matter how much shopping you are carrying, no matter how steep the hill, nor how light his bike, you really must pass him. [Or her.]

The old smithy.

Where's the fun in riding a stripped down, multi-thousand,  plastic bike, with hardly room for a folding toothbrush, or a credit card to get you home? When some daft, old fart on a 'bag lady' three-wheeler, shopping trolley overtakes you like you were going backwards, up a one in ten! Any fool can buy a plastic bike. Lots do! It doesn't turn them into a 'proper' tri-cyclist. ;-)

The mist suppressed all sounds so that my walk became akin to "last man on Earth." I didn't see a single soul once I'd turned off the main road. Lots of Yellowhammers, Chaffinches and Great tits in the trees and felled hedges. Still very wet with large puddles in the fields and on the tracks. The rain is holding off so the trike beckons.

Just a mid-afternoon ride to a builder's merchants. My legs have definitely lost their fitness and are quite achy at times. Though I'm still going quite well. The gears with the Roadlink and Athena RD have been sluggish. Not sure whether it is due to a sticky cable or the RD geometry. Only 14 miles.
 
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7 Feb 2016

7th February 2016 Out of training?

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Sunday 7th 41-46F, 5-8C, windy with a gaudy pink sky to the east. Promise of a potentially bright start but rain and 30mph windy later.  

During yesterday's short but hilly ride my chest felt really bunged up and I was much slower on the hills. During the evening I was getting a throbbing pain in my quadriceps. I am certainly carrying far more weight than two months ago. The repeated rest days from back pain and bad weather have obviously taken their toll.

 I am back to feeling too full most of the time. Probably because I am not burning up the quantities of food which sustained my former daily rides. Foolishly I did not reduce my intake to match my reduced exercise level. I was even breathless on the climbs through the woods on my morning walks. I am now 12.5 stones in old money and it will not do! Every step and every turn of the pedals is now carrying a rucksack full of damp house bricks. I tried touching my toes and my fingertips can only just reach the bottom of my kneecaps. So my back is in poor shape too.

Glancing in the bathroom mirror suggests my waist is now parallel with my hips and chest. I have a ring of fat all around my hips you could use as an MTB commuting slick. I have become a neo-blobby in no time flat! I had better get some miles in before I end up like another Purves. Reduced [?] to berating those fit and slim enough to actually get a leg over a cycle and ride it like it was meant to be. Quick and lithe and nimble and determined on every ride. Fighting every gain in altitude as if it presented a personal challenge to one's ego and stamina. Or words to that effect. Words are cheap. Ask the professional politicooze. Actions are what really matter and they start today!

I set off determined to remain slightly breathless on my usual walk. This was easy at first but became progressively more difficult even on the climb up through the beeches.  Once I had my wind I would have had to literally trot back along the road to remain breathless as I finished in under a hour. Normally it takes me an hour and half or even longer. I saw and heard my first Skylark of the year on the descent beside the undulating prairie. Today I was seriously overdressed and without enough ventilation in my rain jacket. So I walked back with my jacket over my shoulder and a cold tail wind chilling the sweat.

I was more sensible in my choice of cycle wear and lucky in missing the rain. The brightness quickly gave way to overcast and windy. Plenty of cyclists out training and a few joggers and dog walkers in the lanes. 20 miles at an hour and  half and then I turned straight into the roaring wind.  Only one short stint in bottom gear as I crested a steep hill straight into a gale. I have never seen so much winter flooding in the fields. The river was swollen to an entire field's width at the valley bottom meander. There was only one hardy, lady birdwatcher in a full length down coat using a telescope in the car park. I wasn't so short of breath today and saw 20mph quite regularly. Still only 29 miles total in two and half hours exactly and I can really feel it in my thighs now. The slightly longer stem doesn't seem to be a problem though the "big hands" Campag lever extensions were hardly noticeable. I took bites out of a Corny, dark chocolate, muesli Big Bar over half an hour on the last leg. With no shopping to do the Junior was adequate for what I needed to carry with me. It's odd how tipped up the Brooks looks despite being close to level.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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6 Feb 2016

6th February 2016 It's [all] a drag!

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Saturday 6th 44F, 7C, windy, heavy overcast. Expected to rain all morning. I feel guilty at my poor mileage so far this year. The combination of an injured back and bad weather still seem like weak excuses to a cycling OCD. As I glance over my monitor at the trees rocking outside the dormer window I can easily imagine the resistance as my speed plummets below 10mph out on the road.

I have removed the clip-on tri-bars but now wonder whether that was wise. When I first fitted them the 'free' 2-3mph increase in speed was rather intoxicating. Then, gradually, I started using them much less. My aging back usually resented being bent over so far. While increased breathlessness suggested inefficiency somewhere. It sometimes felt as if my chest was more congested and I was drowning in my own mucous. I would have to sit up and clear my throat.  Or, perhaps I was simply trying much harder when down on the elbow pads and making myself more breathless. 

So it became a habit to use the extensions only on descents. Where the higher speeds made the most of my reduced drag. I would see 31mph on familiar hills instead of my more usual 27-28. Though still the chains of cars would overtake me. The tri-bars did help in fierce headwinds but I quickly resented the discomfort.

Then I would endlessly ponder the voluminous, sports bag constantly hanging off the saddle pin. Usually it was resting on an equally large, Camper saddlebag. Which itself was exposed to the headwind being accelerated between my flailing legs.  Does the rapid leg movement disturb the air and does it make a bag's drag worse or better? Not the sort of thing reported in the technical press when dealing with wind tunnel results.

There I was, sporting tri-bars as if speed was my most serious intention. While simultaneously dangling a faux, braking parachute out at the back. Soon it seemed the tri-bars were only there to have somewhere to hang my computer. I did think at one point that the tri-bars helped to make my back more flexible. The increase in the trike's weight over bare handlebars was hardly significant. Particularly in comparison with carrying a massive Abus U-lock. Nor did the tri-bars noticeably affect the steering. I had just noticed that I wasn't using the tri-bars any more. They had become more of an affectation than a useful advantage. 

If greater speed, or less effort for the same speed was my aim, then I ought to seriously consider reducing drag elsewhere. Not by letting my nose drip onto the A-head stem bolt, but by rotating the large rear bags by 90 degrees to reduce their [and my]  cross sectional area. It would need a longer rack rather than a wide one. Or some kind of cantilevered extension rail to support the overhanging tail of the bag. Lose the saddle bag and have just the sports bag aligned with the head wind from my forward motion. Something more like a pannier bike rack than a trike rack. Though not with panniers which probably double the drag compared with a simple saddlebag. But then, the sports bag is almost an extension of my bum rather than fully exposed to the wind. Side pockets may be handy on a saddlebag but they must be costing a fair few watts! They also get uncomfortably close to the muddy trike tires when trying to undo the buckles.

On another note: Pushing the B17 saddle as far back as possible seemed to help. Going against my always fuzzy logic, it immediately reduced the weight on my hands. I do have to remember to push myself back but it is not a serious problem. While I was on my ride into the wind a couple of days ago I was stretched right out with my palms flat on the Ergo 'humps.' Which, I should add, are uncomfortably sharp even when wearing winter gloves. I kept that position up for several miles without too much [back] discomfort. It even occurred to me at the time that I could fit a slightly longer stem so my hands could rest on the hoods. The Ergo hoods are also beginning to feel much too short for my gloved hands.

Perhaps I really ought to have another look at the plastic, "big hands" extensions supplied with the new Ergo levers? I have always dismissed them before but do actually have the very large hands they are aimed at. More on this later. There's bound to be a YT video on fitting these hood extensions. [Nope.] Longer hoods would be the equivalent of a slightly longer stem... More forward lean reduces drag. Everyone's a winner! Or not. "Ow me back!"

I soon dispatched myself to the trike shed despite the inclement weather. Where I started by swapping the A-head extension from 65mm to 85mm. This gave me room to fit the computer on the stem as the 65mm was much too short. The computer looked daft sitting on the top tube! I could not even read it unless it was pushed back to clear the extension. Which made it even more obvious and a greater potential target for theft. I kept catching my knees on it too when cornering hard.  I'll see how I get on with this extension length before deciding how best to proceed. The stem can easily be raised, lowered, or I could return to the 65mm. I don't have any other "oversize to oversize" extensions to try.

Slackening off the Campag lever clamping screws allowed me to fit the "big hands" extensions. Though they do not have a dramatic effect. They tip the levers up very slightly allowing them to be lowered on the handlebars. Which gives more room for the fingers to wrap themselves under the lever hoods. My black, compact, dropped handlebars are looking the worse for wear after the damage done by the tri-bar extension clamps. I'll probably wrap the center tops in black electrical tape to hide the damage and to save replacing them. I'm not sure whether silver finished bars would go with all the naked stainless steel of the Trykit. The Higgins has identically shaped, silver bars but they look well with the faded mauve paint, dirt and rust.

The A-head handlebar system makes life very easy swapping handlebars and stems. However, removing and replacing handlebar tape is a real chore for  a lazy old git like myself! I use athletes fine, cloth, binding tape instead of foolishly expensive bar tape with bells on. I've tried the commercial tape but it doesn't last long [cosmetically] with regular use. Nor does it ideally suit gel padding strips. I much prefer traditional cloth tape to plastic or cork granules. Probably the result of trying to fall off the bike when I fitted slippery and shiny, plastic tape in my  youth. Cloth was considered track tape back then but gave excellent grip even in the wet.

Talking of grip: I ordered a pair of replacement Campag Ergo rubber hoods before having to order a new pair of levers. The spare hoods eye-wateringly stink like those horrid rubber clogs/sandals they sell in the discount supermarkets! The hoods absolutely reek but the new levers do not. Coincidence? Or is Campagnolo now farming out work to the slave wage, vicious dictatorship of China? 

It was drizzling steadily all morning so I had to work just inside the shed door. I much prefer daylight when working on mechanical detail because it aids my aging eyes' poor close focus. It is called "lack of accommodation" due to natural stiffening of the eye lens. I have three different strengths of £5 "reading glasses" depending on how close I need to see. Conversely, by sheer coincidence my eyes are now perfectly adapted for distance, without my needing my lifelong distance reading glasses. Six years ago I needed glasses just to read an office wall clock. I put the beneficial improvement down to natural adaptation to my regular cycling. Or sheer luck!

Post lunch and the rain has finally petered out for the moment. Off we, jolly well, go. Just a hilly 10 miles sweating profusely in my supermarket rain jacket. It didn't rain except inside the jacket.

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5 Feb 2016

5th February 2016 Moving the cassette over.

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Friday 5th 36F, 2C, heavy overcast, light breeze. Rain forecast with possible sleet or snow this morning. The 36tooth sprocket is causing the chain to rub against the top reinforcing loop. This only occurs during actual gear changes on the bottom gear sprocket. The chain rides up before settling into the sprocket teeth. The clearance is so close that the side plates are cutting a tiny slot in the underside of the axle loop.

It has been suggested that I remove the 11tooth top gear and this will move the cassette to the right. Giving me more chain clearance during bottom gear changes. A similar situation exists on the rear facing axle loop. The frame builder can hardly be blamed for the new trend towards huge rear sprockets. It is only my insistence on using a double chainset, rather than a triple, with a 36t sprocket which has caused this problem.

Naturally I don't want to risk the structural integrity of my beautiful trike. So something must be done before more damage is caused. Unfortunately there is no 11 speed option with a 34 or 35 tooth sprocket. These are only available in ten speed which would have the wrong sprocket pitch.[Lateral spacing.] Removing the smallest sprocket should move the whole cassette further away from the trike's framework. I still retain the 11 speed sprocket spacing but lose a gear I rarely need. Except on steep descents with a following gale.

I started the day with my usual walk. I never tire of the the approach to the woods with its undulating rise from the amphitheater floor. There was a thin skin of ice on the puddles and ponds. The ground in the woods was still lightly frozen too. Allowing better progress than on previous occasions. I saw several birds of prey and a woodpecker. The grey sky started spitting as I exited the woods and gently increased as I walked home along the road.

It didn't take long to remove the rear wheels, withdraw the axles and drop the cassette on the Trykit 2WD freehub. Then all I had to do was remove the 11t top gear sprocket and refit the locking ring.  The BB lock ring was screwed the 1/4" along the freehub to tighten the cassette firmly in place. Finally I used the chain wrench/whip and the toothed cassette fastening tool again to re-tighten the lock ring.

The image shows how far the cassette moved along to the right. Leaving plenty of chain clearance. Naturally I shall keep an eye on the spot to ensure the chain isn't still cutting into the frame loop during gear changes. There was, and still is, no problem at all once the chain has settled onto the 36t bottom gear sprocket. It is only during the chain's ride-up onto the sprocket phase of the gear change that the chain needs much more room. This problem is only ever likely to occur on a trike with its complex, axle supporting loops.

I'm still hoping the weather will clear up later, as promised, so I can get a ride in today. It never did clear up and remained wet, dark, windy and miserable.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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4 Feb 2016

4th February 2016 Wolftooth Roadlink fitting.

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Thursday 4th 33-34F, +1C, white frost, sunny, very light wind. I started early on the trike after lifting it onto the Lidl workstand. Removal of the Camper saddlebag complete with Abus U-link [boat anchor] eased the lift with my recent back problems in mind.

Swapping the Goatlink for the Shimano B-link went easily.  Sadly it resulted in an even worse cable blockage problem by the trike's axle reinforcement loop. My earlier optimism was obviously misplaced. It wasn't the Goatlink's fault since it was never design for this unique purpose. No doubt I could have filed away the projecting stop to tip the M8000 anticlockwise but thought it best to move swiftly onto the Roadlink.

So off came the XTM8000 rear derailleur with the Goatlink attached. I undid the pulley cage bolts to save breaking the chain. Removing the pull ratio changing, swinging lever and clamps took a couple of minutes more. Then I was ready to hang the Roadlink and Campagnolo 11 speed Athena rear derailleur. Again I dropped the lower pulley and slacked off the top one to save breaking the chain. I threaded the chain through the cage and then refitted the lower [tension] pulley.

The image shows the Roadlink in place on the brazed-on, Trykit rear hanger. The Roadlink lowers the Athena rear derailleur by 23mm to cope with the abnormally large, 36tooth sprocket. The Athena 11sp. can cope with a 32t but collides straight into a 36 tooth sprocket without the Roadlink's help. The Athena mechanism folds up automatically under its spring tension to ensure that the smaller sprockets aren't left behind. The arrows are supposed to indicate the importance of pushing the Roadlink and rear derailleur fully forwards to their stops before the twin hanger screws are tightened fully. 

It should be noted that Wolftooth do not suggest that Campagnolo equipment and their rear derailleurs are supported. They were obviously not able to examine every possible combination of equipment while developing the Roadlink. It's stated purpose is to allow Shimano, road, rear derailleurs to use much wider range cassettes. They also suggest that medium cage road mechs are optimum and the Roadlink is not intended for triple chainsets. 

The gear cable had been badly bent by my earlier pull ratio experiments. So needed a lot of slack taking up after fitting the cable to the Athena and clamping it up. I had to replace the rear outer loop with a much longer one to replace that used on the M8000. Fortunately the cable began to recover its straightness once the tension was put on it by the rear derailleur. Never cut off the gear cable until the job is completely finished and you have checked everything at least twice.

Indexing was still hesitant at first as I waited for the cable to relax its unwanted bends. I fiddled with the various screws and cable tension to see if it would help but was just being too impatient. Indexing relies critically on the cable tension. Though tension is not really the correct term because it changes little. It is the precise length of the cable which matters.  Indexing takes up and releases fixed lengths of cable in precise steps. This all takes place at the lever but the rear derailleur must move laterally to match the steps in cable length.  

The Athena B-screw still needed to be fully tightened to draw the top pulley closer to the cassette. Running large chainwheel to largest sprocket still had some chain slack. So I removed two links and that really helped to bring the pulley up to the cassette as the mechanism rotated under the increased chain tension. The only 11speed joining link I had was a Sram and the chain was a Shimano. The link seems reluctant to reach its correct position in the slots but may improve when ridden. 

I still wasn't happy but couldn't see how to bring the top pulley really close to the 36t sprocket teeth. Low, blinding sunshine didn't help which ever way I turned the trike around the stand. Finally I slackened off the Roadlink and Athena hanger screws and the mech instantly folded up nicely. I remembered reading about this on the Wolftooth Roadlink instructions. Though typically I had not bothered to read them properly before starting work. Nor had I remembered to check the Roadlink was pushed fully forwards against the stop when fitting it without any chain tension.

REMEMBER: The Roadlink and rear derailleur must be rotated forwards as far as possible before tightening both hanger screws! Only then should you attempt to check chain length, tension, B-screw adjustment and indexing! Remember also to grease the screws before assembly. Stainless steel may not rust but threads have a nasty habit of  sticking fast over time.

Though still not very warm outside I am keen to have a ride to see how the Roadlink has helped the indexing on the 11 speed, 11-36tooth cassette. The sun is still shining with light winds so it is still a great day for a ride. I did a four mile ride to test it out. Much improved over the M8000. Though still lagging occasionally. No phantom changes on the largest sprockets any more. Rode 12 miles to a bike shop only to find it had closed down. Bit of a headwind on the middle leg for a total of 27 miles.
 
Click on any image for an enlargement.


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3 Feb 2016

3rd February 2016 Wolftooth Links arrive.

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Wednesday 3rd 39F, 4C, heavy overcast, raining steadily and very windy. Early rain with falling winds are forecast with yet more [probably empty] promises of brightening to sunshine after lunch. The WolfTooth Roadlink and Goatlink from Bike24 have arrived. I thought I'd better order an example of both in case one of them was unsuccessful.

Fitting a clamp to the chainstay allowed the introduction of a cable adjuster. Something which was missing from the XTM8000 rear derailleur. Most road derailleurs have a cable adjuster. But not, apparently, MTB rear changers. The extra degree of adjustment is handy with my hybrid cable runs.

I spent some time today tuning the XTM8000 RD indexing with the trike up on the workstand. It was much better today than last time. Showers, heavy at times all day. Afternoon ride for 15 miles. It stayed dry for my ride but the roads were saturated with loads of puddles. The weather forecast is better for tomorrow.

My favourite option with the Wolftooth  links is to try and use the Campagnolo Athena 11speed rear derailleur with the Roadlink. The Athena can already manage a 32t sprocket so the 23mm extra drop will allow the cage to clear the much larger 36t sprocket. Such an option removes the need for any pull ratio change. So I can remove the horribly amateur swinging arm behind the bottom bracket and return the trike to a "normal" Campagnolo 11 gear indexed set up.

This image shows the dimensioned WT links in comparison with the Shimano MTB XT B-Link. I used a vernier caliper to measure the distance between the mounting holes and then added the 10mm bolt diameter. It was not easy to measure accurately but the figures are close enough.

The finish on the WT products is superb but unlikely to be seen without grovelling on one's knees with magnifying glass. What do you mean you do that all the time? Those with work stands can admire their WT links in relative comfort, of course. 

Both sides of the links are shown but they have not been organized into their proper orientation. Note how I have had to file off the cast stop on the B-Link to allow the XTM8000 to fit on my trike. Withe unmodified B-link the M8000 jammed up against the underside of the axle reinforcing loops. Removing the cast tab did not cause the rear derailleur to misbehave. Nor did anything unscrew when the fixing bolts were fastened sufficiently tightly.   

The cranked, WT Roadlink is designed to extend the range of normal road rear mechs [with mid-length cages] to allow sprockets up to 36teeth. Offering a really low gear with almost any normal road chainset. Single and double chain-rings are supported but not triples because most road mechs won't have the total chain wrap capacity. The extra large sprocket has to be accounted for in calculating the RD's capacity. The mechanism has to be able to run large chainring with largest sprocket and still maintain chain tension when on small-small. The image is borrowed from the Wolftooth-Lindarets Roadlink webpage.


Meanwhile the Goatlink is designed for MTB changers like the XTM8000 providing sprocket capacity up to 42 teeth or more. It also pushes the RD further back. So that the rear wheel on a bike can be dropped out and changed much more readily. Normally the axle would get in the way as th wheel dropped. WolfTooth also claim that chain wrap on the cassette is also improved over the B-link.


Ideally I would really have preferred a shorter link than the Shimano B-link, but it might just work with the M8000 to push the cable behind the reinforcing loops.  

The image shows how the cable entry is pushed back by the Goatlink's 12mm extra  length compared to the Shimano B-Link. This will hopefully free the cable from bending on the rear reinforcement loop. Though the Goatlink option does not remove the need for a pull ratio change to be able to use the M8000 with the 11 speed Ergo levers. 

 Click on any image for an enlargement.

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