Every day?

Day 1 Home to Tavistock: 110km, average speed 22.6 km/hour

We bike regularly with a group of cyclists from the town of Wingham. Last Friday, as we returned from our weekly ride, the elder statesman of the group, with alarm in his voice says “You’re going to do this every day?” He repeated it a number of times as he wandered away, down the street. We assured him that we were ready to “do it” every day, for a few days in a row anyway.

Today, we are not so sure.

At 8:00 am , rested and ready to go!

We chose the hottest, most humid day of the year, so far, to start out on this “every day” for  a while journey. Four of our friends came with us for the beginning of the trip, to send us off, two of them staying with us for the first 50 km. Company does make you (me anyway) push a little harder to stay ahead or even just keep up. We arrived in Seaforth for a lunch break at the half way mark, well before lunch. From there we went on alone (if two people can be alone together) and dropped our speed down a bit. By the time we got to Tavistock the water was all gone.

Good thing we left today, this road would be closed on Monday and the choices to the right and left were both gravel.

We kept on though, drawn by the knowledge that there was a Tim’s in Tavistock which sells brain freezing ground-up ice drinks at exorbitant prices. We felt like we were limping into town. Refreshed by ground ice we made the last kilometer to our lodging for tonight. We are in a 1911 vintage caboose, surrounded by a little train village.

Our cozy caboose, with air conditioning


2014 Cycling Summary

The tamdem along the Natchez Trace Parkway

The tamdem along the Natchez Trace Parkway

This morning it is snowing. It looks like the cycling season is likely over for 2014. This year the lion’s share of the season has been on the tandem. J and I had a good start with the trip on the Natchez Trace Parkway followed by a three day trip in Ontario. It seemed that every other opportunity to cycle involved the two of us out together. A good thing really…..

So here is the final tally (unless we happen to get some more days over 10 degrees C when it is not raining)

  • Tandem: 2166 km
  • Road Bike:287 km
  • Touring Bike: 168 km
  • Total: 2621 km

Its a bit of a surprise that we were significantly higher than last year with all of the extra kilometers (and more) on the tandem. The touring bike got more use this year as well, but we still question the practicality of keeping the matched Opus Legattos.


A Short Cycling Break

Last week we took a short break that combined cycling, theater, and food, all things we enjoy. We returned yesterday afternoon after three days of nearly perfect conditions, virtually no wind, absolutely on rain, and temperatures in the high 20’s, hot, but not uncomfortably so.

The Oxford Inn in Stratford. Charming

The Oxford Inn in Stratford. Charming

Our journey took us 90 km, from home to Stratford the first day, to the Oxford Inn B&B and a wonderful evening at the Stratford Festival Theatre with friends. The friends met us at the Parlour Gastro Pub and then provided transportation for us to and from the production of Crazy for You. I’d never been to a play in Stratford and it was certainly a wonderful experience. We’ll need to try some real Shakespeare at some point.

Getting ready to leave after a stop in a St Marys park

Getting ready to leave after a stop in a St Marys park

The next morning it was up and on to Grand Bend via the village of St Marys. Fueled by Grant’s wonderful B&B breakfast we made the entire 92 km trip to Grand Bend with no lunch. We stopped at the grocery store in Grand Bend to pick up some food which became something of a lupper. We had intended to go out for supper, but the pool and comfy deck chairs at the Grand Hideaway B&B held us until it was time to get in the taxi to go to the Huron Country Playhouse for an opening night production of Les Miserables.download We where held through the night with Haagen-Daz ice cream.

Day three started with filling up on an even larger breakfast than the morning before, served by B&B host  Peter, a professional chef. 90 km later we were home, but not before stopping for more food at Bartliff’s Bakery in Clinton (you just can’t bike past Bartliff’s)

We mostly stayed on what should have been quiet country roads for this trip,  without any serious incidents. Grand Bend itself was a nightmare with one yelling motorist and a couple of near misses. East/west roads in southern Huron County were very busy on our Saturday trip home and motorists seemed to have little time or space for our bike. We were pushed off the road twice, once by an oncoming car passing two slower vehicles. The gravel on the shoulder was very loose, bringing us to a full stop, but without damage or injury. There was a close call with a pick-up truck in Clinton, which, on sober reflection, may have been my fault.

Apart from those small annoyances, we had a great few days away. Sun, wind, humming wheels on the road and great company. What could be better?

Filian (or Philian?)

Tuesday was nearly a disaster. We are on holiday, cycling in Ireland on a tandem bicycle. We were on the loop ride in the south west corner of the island. The day was cloudy and we had already ridden through a downpour. The wind was strong and cold. As we came around a bend we could see the “village” of Kilhaha about three kilometres ahead, when suddenly, going up a small rise, there was no resistance in the pedals. The first thought was that we had thrown the chain, unusual in itself. More unusual, though, was the snake of chain extended on the road behind the bike. It was a most disconcerting sight.

imageWe had prepared for most eventualities, but not this one. In the thousands of kilometres we had ridden, we had never broken a chain. We had a tool to take the broken bits off, but nothing to put it back together. We started walking toward what appeared to be a pub in the distance.

Arriving at the village, it was obvious there was no bike shop. We went into the bar and initially got a rather blank stare, following our request for someone to work on our bike, from the woman behind the bar. She turned to a wizened character, the only other occupant of the bar, nursing a Guiness in the corner.

“Filian, do ye think ye can fix it”

“Oh, aye, oh aye, I can fix it better than new” he mumbles.

imageHis appearance didn’t evoke much confidence, but he was all we had. He took a quick look and, from his diagnosis of the situation left us feeling even less confident. He returned to his Guiness, and I took the chain apart at the repair link, but could not get it back together.
Returning to the bar, Filian was our only hope.

“I’ll just finish me drink and we’ll walk to my shop, aye I can fix it”

It starts to rain again so we decide to order a cup of tea to warm up. Filian seeing the delay orders another Guinness.

The walk to the shop is about half a kilometre, up hill. I keep looking ahead for something that looks like a repair shop but nothing fits. We got lots of history on the way, some of which we could understand though the Irish.

“It’s right here” he says, pointing at a delapitated Quonset hut which he opened after struggling with what he claimed to be a brand new lock. The door slid open and there was an electic hoist with a car on it with no wheels. Maybe we had found a mechanic!

Our optimism flagged as he started to dig around in a corner and came up with a length of dirty, rusty, bicycle chain.

“This’ll do the trick”he says.

I examine the chain for a repair link, but there doesn’t seem to be one.

” We need a repair link”

” No we don’t, those things are no good,” which prompted a story about a repair link and a motorcycle.

J and I exchanged dispairing looks, while Filian (we actually don’t know his name at this point,we’d missed it at the bar)starts digging around in an old cookie tin full of bits of hardware, nuts, and bolts, muttering to himself the whole time. He finds what he wants, not a repair link, but a nut which he uses in conjunction with the a hammer and punch to take a link out of the old chain.

“It’s not a repair link,” I say.

“I know, I know, we’ll get you going better than new.”

He seems to be getting grumpy and we are a little more than anxious as our day slips away with the opportunity to get to a proper bike shop rapidly fading.

Filian did get the chain together, squeezing the old link with vice grips till it held. Of course bike chains need to be put together in place because they are on both sides of the chain stay which makes using a hammer on it almost impossible. A concrete block, topped with a chunk of native Irish rock was set up and we were ordered to put the bike on its side, chain on rock. With great trepidation we did it, trying to keep the shiny frame away from the rocks, and he proceeded to tap the rivets flat with a long punch and a hammer (the two pound mini sledge was almost more than we could bear).

Believe it, or not, the fix worked. Oh, the gears skipped a bit because the link was actually a bit to wide, but otherwise we were down the road and finished our day.

Wednesday we altered our route into Kilrush, found a bike shop, and got a brand new chain, but that’s another story altogether.
There is a moral to this story, I’m sure. It might have to do with judging books by their covers, or multiple ways to skin cats.

Our New Bike

Our new bike came today. Its a Santana Arriva Niobium (lots of words). Its a tandem, but it all fits in a airline compatible case. We had lots of fun putting it together. We’re assuming we’ll get quicker with experience. This time it took nearly 3 hours to put it together. We’re still getting along.

So…here’s the reveal…..










Cycling in Bruce

The summer is rapidly coming to a close. It’s been a busy summer with travel, canoeing, cycling, Greek, and work. We wanted to squeeze in one more long bike ride. Yesterday was the day. We’re paying for it today.

Ready to go in Paisley.

Bruce County puts out a cycling map. We have biked from home a lot, so we decided to load the bike (this is a tandem trip), drive 50km and start from there. Most of the loops on the map are less than 100 km, but one, the Eight Mills Loop, starting and ending in Paisley, looked like it would meet our needs.

About the route, the brochure says:

As for the ride itself, expect quiet country roads, light rollers, and probable bugs around the wetlands near Crawford.

I’m not sure that the brochure writers actually got on a bike and rode the route. If they had, they would have mentioned that nearly 20% of the route was gravel roads, with plenty of loose gravel on more than light rollers. They likely should have skipped the mill that was situated in the middle of nowhere and called it The Seven Mills Loop.

In the end, we modified en route to try to get out of the gravel hills. Our route was still just over 100 km with the last 45 directly into a pretty good breeze. The sun was out, but it was not hot. We got burnt. No one’s fault but our own.

Our lunch stop: The Williamsford Mill

We did find a wonderful stop for lunch at the easterly end of the loop. One of the eight mills has been converted to a bookstore/cafe in the little village of Williamsford. We had breakfast at 2:00 pm surrounded by the beams of the structure and an eclectic mix of

The interior of the mill.

new and used books. It was cool.

We ended the day extremely tired, burnt, and sore (not saying where). Our route home took us directly past the Holyrood General store where we took on all of the calories that we had burnt off in the day by treating ourselves to a “small” ice cream cone.

Today we head out camping for the weekend. The summer is over…..

My Bike is Lighter

Yesterday, J rode her bike to work. Since her shift is not over until 9:00 pm, riding home again would not work. I took the truck, my bike, and supper into Clinton, had supper with her, loaded her bike into the truck, and rode my bike back home. Its 28.5 km of hills. I got home in 54 minutes with an average speed of 31.5 km/hour. I’ve never ridden so far so fast.

Part of this accomplishment is due to the gentle breeze that was coming from the south, pushing on my back. Part of it is due to riding over 1000 km on a heavy tandem bike pulling a trailer a couple of weeks ago. A significant portion is due to the fact that my bike has become a lot lighter.

I did not get a new bike. It’s the load on the bike that has become smaller. In the last two years, since quitting my job and becoming a full time student, I’ve avoided the first year spread and instead lost 23 pounds. Most of this loss has been because I no longer have many “business lunches”. Many of the interactions that I would have with my team were be over a meal in a restaurant with portions that were too large and too greasy. That part of my life has changed and meals are now much more modest and usually taken at home.

The last 10 pounds has fallen off following the tandem bike trip (not during) and I’m sure by next February, most of that weight will be back on, but for now I’m lighter than I have been in thirty years. Today, my BMI went from “overweight” to “normal”.

They say the cheapest way to get a lighter, faster bike is to lose weight. Well, my bike is now lighter and faster and sadly, I’m still riding the same one.