Wednesday, August 28

This is why I love cycling......

We'll get to the point of the title later on, but first here's what I've done since this post on August 5th.

Sunday 4th - a really interesting ride round Oxford, led by the chairman of Wantage CUK, called "Oxford Urban Safari". A clockwise route round backstreets and canal and river paths, starting and ending at Seacourt Park and Ride. One of the other riders kindly picked me up and drove us both there. Part of me thinks that driving to a ride is cheating but I did it anyway! About 16 miles.

Link to the route -

Monday 6th - Shopping, normally 8.8 miles, but with an all-round-the-houses route home. 18.31 miles.

Thursday 8th - A Wantage CUK Family Bike Ride, 8 regular riders plus one mum and her 3 children, the youngest of which was only just 7. The ride itself was about 10 miles so she did very well! 18.93 miles total (that includes my ride to the start, and then a slightly different route home after leaving the group early on the return).

Monday 12th - a solo ride to Shrivenham, with the intention of trying out a cafe there that I hadn't been to (see review on my Cafes page) and also trying out a route for when I become a ride leader (that's all going through now - eek!). 22.53 miles.

Thursday 15th - missed my usual group ride as I had some shopping and a lot of other bits and pieces  to do. Bought a new adjustable stem for my Trek, to raise my handlebars up a bit, in my local bike shop Ridgeway Cycles. 10.17 miles.

Saturday 17th - I had a parcel to collect, plus I wanted to try out the new stem which Husband had fitted. I like it! 13.22 miles.

Tuesday 20th - Shopping. Also did a bit of exploring of a local path, again with the possibility of using it in a future group ride. Home a long way round, incorporating a local hill of some renown, which I usually manage on whichever bike I am on.  However, I find that sometimes when I approach a hill, even from a good distance away, I know whether I am going to get up it easily, or struggle, or not make it at all. This time was one of the latter, which is quite rare I'm pleased to say. It didn't help that there was a large vehicle coming up behind me which I knew would be edging to overtake me. I just gave up and got off! Sometimes one has to admit defeat.... 11.47 miles.

Thursday 22nd - another Wantage CUK Family Bike Ride, with the same family that came last time (3 children including the 7 year old) and another couple and their 10 year old son. About 14 miles for the actual ride (well done the 7 year old again!). Then I visited my daughter and baby granddaughter in Wantage, so my total was 27.89 miles.

And now we are nearly up to date, as we get to the Bank Holiday, Monday 26th. 

It was extremely hot.......... I had decided to cycle to a little village called Garford, in our local Vale of the White Horse. There were two reasons for this -

   1 To find and possibly ride a bridleway eastwards to Drayton and Abingdon. To get to those two      places in the past I have always cycled on what is known as Cow Common, a rather busy road from  East Hanney to Steventon. Recently while reading the map (I love reading maps!) I noticed this bridleway, and after looking on Google Earth found that it appeared to be more a road than a track. You can get on to it via Garford, with just a short stretch of the busy A338 in between.

   2 To find a footpath which goes from Garford across to Millets Farm, which is, apparently, "Oxfordshire's number one family day out for food, shopping and entertainment"!! Hmmm, well yes it is a nice place to go, and has a good cafe, where you get a free biscuit with your coffee (always good!) but as with all these places most people go by car. I have cycled there but that involves a stretch of road that, although not horribly busy, would be nicer avoided. This footpath would provide that alternative route. 

Well, I found the number 2, pushed my bike along it and easily negotiated two gates. But you never know with footpaths whether you are going to come across a stile or a kissing gate that's too tiny to get a bike through. I got to this bridge - [*]

Rats!! I tried to lift my (quite heavy) bike over but didn't think it was a good idea as I might hurt myself. I climbed over and walked a bit of the path, which even though not particularly rideable was  pushable. But there was nothing for it but to turn back. 

So, off to find the number 1. To cut a rather long and hot story short, I found the bridlepath that leads to said bridlepath that leads to Drayton..... but decided against going down it as it was very exposed and by that time Noel Coward's words about mad dogs and Englishmen were going round in my head. Mad Englishwomen too. 

So I left that adventure for another cooler day, and headed off back home. However, this particular mad Englishwoman hadn't had quite enough of exploring, and when I got to the little village of Lyford, I decided to veer off down another off-road shortcut to the village of West Hanney. I'd walked down here before and had it in my head that this was a bridlepath, and therefore legally rideable, and passable, with a bike, but after a mile or so I got to a stile..... and then realized it wasn't a bridlepath but a footpath. Oh dear, another about turn. Then I really did go home, but it was so hot that I had to keep stopping and resting in shade (which was rather lacking in this area) and both drinking water and pouring it over myself to keep cool. At the lovely little village of West Challow, about 3 miles from home, I paddled in the stream and took advantage of the cool bottles of water that I knew were to be had in the church - what a thoughtful gesture! I made it home, rather exhausted.

The thing about this ride was that I really did not enjoy it! This was mainly, but not entirely, because of the heat. Even two miles into the ride I wasn't enjoying it, although I thought things might improve, as they often do, but they didn't really. Why am I doing this I thought? But - as I always say, even the worst bike ride is pretty good! I did, after all, achieve what I set out to, which was to find those paths, even though I ended up not going on one of them. And I found two tennis balls! 24.87 miles.

And now we really are up to date, Tuesday August 27th - 

I had to go to Wantage today to get some elastic for a customer's sewing job. Our local sewing shop has been closed for holidays and the last time I bought elastic online proved to me that I need to see it first, or I end up with something unsuitable. I did other bits of food shopping too, returned some books to the library, and had free coffee in Waitrose, where I sat outside and enjoyed people-watching. (Interesting observation of the day - most women were wearing sandals of some sort, with bare feet, whereas hardly any men were.) It had hotted up since I left home at about 9, but wasn't as bad as yesterday. 

And now the explanation for the title. I had taken my camera with me, and on the way home I stopped frequently to take photos of my usual route home to explain what went through my head as I rode, which was -

"This is why I love cycling......!"

And here are those photos - with a bit of farming information as well..... 

1 My route takes me down Locks Lane in Wantage towards the ford, then over across that wooden bridge over Letcombe Brook (a chalk stream - more than 85% of the world's chalk streams are found in the UK) - 

2 Up this path past a row of cottages. See the cat? I always say hello to passing cats - 

Up the main road for a while, and then I walked up a footpath, at the bottom of which was a man unloading firewood which was packed up very neatly in a wooden crate. None of your slung-into-a -builder's-bag sloppiness. This was a work of art! (Why didn't I take a photo?! I nearly turned back to do so.) I told him it was like an artwork and then from somewhere nearby came the voice of another man, unseen, asking -

"Is she in a rush?  We  could do with a hand.... "

I hesitated....

"Would tea and cake persuade her?" said the voice.

 I was tempted......

"Is she hesitating?"

Yes I was!

I replied that if I hadn't just had coffee and a Kit-Kat in Waitrose I might well have been persuaded!

3 Just past the school at East Challow - I think you can just make out 6.02 miles on my Garmin at this point. Just after this the road officially becomes a bridleway - 

4 Here the school is on the right. Look closer - see that apple tree? It has the most delicious apples ever! I tried one the other day - not quite ready yet. Even my husband likes them, and that's saying something! He's very fussy when it comes to apples. Remember this tree....there's more about it later. The solar powered light is recent and I can't see the need for it - just another light to spoil the dark skies.

5 Further along the bridleway wheat was being harvested; I just had to stop and watch as it took me back to the days when, during school holidays, I used to take my children to watch the combines, and the tractors carting the corn, on the farm where my husband worked. He would have been one of the ones driving a tractor.

This is looking back whence I'd come. I had watched the combine coming up the field and was waiting for it to flash its light to signal to the tractor driver that he was ready to empty his load of corn. Here in the distance he has just done so and the tractor on the right has moved into position -

The combine's auger is out now and the wheat shoots down into the trailer -

That tractor now leaves the field with his load of corn -

 And the other one that was waiting in the field drives over to receive the next load from
the combine -

Another tractor and trailer comes in to replace the one that's gone -

Here you can just see that the combine has gone back down the field, and the two tractors are awaiting their next loads -

 Quite a nicely choreographed operation really.

Now I'm looking ahead to the next bit of my journey. The Ridgeway is in the distance. Look into that corn field on the left - see a tiny dark spot? That is a hare running away as fast as his long legs will carry him! While I was watching the harvesting I was amazed to see him suddenly appear on the track in front of me, but as soon as I moved to take a photo he ran off.

6 I'm now in the village of Childrey, where I passed the time of day with a man who I often see walking, either on his own, or pushing his grandchild in her pushchair. Childrey not only has a lovely pond but a lovely VW camper van too! And a rather, dare I say it, upmarket village shop and cafe, which is very popular with walkers and cyclists -

The pond. There's just something about a village pond.....

This is my last downhill section, heading towards Sparsholt, where I have never yet managed to get up to more than 20 mph. Further down on the right hand side, there are some woods whence cometh the most lovely fragrance in spring.  Every time I cycle by I breathe it in and go "Ahhhhh.....". About 8 years ago I went walking with a friend who pointed out to me something called Poplar Balsam, and when I first noticed the smell coming from these woods I instantly recognised it as that. They say you remember smells even when you haven't smelt them for years.  My plan is to sneak in there and pinch a cutting and grow my own -

8  Oh, and here is the local library, in the phone box! I've read books from there and also donated some, as well as my Cycling UK magazines!

Remember that apple tree? I now have 7 trees growing from its apple pips I sowed last year!

Apple trees, with a side of orange buddleia.

The beautiful orange buddleia is one which I discovered growing locally, and took some cuttings from. It's Buddleia Weyeriana "Sungold". Buddleia is incredibly easy to grow and I love seeing the butterflies on it. Just today another cutting I took has come out in flower at the bottom of the garden.

This is just my very ordinary cycle ride to go shopping and although I couldn't ask for a much nicer route,  I wouldn't miss it for all the tea in China even in the winter. I could have used the car today as Husband didn't need it, but if I'd done that, I'd have seen none of this, as my route would have been all on road. No stopping to watch the harvesting, no sighting of that hare, no banter over the firewood artwork, no passing the time of day with the man with his grandchild, and certainly no exercise or fresh air.

So there we are, that's why I love cycling!

*Apologies for the change of font - I just couldn't get it to change back although as you can see eventually it did by itself!

Monday, August 26

Some light hearted Bank Holiday reading

For any readers that haven't cottoned on yet, the reason for this blog's title is this book - Mrs Armitage on Wheels - written by the wonderful Sir Quentin Blake. In the book Mrs Armitage says quite frequently "What this bike needs.....". She thought it needed things like "somewhere to wash your hands" after getting them dirty doing something to her bike. And somewhere to put her dog. I used to love reading it to my children. Some time ago I penned this poem to the said knight and sent it to him, though sadly never received a reply (sob sob....). Today is a Bank Holiday here in the UK  and I thought some light hearted reading, such as this, was called for. If you're not in the UK, well, I hope it brightens up your day anyway. If not, you clearly need a bike ride.

To Sir Quentin Blake

Dear Mr Blake, I don't know how,
You ever can forgive me,
But here I am, down on my knees,
Begging you for mercy.

I'll try to be brief, cut a long story short,
And trust that you'll be kind,
And let me off all copywrite fees,
(I've no money to pay, you'll find).

Now please Mr B., keep calm, carry on,
Whatever you do please don't shout,
But I've used her words - I'm sorry, I'm sorry!
There, I've said it, it's out..........

And now - “Whose words?” I hear you bellow,
Mrs A.'s, Mrs A.'s!” I reply,
She's long been my hero, my bicycling hero,
But still, I hear you ask - “Why?”

Well you see Mr B., I'd decided to write
A blog about cycling and sewing,
And I needed a name that stood out from the crowd,
To start my readership growing.

So I thought long and hard and came up with a list,
Hours and hours it took,
But none had that, I don't know, je ne sais quoi,
Until I remembered your book!

What this blog needs.....” I said to myself,
As I twiddled with my necklace of beads Mrs A.'s words!” and there you have it -
Read my blog – it's called “What This Bike Needs!”

Apologies for not addressing you as Sir in the poem but Mister scans better.

And now I'm off on my bike! 

Monday, August 5

A week of less ordinary cycling!

Having said that I was going to write about ordinary cycling, this week I have done less of the ordinary cycling and more of the "Wot-I-did-on-my-holidays" sort of cycling. That's because Husband had the week off and so did I (ish!!). He's been paragliding, and building a garden arch. I've been cycling on 3 days and we had a lovely walk together on another day, when we saw crayfish, both the good (native) and bad (non-native) sort. The baddie was dead.

So, on to the cycling.

There are days when I think -

"I'll go on a bike ride today."

 - but have difficulty making up my mind where to go. Last Sunday I ruminated on whether to go to Hungerford (which meant a climb over the Ridgeway at some point - was I in the mood for that?) and possibly go along the Kennet and Avon canal a bit, or do almost the same ride I had done the week before, in order to find a bridlepath I hadn't been able to find then.

In the end the frustration of not having found that bridlepath won out. The particular path I was looking for was one near a tiny place called Carswell Marsh and which I thought might be useful, and interesting, on future rides as a quiet cut-through from one busy road to another. I like sussing out these little byways, bridlepaths etc. when I've got more time, to see how rideable they are on bikes like mine (hybrid and  touring).

Once home I had had a better look on the OS map and could see where it was meant to start, so off I went again. I'm glad to say I found it this time - the sign was very faded and hard to see, but probably the week before I hadn't looked carefully enough. The first part was rough grass and thistle, so I pushed the bike, the next part was flatter grass so I rode, then it became a tarmacked farm track, albeit very potholed (not much different to most roads then!) so all in all, at this time of year, an acceptable route for cyclists, as long as you're not in a hurry, which I rarely am! At one stage it even goes through somebody's garden; it wasn't very clearly signposted but I was very polite and did my best not to nose around too much....

I rather hoped I might then be able to get across the Thames via a footbridge, and cut across more footpaths to Bampton, but unfortunately the kissing gate at the bridge was too narrow to get my bike through, and even if I had I might have encountered more such problems further on. I know cyclists aren't meant to cycle on footpaths, but it's often handy to be able to use them and either cycle, giving way to pedestrians, or just push. Anyway, I carried on to the Thames Path (which I cycled - here it was wide and not too rough) and got back on the road at Radcot bridge.

Thence I went to Bampton and on to Aston Pottery for a very belated cup of coffee (I'd eaten my sandwiches earlier in a field) and cake. The observant of you may have noticed that I now have a Cafe Reviews page on the blog. I update it whenever I go to another one, and I've added Aston Pottery now. I have been here lots of times over the years, and it's extremely popular with cyclists. It's gone from being quite a small shop to a much bigger one selling not just their own pottery but lots of other stuff as well, and the cafe has expanded too, but I can't help thinking that it's one of those places that was nicer when it was smaller.

Anyway, I was not impressed with either my coffee or my cake. The americano I had was bitter, and the carrot cake was so dry it fell apart whenever I stuck my fork in it, so I contacted them via their website to tell them so (politely...). I have not heard anything so shall have to resort to a letter as their website gives no email address. That always makes me wonder if having a contact form and not giving an email address as well isn't a cunning trick to get rid of annoying customers. Sometimes you can copy an email address even if it doesn't actually show up on the website but I couldn't even do that. I won't give up.... I have to say that their lunches looked very appetising though.

After that it was home again, a flattish ride south via the villages of our Vale of the White Horse. The weather had turned out quite hot, and windy. I did 35 miles and when I got home I was rather knackered, and I thought to myself that I have in the past done 50 miles in a day (I once even did 67 on my very ordinary Trek) and found myself doubting whether I could still do that, so just to prove I could I went out the next day and did! Husband laughed and said he was going to tell his paragliding chum that -

"My wife cycled 35 miles on Sunday and said she was knackered afterwards so the next day she goes out and does 50!"

If you're interested, here's a link to this ride -

My decision to go out and try for 50 after a tiring 35 made perfect sense to me even if Husband found it amusing. I wasn't so knackered that I needed any longer than overnight to recover, and I tend to analyse things a lot and I wanted to know exactly why I was knackered - was it perhaps the food I ate, either the type of food or the quantity? Or something else? With these thoughts in mind I set off the next day at 9.15 (not as early as I'd have liked but I had been distracted by various bits of housework that needed doing) to explore further our local NCN Route 5 which travels east from Wantage to Didcot and Wallingford, and north to Abingdon and Oxford. I'd been as far as Abingdon previously but fancied going up to Oxford. The first 9 miles or so of my ride were again via villages in the Vale of the White Horse - Childrey, Denchworth, and West and East Hanney, then a boring and sometimes busy road across to Drayton and on to the NCN path. I'd stopped 8 miles into the ride at West Hanney for a drink and bits of fruit, and then my next stop was for free coffee at Waitrose in Abingdon.

I usually take home made sandwiches with me, as well as fruit, tomatoes (yes I know that's also fruit!) and a snack bar but today I had brought with me a tuna John West Creations range meal  instead, but when I got to Waitrose at 11.30 I fancied some of their sandwiches. Bearing in mind what I had been thinking about food, I went for something substantial - chicken and bacon - which I sat outside eating, along with a few tiny chocolate biscuits from home (I only bought them as we needed a tin!) and my free coffee. A lady joined me and we chatted about walking. It was very pleasant sitting there, and I was interested to see that many shoppers came by bike, more than do in Wantage.

Then it was off through the Abbey Meadows -

to join NCN 5. I had worked out a circular route home and decided I hadn't quite got time to go as far as Oxford, so I turned off west just north of Radley, having passed this Millenium milepost marker -

NCN Millenium milepost marker
What spoilt this ride for quite a few miles was the noise of the traffic from the A420. It certainly spoils the lovely village of Sunningwell, which I had never been to before but had heard of as I had seen it mentioned in the Oxfordshire Art Weeks booklets - it has a School of Art in the old school building. Just fancy - a little village with its own School of Art! Imagine the conversation -

"Oh, you went to art school? Glasgow? St Martin's?" [They're the ones I've heard of]

"Oh no - Sunningwell!"

[Cough, splutter] "Where????"

I went in the church opposite to have a look round; I often stop and go in churches, and it is good to find that invariably they are open. I have only found one, on my recent jaunts, that wasn't. I also refilled my water bottle at their outside tap - I have said in a previous post that most churches have an outside tap somewhere! The water is usually lovely and cold too.

After Sunningwell I went through Shippon, which I hadn't realized was the home of Dalton Barracks, though I could tell it was somewhere military just from the look of it. I've often passed the sign to Dalton Barracks on a different road but had no idea it was in a place called Shippon! You learn something new every day! The next place of any significance was Tubney, and here were the usual signs of wealth - big houses set back from the wide verges, electronic gates by the dozen -

Nice bike in the foreground.

- and anti-climb paint, which apparently never dries and is therefore an effective anti-intruder measure. It is apparently difficult to remove from clothing so it's a good job that I didn't get too close to the fence it was on. I just think - what's the point of having that much dosh if you're so terrified of invaders that you need these electronic entry devices and anti-climb paint, and no doubt intruder alarms and probably CCTV as well? Maybe there are even security guards lurking in the gardens too. And probably fierce Alsations. Or perhaps those latter two are a bit old school!!

Part of my mission on this ride was to find the tunnel under the A420 at Fyfield; I had read about it on Wantage CUK ride reports. I could see it on the OS map on Husband's old smartphone but couldn't find the path to it. I ended up having to cross the dual carriageway (had to wait ages for a gap in the traffic) to where I could see the bridlepath opposite, then pootled along it, saw another path off it, went down there, found the tunnel, went through it, and followed the path back to where I should have got on it! Interestingly, when I got home and looked at our older paper OS map, I could see the old road, that is now really just a path, that led to the tunnel, and where I should have got on it. I suppose it's no longer classified as any kind of public right of way, so is no longer on the map. Just goes to show, the old maps are useful.

The tunnel in the distance

At the other end of the village of Fyfield there is no tunnel and if you want to get across the A420 at this end then you do have to cross over it, but here there is a place to wait between the two carriageways making it easier and safer to cross -

You can just see where the path comes out on the opposite side of the road.

I then found another old bit of road, now re-classified as "other route with public access" which led me to Kingston Bagpuize, and here once again I went on the search for a short cut, which on both the old and new maps is clearly marked as a "restricted byway" but which is simply not there at all in places, or where it is it has an unofficial notice calling it a footpath. I did some homework when I got home, looking it up on the Oxfordshire Definitive Map, a legal record of public rights of way, and it is definitely marked as a restricted byway, so my next step is to go and see if I can find physically where it originally came out onto the road at the other end. I've looked on Google Streetview but can't see evidence of it. The next step after that is to report it to the County Council.

I was beginning to flag slightly at this point; I'd done about 35 miles, the same distance that had knackered me the day before! I tend to stop more often later in a ride, both to rest and to drink and eat. I wasn't actually particularly hungry but bearing in mind my thoughts the evening before about food intake I thought that maybe I should eat the John West meal. I was jolly glad I still had it with me; I think I needed it as I ate the lot quite easily and felt better for it. I also walked for a bit, pushing the bike. The explanation for this is that a) it uses different muscles for a change and b) every bicycle and rider creates some noise, and sometimes I just want to be able not to hear that noise but to hear the sounds of nature around me and c) I just like walking.

I visited another church on the way home, at West Challow, where they had no tap but offered free bottles of water inside. They also had books you could borrow, and I picked one by Mark Tanner, entitled "The Introvert Charismatic: The Gift of Introversion in a Noisy Church". I have since read this interesting article about the author, who transports blood by motorbike in his spare time.

I had begun to realize by now that if I carried on and went straight home, I wouldn't reach 50 miles, but only about 44. I really wanted to do 50 if only to prove to myself that I could do it (OK, I admit, it looks good on Strava....) so when I got to within 1 1/2 miles of home I went back and did a 2 mile circuit before heading towards home again. Uh oh, still not far enough........ but some more veering off the route and I did it! 50.14 miles to be precise. I got home about 7.20 pm, not too knackered!

I have to say that this wasn't, overall, the most enjoyable of bike rides. As I said earlier, for quite a few miles I could hear the busy A420, and the roads across from Radley to Fyfield, although rural, are quite busy, almost rat runs in places, but, as they say (well I do anyway) "there's no such thing as a bad bike ride - just some that aren't as good as others!"

And just out of interest, here's a list of what I ate while out -

2 clementines
2 quarters of tomato (I didn't fancy the other 2)
2 chicken and bacon sandwiches
About 5 tiny chocolate biscuits
John West Creations meal
Yogurt (bought in Waitrose)

In case you're interested, here's a link to this ride -

Then I had two days break from cycling before going on our local Wantage CUK 1* group ride on the Thursday. The 1* group may be the bottom rung of the ladder but we certainly put in some miles, and for me at a pace which is usually faster than my normal one. To put that in figures, I've noticed that my normal pace when out on my own is between 8 and 9 mph, whereas with the group it is between 10 and 11, which is considerably faster, and I have on some rides felt that I was not only struggling to keep up but that I simply didn't want to go at that speed. After one particular ride I even thought - do I want to do this? I ruminated a lot on it........... However, I'm happy to say that more often than not on these rides I have been perfectly able to keep up and have thoroughly enjoyed them.

The pace of today's ride turned out to be a fraction over 10 mph - perfectly acceptable even to me! - and was about 20 miles long. I joined the group at the usual start, 6 miles away, and left them after the stop at the Huddle Coffee shop at Stanford in the Vale to make my own way home. A note about the coffee, my usual Americano - it wasn't quite as good as last time (see my review) when it was very good. I do wonder if the standard of a coffee in the same cafe can vary from time to time for some reason unknown to me - something else for me to investigate! As it was beyond mid-morning coffee-and-cake time and well into lunch time I had egg mayo sandwiches with a side of salad* and they were excellent! Proper home made style. We did a flat ride of the Vale and although we cycled roads we've ridden lots of times before it was still very enjoyable. We had a couple of new riders join us this time, which was good.

So, there we have it, a week of Less Ordinary Cycling. Back to the more Ordinary this week I think....

* One of Eldest Son's Strava (and real life) friends has a habit of adding "with a side of" to the title of his Strava rides, which I think is rather amusing, so I've decided to slip this into my blog on occasions, even when it's nothing to do with food.....

Thursday, July 25

Ordinary cycling

There is to be a slight change of direction for this blog. I have begun to find that writing about cycling comes more easily to me than writing about sewing and sewing machines. I started the blog in 2015 with the intention of writing what I thought would be useful things about sewing that might help other people - just as I had found other sewing blogs useful. Cycling was also to be a big part of the blog, and anything else of interest to me, such as make do and mend, preserving and foraging.

However, I have found lately that I have rather lost my enthusiasm for writing about sewing, unless perhaps it is cycling related. Having said that, I do enjoy writing posts about repairs, such as the one on my Barbour jacket. That is actually my most popular post, with 2498 views! That seems like an awful lot of views to me! My sewing machine posts have been quite popular too. Somewhere in between come my cycling posts, some with much higher viewing figures than others. My review of Peter Walker's book "Bike Nation" has had over 500.

Many bloggers give up. I haven't run out of enthusiasm, but sometimes I think that I should blog about such and such on the sewing front, but I really don't feel like doing it - whereas I certainly do feel like blogging about cycling. So now cycling will take priority, although anything on the sewing front that is cycling related will definitely be included.

Now, my explanation for the title of this post is that I don't do a lot of cycling that is extra-ordinary in any way - only occasionally. Most of my cycling is very ordinary and every day, but actually, although I do love reading about other cyclists' extra-ordinary adventures, I am also very interested in the ordinary cycling that people do, the shopping, the commuting, the school runs, the awful rides, the fantastic rides, the just-using-the-bike-to-get-somewhere-because-that's-the-way-you-travel rides. I have never really written about my ordinary cycling; I thought that people would only really want to read about my more adventurous cycling, if you can call it that. But realizing how interested I am in the everyday cycling of others, I've decided to start writing about just that, and to try to write more frequent posts.

I actually find that even the most ordinary of cycle rides often becomes something quite out of the ordinary. Every one includes something of interest. I am very much the type of person who stops to look at things, and pick up things; I'm a natural scavenger and forager. The other day I picked up a dying pot plant thrown in the verge, and which I think is now coming back to life, and a very expensive pair of sunglasses, which I have put on the appropriate "Spotted" page on Facebook. They do rather suit me so I'm hoping I don't get any replies! I also stop and talk to people. And when I ring my friendly bell, people turn and smile!

So, here we go, let's start with today's ride! Bear in mind that when I say today, I am writing on what is expected to be the hottest day of the year (so far), Thursday, July 25th 2019. Most weeks I join my local CTC on a Thursday daytime ride, and really enjoy it. I normally ride to the start to join them, about 6 miles, and then either finish with them and ride the 6 miles home, or leave them at some point near the end to ride home. We do about 15-20 miles; the total for me usually ends up being in the region of 25-35 miles. The only things that have stopped me this year have been ice, illness and the birth of another grandchild - we had a third granddaughter in May!

Yesterday I had cycled to go shopping , and despite the heat had even chosen a long way home, with a good hill included, but I had set off about 8 am before it got too hot, and was home by 10.45, having done about 11 miles. But today I knew would be even hotter, and the ride was due to start at 10.30. To be honest, I knew it probably wasn't a good idea for me to go in this heat, but I didn't want to let people down as this ride has been advertised as a family bike ride, suitable for parents and children and slower and shorter than our usual rides. It's always good to have plenty of regular riders along to support the less regular, or even new, ones. I also very much enjoy the social side of these rides as well, chatting as we go along and stopping for coffee somewhere en route.

I was well prepared, having put one bottle of water in the freezer last night, and two others in the fridge, mostly for drinking (or as spare if anyone else needed any) but also for pouring over myself if I got too hot. I did that on very hot rides last year and it really helped. (Just to add that about 7.45 I'd  walked about 1 1/2 miles up a local track to look for, and hopefully give water to, a little cat that Husband had spotted on a bike ride last night, but I didn't find said cat, though I left some water near where he had seen it.) I drank plenty before I left, ate some yogurt and banana - breakfast had been about 6am - and I put on sunglasses and even my Tilley hat (I don't wear a helmet) which I don't particularly like wearing as it may shield me from the sun but it makes my head hotter, and set off about 9.40, on my choice of steed for today - my steel Trek of 20 plus years of age - by which time the temperature was already 30 degrees C.......

As I rode I was thinking -

"It's already incredibly hot, and I've got to ride back later on when it will be even hotter."

And then I thought -

"This is stupid. I shouldn't be cycling. For my own safety I'm going to turn back".

And so, after 2.8 miles, I did just that, cycling a total of 5.68 miles altogether. I was disappointed to miss the ride, but knew it was a sensible decision to turn back. I'm still sweating sitting here at the computer!

So that's the first report on my very ordinary bike rides! The one that got aborted!


Saturday, May 18

Mending a vintage silk blouse

I was recently asked to mend this silk blouse. The owner did not know exactly how old it was, but my guess is 1930s. The amazing thing is that virtually all the stitching is done by hand and as you can see from the photos below, there is an awful lot of it! Every single seam, all the pin tucks, the attaching of the lace......... it must have taken hundreds of hours.The photos are not the best - I'm still having trouble with my camera..... but I hope you get the gist of things.

The pintucks -

The collar -

The under side of the collar, showing the hand stitching -

French seams at the sides - 

There were various parts of seams that needed mending. On the far right of this sleeve seam you can see the original stitching, and to the left is my repair; not quite as neat and small -

This is where someone had mended it before, using backstitch instead of the running stitch that was used originally, and which I used. The backstitch is a bit thick and lumpy - 

Previous repair

An underarm seam, a bit sweat stained........ I did think of asking the owner to wash the blouse before I mended it, as there were other dirty marks on it too, but I refrained, and just got on and did it. I have read that you should mend old garments before washing them but personally I don't like mending grubby things and won't do it again.

Another previous repair

There is a button missing from the bottom of the blouse now as I had to use it to replace one on a cuff. I also had to make a new button loop, seen here at the top, and looking rather white compared to the one at the bottom. That might be due to a different coloured thread or just that the old one is grubby -

New button loop

Here there was a tiny loop attached to the shoulder seam, with a popper fastening, for holding in place the straps of undergarments, and this is a bit of a mystery, because - the stitching you can see is done by machine! The photo is not that clear but I can assure you that that bit of stitching is done by machine. It's the only bit of machine stitching that I found on the whole blouse, and how strange to find it here on this tiny loop! -  

It was a privilege to work on a lovely vintage garment like this.

Monday, May 6

Savoury flapjack recipe

A somewhat different sort of post for me! What inspired it was an episode of Dragon's Den earlier this year, in which the founders of a snack company called Oatein pitched for investment by the Dragons. I have since looked up their bars and have not been impressed with their ingredients.

As I watched the programme, I thought about snack bars generally and in particular the ones that Husband and I keep in the cupboard (from Aldi) and realized that delicious though they are, and very good for bike rides, most of the ingredients are grown abroad. Also, the wrappers are not recyclable. Then I wondered - could I produce something that was based on oats but which would not be very sweet and which would contain ingredients which were grown in this country? Something that even contained vegetables perhaps? So the next day I set to work, and this was what I came up with!

Savoury Flapjack

8 oz oats (I used rolled)
8oz hazelnuts
8 oz grated carrot
4 oz butter
2 oz honey
2 eggs, beaten
A large pinch each of salt and pepper

Melt together the honey and butter and mix it all up. Talk about easy.....

I put it in a tin which is about 9" square I think, and cooked it at 150 degrees C (fan) for 45 minutes.
Cut it up when it has cooled slightly, then leave to cool in the tin completely before turning out.

I kept it in the cupboard when I first made it but it went mouldy after a few days so I now keep it in the fridge. And I think it's delicious!

The only ingredient which was not from this country was the hazelnuts, but I chose them because you can obviously get them in this country in the autumn, as you can walnuts or almonds but I'm not sure that their flavour would go so well with the carrots. It's not unlike a nut roast recipe - in fact you could probably make it as that.

It is excellent for taking on bike rides as it is pretty filling stuff and is very quick to just get out of the fridge and wrap up - in something reusable. I think it is a good balance of carbohydrate, protein, fibre and vitamins and minerals. It is actually a lot more than a "snack" - I have taken it instead of sandwiches and it has kept me going for a long time.

If anyone would like to test this out, do let me know your opinions.

Saturday, April 27

Singer 411g and the mystery problem with the cam stack

I bought this machine last year via Facebook marketplace, recognising the model as one of Singer's best. It's a slant needle model and does chain stitch. In the home of the person I bought it from the machine was ready for me to try out, but it was on the floor; the person was foreign and communication was not all that easy, so after merely pressing the pedal to see if it went, and fiddling with the knobs and levers and presser foot, to check that they moved, I bought it. The only attachments with it were one foot and one special disk. It did have a sticker on it showing that it had been serviced a few years ago.

I then left it for quite a few months as other things had to take priority, plus to be honest I think my doing-up-machines mojo had got up and gone for a while, but once I got it out again the mojo came back. I have since bought two other machines, a Harris Automatic and a Singer 201 treadle in a very nice Enclosed Cabinet No 51, so my case of VSMA (Vintage Sewing Machine Addiction) was clearly just in remission.....

Usual place for machines that I'm cleaning up i.e. the kitchen table - 

I bought a manual from Helen Howes; I know I could have downloaded one for free but this time I wanted a genuine Singer one. I cleaned the machine, oiled it, greased the gears, and tested out the stitches. All was looking good. 

This machine has a stack of cams, which are the metal disks that enable the machine to produce the different stitches. I have a cam stack on the Bernina 801 that I use, but I have never needed to do anything to that, and I have had no experience with working on cam stacks on other machines. I watched this video How to clean the cam stack on Singer 401a - a very similar machine to the 411g but without the ability to do chain stitch, and it seemed a straightforward process so  I went ahead and took mine out and cleaned it. For reasons that will become clear, I just wish I had taken photos of the cam stack before I removed it.

Cam stack in bits before cleaning -

Cam stack after cleaning (we'll come back to the arrows in a minute) -


Cam stack back in the machine -

Now, observe - there is a wiggly spring clip (right hand arrow in pic 1) that should be held in place by that screw (left hand arrow in Pic 2, correctly termed the stud I believe). That screw should  hold down that clip, but on mine it doesn't. It should be sitting right down on it and there shouldn't be that gap under the top of the screw. 

Here is the cam stack from another machine; this is what that screw and clip should look like - 

Someone else's machine

I didn't know this until I went to try out the one special disk that came with it; it worked at first but then popped off the top, meaning the machine was no longer doing that particular stitch.

I asked on the Vintage Singers group on (used to be Yahoo) if anybody could help; someone sent me some photos of the top of the cam stack on her machine so I knew mine wasn't right. I contacted Dan Hopgood (good blogger on vintage sewing machines in the UK) knowing he had one of these machines and he very kindly removed the cam stack from his machine, took it apart, gave me measurements I asked for and sent me photos. Everything on his machine seemed to be identical to mine. I took the cam stack in and out, in and out, and took it to bits again and again, but it seems that it is impossible to get that screw down far enough on my machine in order for it to hold that clip in place. Total mystery.

This is why I wish I'd taken pictures before I took the cam stack out, so that I knew whether or not it was like this to start with.

I plan to sell this machine but don't want to do so until I have sorted this mystery out, as even though the stitches that don't involve the special disk work fine I want to be able to sell it with that disk working properly. There are several other disks that go with this machine (how does this happen -  attachments getting separated from machines?!) and some future buyer may well want to to buy extra disks and use them.

So - I'm rather hoping that somewhere out there is someone who will read this post and solve the mystery for me!!

Monday, April 1

Tensioning my Brooks B67 saddle following severe discomfort!

As an introduction, this was my Brooks B67 when I first got it in May last year. I had bought it for my Koga aluminium touring bike. Once I'd got the height and tilt adjusted correctly for me, it soon became very comfortable. In this photo you can see that the back is fairly level, while the nose tilts up a fair bit, which is how I had read you were supposed to set them up. Tensioning was something I thought I would forget about for the time being, and that I would know when to do it, if at all. 

May 2018

These photos were taken about two months later in July.  As you can see there is still very little sign of sit bone impressions.

July 2018

July 2018

It was so comfortable that on a trip last year (read the first episode here) of 4 days cycling, I only wore padded undershorts on one of those days, riding 35 - 45 miles each day. The only slight soreness I had was under my sit bones. I kept count of the miles I did on it, until September when I reached over 600 miles.

Around about November time I noticed that the bike generally didn't seem quite as comfortable as it had done, although this thought was just a germ of something at the time - you know how you notice something but it hardly registers in your brain? Well, I carried on riding this bike but rather subconsciously chose to ride my steel Trek more often than before, realizing that it was a lot more comfortable going over bumps in the road. I tend to use the Trek for shopping and shorter trips, and use the Koga for longer trips, but as I don't do very long trips in the winter it didn't matter too much that the Koga was becoming uncomfortable. 

The discomfort was in the frontal region.....  I even bought some of these padded knickers - Equetech Dressage Briefs - because you can get them with the padding just at the front. They are actually very comfortable, and I like them because they are mainly cotton. They make a good alternative to cycling shorts/undershorts, although I found the padding to be a bit firmer than my other padded shorts. But to be honest they didn't really help a lot, and as I hadn't needed them before I couldn't see why I needed them now!

However, a couple of  a couple of weeks ago I went out on a ride of about 28 miles on the Koga. I didn't wear any padded undershorts, reasoning that perhaps I had just got too soft! But the discomfort was bad...... too bad to put up with any longer. I couldn't even go over those thickly painted lines on the road designed to reduce your speed without slowing right down and lifting off the saddle. And, although the saddle had always tended to creak slightly (and I know this is a common thing with Brooks saddles) it hadn't bothered me before, but on this day it drove me up the wall! 

Then I thought that perhaps I was running my tyres too hard. I don't pump them up excessively hard but I have always tended to think that harder was better than softer, so I thought they might well be too hard. I investigated the matter.... One of the best articles I read was in the Breton Bikes blog. I read it all and then reduced the pressure in my tyres accordingly. However it still didn't make much difference to my comfort level. But as I was pfaffing around doing the tyres I suddenly noticed that my saddle had now gained very obvious sit bone impressions, and the sides were flaring out a bit. 

Here are some pics -

March 2019, before tensioning

March 2019, before tensioning

It's hard to really get a good photo that shows the difference between when I first got the saddle and now, but believe me there really was quite a big difference! And that's when the penny must be time for tensioning!! 

I was told as a child by one of my sisters, in the teasing way that siblings do, that I was "slow on the uptake" and it has only been in recent years that I have come to realize that that is not because there is something wrong with my brain but just because I think about things a lot, and more often than not that thinking results in my understanding something better than if I had perhaps been quicker on the uptake. So, although it had taken me a long time to realize what the real problem was, I had learnt a lot about tyre pressures along the way.

First I attempted to turn the bolt on the tensioning pin with the saddle still on the bike. I certainly didn't want to remove the saddle having taken so much trouble last year to get the angle right. Then, once again proving my slowness, another penny dropped when I looked at photos on the internet of other people's Brooks saddle and I realized that I could just remove the seat post with the saddle still on it! I made sure I could see the mark on the seat post that I had previously put there to make sure I put it back at the right height. I turned the nut, although thought that the bolt was turning with it (as others have said it sometimes does) but Handy Helpful Husband said it wasn't and I finally succeeded in the tensioning! I rode it around, did it a bit more, and then - rode last Saturday for a very comfortable 48 miles!! With no padding!! Oh the bliss of a comfy bike again! AND - the creaking has largely gone. I don't mind a little creaking....

I meant to take a photo of the tensioning bolt after I had done it, to give the exact position of the nut on it, but in my eagerness to try out the saddle I forgot. I get infuriated sometimes when I am looking at photos of this sort of thing on the internet but can't quite make out exactly what is what, or where something is in relation to something else, so apologies to anyone reading this for whom my photos are not precise enough! I hope you can see in this one that I took afterwards roughly where the nut is. I'm really not sure how much I actually turned that nut in the end, but it was definitely more than just a quarter turn, which is what I have seen recommended as the starting point. By all means start with a quarter turn, but don't be afraid to turn it more.

I also decided, despite having wanted to be sure of keeping the saddle in its original position, that I wanted to tilt the nose down a bit, although  again it's hard to show in the photo below that it's any different to how I had it set up in the first place.  Maybe it isn't much different.....

March 2019, after tensioning, and after altering tilt

And just in case this might offer any further help, here it is with a spirit level on top. Pity I never took a photo like this when I first got it as that would have made for a proper comparison.

March 2019, after tensioning and after altering tilt

I am now a much happier bunny and looking forward to long trips on this bike again!