Wednesday, 27 June 2012



On Monday morning we had a brief glimpse of summer......the sun was shining and it actually felt quite warm.... an ideal day for a nice bike ride. 
I had arranged to drive over to my daughter's house and go from there on a ride with my son in law Scott. 

I hadn't ridden with Scott since January when he ran out of steam about half way through a thirty mile loop on the Purbecks. 
Since then he has been out on a number of rides with a friend of his who is a bit of a keen sportsman, the odd solo ride and he also  did a 42 mile short sportive a few weeks ago. 

The sportive represented his PB in terms of mileage on a single ride that he had achieved to date. Interestingly the first thing that Scott asked me as we were about to set off was "how far will we be riding today?" I just told him that I had a good route in mind and that it wasn't too far. 

The route I was intending to do was a loop of about 51 miles that meanders through some really lovely inland Dorset villages along some nice country lanes that encounter very little traffic. I thought that the route would be a good one for him to do, as although a bit lumpy, it would stretch him a bit but wouldn't be so tough as to drain him totally.

After all the rain that we have been having it must be said that the route wasn't as tidy as it normally is. A lot of dirt and muck had been washed off the fields and onto the lanes meaning some extra care was required on corners and faster sections. 
One lane near the village of  Farnham was quite badly water logged but still passable although a few days ago it would have been impossible to cycle along it on a road bike due to flooding and all the mud.......We stopped for a short lunch break in the village of Ashmore.....

Up to this point Scott had been riding well and I even had to suggest to him that he ease back a bit on his average speed as I didn't want him to 'blow up' early in the ride. 
As it was Scott completed the ride pretty well. 
He had certainly improved since our last ride together earlier in the year and has all the makings of a good cyclist if he can put in the time and effort in training...which is always difficult for a time strapped young family man. 

I dropped him on a few occasions during the second half of the ride, but that is only to be expected as 'going the distance' in endurance terms is the area that he is working on as he builds up his ride mileage. 
The ride was another PB for him as the 51 miles covered was the furthest on a single ride that he has done and he managed to complete it at an average speed of 15.5mph which considering the terrain was a pretty fair average. 

As his performance is improving he is also morphing into a cyclist in terms of the look.....He now has yellow and black cycle mitts to match his bike and he also told me that a yellow cycle jersey has also been ordered to help complete that look. 

It won't be long before he has the full ' Bene in Selle' (looking good in the saddle) as the Italians like to call it........

Sunday, 24 June 2012




Following the recent post I made regarding the SKS of my regular visitors dropped in from his Bicycle Friends blog and asked if I could post a picture of the mudflap fitted to the bike. So......Not one, but three images shown here of the said fitted mudflap.

As the weatherman had predicted we have had more wet and windy weather but the start to this new week is looking quite good so I am hoping to get some decent distance rides completed.
I am even hoping to get a ride in with my son in law Scott.... It will be interesting to see how his riding has come on since our last ride together way back in January.

My recent rides have seemed a bit like a battle against wind and rain and it would be really nice to go out for a ride and reach that sublime state where you feel totally at one with the bike....spinning the pedals in an almost unconscious manner...a state where the physical- the mental- and the emotional all become as one.

This almost meditative state is one that I have connected with when I have been backpacking and also when cycling...although in nearly every case when I have been on my own. 
This does not mean that you are no longer aware of what is going on around you like a person can be when they are connected to an MP3 player by earphones...indeed you are more highly aware of everything around you.....but it is as if the physical, mental and emotional senses become more acute and blend together as one......

When cycling against strong winds and rain it's pretty hard to connect with anything other than the difficulty that you are having in the struggle to keep moving forward..........

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


My recent post about the bad weather and then another post about mudguards and mudflaps seems to have had the desired effect. 
Since I made those two posts we have had three days of wonderful dry, warm and sunny weather. 
I have been able to take 'Fiona' the Felt out each day.

My intention on my recent rides has been to have some nice easy riding and enjoy the views and the countryside....easier said than done though. 
The Felt is the kind of bike that just cries out to be  ridden hard, so try as I might to take it easy each day I have found myself pushing it harder and harder throughout the rides. 
These past three days I have ridden out to Lulworth... Wool... Moreton... Dorchester.....Bere Regis to name just a few of the towns and villages I have ridden through. 

One landmark that I reached over the past three days was breaking through the 5,000 mile mark on my years mileage. I will update the mileage counter as normal at the weekend.

When I got back from today's ride I thought that I would checkout the weather forecast for the next few days......
Oh dear! 
It seems that making those posts was only a temporary fix for the weather. 
Apparently today was the last we will see of the good weather for at least the next four days as wind and more rain is predicted..... 

Ah well.. At least that means I will be back out on the Tifosi and will be able to try out the new mudflap fitted just before this three day summer....

Sunday, 17 June 2012


 Following on from my last post regarding the very mixed weather that we have been experiencing in the UK recently got me thinking about mudguards (Fenders). 
They never seem to be long enough. 

When I took delivery of both my touring bike and my training bike they were both fitted with SKS chromoplastic mudguards. 
In my opinion neither set came down low enough on the front wheel. 
They would stop most of the spray from finding it's way too far up the down tube but were too short to prevent spray, dirt and mud finding it's way onto the bottom bracket and the chainset...and in turn my feet and lower legs. 

At the time I searched online for a suitable mudflap as a means of lengthening the mudguard but couldn't find anything that did the job but also looked good when fitted to the bike... 
In the end I made a couple of flaps...fashioned from an old DVD cover. 
That was two years ago and my home made flaps have not only worked efficiently but have also stood the test of time without falling apart. Unfortunately the flap fitted to the Tifosi got damaged during transportation of the bike in the vehicle up to Scotland. It still did the job but was now looking decidedly tatty..! 

When I got home I went back on the internet to see if I could find a suitable replacement. 
If I couldn't find one I would have to make a replacement, but a nice looking purpose made flap was what I really wanted. 
Brooks make a leather one at the grand price of £14.99 and they probably look great when new, however to my mind leather doesn't seem the ideal material for a mudflap. 
One of the mudflaps that I found was the SKS Long Mudflap.
 The suppliers said in their blurb - 
"The best mudflaps we've seen to date. Slides over the end of the guard - you then drill a 5mm hole through the guard and insert one of the supplied push pin plastic rivets by hand - The flap is made of flexible rubber". 
They had two sizes...50-60mm & 42-45mm. 
I measured my guards and then ordered the 50-60mm. 

When they arrived I realized that I should have ordered the 42-45mm instead. 
The slightly larger ones fitted OK but I could see that the smaller ones would make a slightly trimmer fit. 
As 'image is everything' to quote Jeff at the Flat tire blog I decided to order again ...but this time the slightly narrower size. 
I never bothered to send the two wider ones back, as at the price of only £3.99 each, by the time postage was taken into the equation it just didn't seem worthwhile. 
The narrower ones arrived yesterday and they were really easy to fit - just as the supplier had described. 
When on the bike they look good too with a nice designed for purpose appearance. 
In practical terms they have lengthened the guards to just 12cm above the road and follow the curve of the wheel. 

Obviously manufacturers realized some time ago that they could make more money by selling mudguards and mudflaps separately, although on some rare occasions they can be supplied together. 
In most situations a mudguard on it's own fails to do the job fully due to it's length.....with these SKS mudflaps the mudguard is effectively lengthened enabling it to do the job properly. 

The only very slight alteration I had to do was to shorten the plastic rivet by about 5mm when fitting on the Tifosi mudguards in order to give sufficient clearance.
Everything on the Tifosi has very tight clearances as the bike is more sport orientated -  no similar problems on the tourer though with it's more generous clearances.

I still have the 50-60cm mudflaps and if anyone out there (worldwide) would like one for their front mudguard I would be only too happy to pop one in a jiffy bag and send it to you as a free gift from the purpletraveller blog. 

First come first served...just email me at with your name and address.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


British weather.....that's what we seem to be suffering with at the moment. 
Towards the latter part of March I mentioned on this blog how the weather had been so good for a few weeks that I had even been out on my very best bike...the Felt Z1. 
Since acquiring the bike in 2009 I have never managed to ride it so early in the year....refusing as I do to risk riding it if there is even the slightest hint of rain. 
It's a bike that I really enjoy riding on those lovely sunny and dry days when the insects are buzzing...the birds are singing and all is right with the world.. 
Not for this bike the risk of a spot of rain and mud spoiling the look of it's carbon frame and anodized red spokes. I wouldn't be happy riding it in the I don't.!  

Riding in the rain is a 'pleasure' that is reserved for my tourer and my audax/trainer both of which are fitted with mudguards (fenders for those of you who speak the American form of English). Even then  if I can avoid riding in the rain I will. 
Call me a fair weather cyclist if you want, but the fact is I don't really enjoy it. 

Anyway, getting back to the main point of this post-  the British weather. 
Obviously it was the worst thing that I could have done mentioning how good the weather had been back in March, because since then it seems to have been all over the place. 
Someone even made the comment that they hoped that the early burst of good weather wasn't going to be our summer. 
At the moment it seems like it probably what I am hoping is that by making another post about the weather....this time about how it has deteriorated since that post in March, our summer might finally arrive... 

After that initial three weeks of really lovely weather we have had some serious spells of rain. Peter, John and I had to call off a spring touring trip because it was so bad, with campsites being forced to close because of water logged camping pitches...
By some miracle both on the Backpacking trip around Dartmoor and the recent ride from Edinburgh we managed to avoid rain, with only one days rain being experienced on each trip. 
But the rest of the time....RAIN! RAIN! and more RAIN!

Even the Queens Jubilee celebrations suffered rain. 
British weather is pretty notorious for being difficult to predict and this year we seem to be paying the price for the more settled and prolonged spells of good weather we have had over the past couple of years... 
As I've said I don't really enjoy riding in the rain and the day it rained when we were cycling back from Edinburgh was a pretty miserable experience. 
Probably not so bad if you are only riding say twenty miles such as on a commute but if you are riding eighty or more miles I don't find it much fun..... 
Let's hope that now I have mentioned it a nice prolonged spell of good summer weather will start and the Felt can be wheeled out to enjoy the longed for sunshine........

Sunday, 10 June 2012


Very hot and sunny was the weather we experienced for most of this ride....only on one day towards the latter part of the ride did we have any rain. 
After all the hot weather, it at first seemed like a nice cooling relief.....however by the end of that day we were fed up with riding soaked to the could have been worse could have rained every day. 
But as I've said, hot and sunny for most of the ride. So hot in fact that John got badly sunburned over the first couple of days. 
Not so bad riding in hot weather if you can maintain a reasonable speed, but the problems occur when you come up against a stiff gradient or even a mid range gradient that just goes on and on........
Getting up to this border point on the A68 road made us both sweat a bit.....As we approached it you could just see a coach making it's way up the zig-zags to the looked a bit like a Dinky toy to us when we were at the bottom....we knew then that we were going to have to put a bit of effort in.......
I actually quite liked this hill....I found a nice comfortable gear ratio and managed to keep spinning    all the way to the top...the views were splendid and as if a reward for the efforts made, there was a mobile tea/coffee stall waiting for both of us at the summit. 
Hills are not one of John's favourite aspects of road cycling...but even he enjoyed the ride to the top of this one. It wasn't a huge gradient but seemed to go on for quite a way... Just look at that splendid scenery in the background behind John......
The border point seems to be a popular stopping point for a lot of travellers along the A68 road. Quite a few motorcyclists stopped for a tea and cake whilst we were there enjoying the same, as well as numerous car drivers... 
While we were there we got talking to a police officer who had also pulled in for a tea break and he told us some of the things for us to look out for on the rest of our route over the next few days.....he warned us of more hills to come....some of them quite stiff gradients. 
The great thing about riding up a good hill is the fantastic descent that you can expect.....The descent from the top of the border point was not the fastest, due to a badly broken top surface of the tarmac but even so we managed to hit the low forties.
On day two we hit some of the steep hills that the police officer at the border had told us about. Day two seemed like hill after hill after hill. 
Towards the end of that days ride we were both feeling the strain of all the hills. 
In the picture above John has decided to walk up this hill.....
I had managed to cycle up it...just!  
I should be so smug, as a few miles further along at the next steep gradient I also had to get off as well.....I would say that we were both pretty much exhausted by the time we reached that evenings campsite.....
Most of the campsites that we stayed at seemed pretty good with good facilities.....
At a number of them the owners/managers reduced our fees when they heard that we were riding for a charity. 
The worst of the sites that we stayed at was a C&CC certificated site near Coventry. The facilities were sadly lacking with no hot water except in the shower...and no toilet paper in the loo for most of our stay. 
In order to add insult to injury the owner of the site charged us £12.00 each for our one night stay....a real rip off!!
As I mentioned in a previous post....this was essentially a charity ride for the Royal College of Surgeons and as such John had arranged to meet up with various Surgeons and Masonic representatives along the route.....In the above photo, John (in the red top) can be seen meeting various Masons from local lodges at the Friarage Hospital at Northallerton.
When we arrived at the campsite in Northallerton the weather was still hot and sunny....after a couple of hours of being on site the weather had started to show some signs of change as can be seen from the cloud building up....luckily the next morning the cloud had gone and didn't return for another day or two....
Whilst staying at the Northallerton site we met a guy called Rob....
He was on route cycling from Montrose to see his family in Leeds.... 
If ever there was a good advert for ordinary paper maps it was Rob. 
We left the site before him and about 25 miles later we came upon this tea/coffee stall and Rob!! 

Although he had left the site after us and was only using 'old technology' paper maps, he had beaten us to this point and he was riding a touring bike that was fully loaded with panniers etc. 
We had Garmins on the bikes as well as various GPS and Android phones with mapping in the back up vehicle and with all of this so called new technology, we had still managed to take some wrong turns ending up with us having to turn around and ride an additional 3 miles just to get back on track..... 
It was a pleasure to meet you Rob and I wish you well for the future....
On a couple of days we managed to finish the days riding with a bit of time in hand to spend checking the bikes. 
The bikes both performed well throughout the ride....however during the last couple of days, John did suffer with a gear shift problem caused apparently by the fact that Specialized cross over the gear cables as they run along the down tube....
I had noticed this on John's bike some time ago and had voiced my thoughts that it might be a good idea to sort it out....
The bike had run fine until between Coventry and Oxford when John was finding it increasingly more difficult to get the chain up onto the large front gear ring.... We had failed to sort it and on the last day John popped in to a Bike shop who kindly sorted it for him free of charge.

Both John and I found this ride tough.....Towards the latter part of the ride I suffered a really bad case of 'the bonk'. 
Completely running out of energy I found it a real struggle to carry on cycling. 
We stopped at a garage shop so that I could 'replenish the tank' and I did manage to recover to some extent... 
This was the first time in the years that John and I have been cycling together that he left me standing....
Looking back on the ride I know exactly what caused it....
Not enough sleep/rest between each stage and  insufficient food. 
I was burning up between 4500/5500 calories a day and was not managing to put back in anywhere near that amount......result....slowing to a halt!

At our last campsite about 14 miles south/east of Oxford we received a surprise visitor..... It was Jason who had ridden with us on Team 219 when we rode the Atlantic Coast Challenge Ride back in 2009. He had decided that his Kawasaki needed a bit of a run and what better thing to do than to ride up to see us and taunt us with a bike with a proper engine.....It was great to see him and a fantastic surprise on the last evening.......

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


When on a cycling tour it is really great to be able to get out of your cycling shoes and put on a really comfortable pair of trainer style shoes for time around camp or for wearing when you go out in the evening. 
But there are problems.....the shoes need to be lightweight and they also need to be able to pack down really small for when you cram them into your panniers. 
It is also a bonus if they look great as well.  

Over the years I have tried a variety of different types and styles.... sandals..... flipflops..... trainers... etc. 
None of those that I have tried have really fitted the bill for all occasions. 
Flipflops can be very light in weight but hardly look good when you go out for that evening meal. Sandals can be heavier in weight and they don't really fold down that flat either.....the ones I used on my ROCK2UK ride also smelt like a dead dog by the time I got back to the UK- and yes- I did wash them whilst on the trip. 

Trainers can be comfortable and can also look quite reasonable for evening wear but again I have never found a reasonably priced decent pair that are truly lightweight and also pack down really small. 


These really are light and packable, they have a canvas upper and are trainer in style. They are lightweight at only 300grms per pair and fold down and flatten to just 35mm.  

This is what the manufacturers list as the features for the TEVA MUSH FRIO.
*Lightweight synthetic and canvas uppers.
*Laces and a stretch mesh collar.
*It's lightweight and collapsible design makes it ideal for all kinds of travelling where luggage space is at a premium.
*Antibacterial mesh on footbed and lining.
*Incredibly light EVA sole makes it feel like you are wearing a flip flop.
*The mush topsole will mould to the shape of your foot, giving you the same feeling that you love in your flips.

These shoes come in a variety of colour ways....I chose the black/blue with the whitish/grey soles because I felt that they would match my camp clothes as well as looking reasonably smart in the evening. 
Although I have not used these on a touring trip as yet I have worn them around the house etc and I feel that these really are the best spare shoes for cycle touring that I have found. 
The UK price is listed at £45(GBP)  but I managed to get a pair on the internet for £32(GBP) 

If you are looking for a pair of ultra lightweight, totally packable spare shoes for your next cycle tour, then I would recommend that you consider a pair of TEVA MUSH FRIO SHOES. 
Oh and by the way- I am not being paid by Teva to recommend these.

Sunday, 3 June 2012


We got back from our Edinburgh cycle ride yesterday....

I have to admit that I was glad to get home - I was tired and worn out and I have to question my decision to do the ride in the first place...

 One of the problems with this type of ride, is that although you travel the length of the country you see very little of it, because the emphasis has to be all about pushing on and chewing up the miles...
Working to the clock every day. Up in the morning...pack all the camping kit away...grab a quick breakfast of sorts....Shower...toilet and then back on the bike for the rest of the day. 
It's a little bit like being an automaton...some kind of mechanical robot.  

The stupid thing is that it is not as if I didn't know what it would be like....
After we did Land's End to John O'Groats in 2008 I said then that I really did not want to do another multi-day challenge ride and then in 2009 there I am cycling from the UK to Spain on the Atlantic Coast Challenge Ride. 
Last year's Rock to the UK ride back from Gibraltar was different because it was a long distance touring ride with flexibility on time...daily distance and route taken. 

This latest ride was fraught with problems from the start - beginning with our support driver Dave breaking his arm before the event and another driver Daniel (his son-in law) kindly offering to fill in for him. 
Unfortunately Daniel had never driven in a cycle support role before so Dave had to ride shotgun and this in turn led to some logistics problems at the end of ride due to insufficient vehicle space. 
Because of  this I finished my part in the ride at our last nights campsite at Watlington fourteen miles south of Oxford, effectively missing out on the last stage.  

So yesterday, once JD had started riding the last stage into Portsmouth, Daniel and Dave drove me to the outskirts of Fareham where Anne met us with the car. Unbeknown  to me she had put back by 24hrs her plans to travel up to London for the Jubilee celebrations in order to be free to pick me up. As it transpired that was a very wise move, as due to this being one of the busiest bank holiday weekends of the whole year the traffic back home at that time of day was absolutely horrendous.  

Eventually I got home......after all those hours of effort of what seems like cycling a sportive a day back from Edinburgh,  the whole thing feels like a total anticlimax....!  
A bit of a non event!
 Once I have had more time to reflect on the ride I may post a further review and also some of the photos I took,  although it must be said I didn't take many......too busy cycling.