Sunday, 24 February 2008

Sunday juant.

My cold's alot better today, very few aches and pains, but still have a rasping cough. Went to bed early last night, and knew, when I woke at 05.45, I'd have to go for a ride. Lazed around in bed till 07.00, and got up with the winter morning light, not that you'd know it was winter, by the temperature, at any rate, very mild indeed. Anyway, I was out on my Subway 8 by 07.30, cycling locally for the first time in ages, I wanted to see how I'd react to my old haunts. I had decided to take it easy today, not that I ever go that fast or push myself very hard, but I thought it best after my cold.

I cycled up towards Pontneathvaughan, a long slow upward stretch, that used to tire me very quickly, when I first started cycling, but now I can manage it with ease, I rode up as far as the waterfalls. Here, I heard the rat-tat-tat of a woodpecker, chiselling a tree, I stopped awhile, trying to spot it, but no luck, it seemed as if it was teasing me. I'd hear a burst of rat-tat-tat, adjust my view, scan the trees, only for silence to reign, then when I'd almost given up, and decided to move on, another burst would come. 10 minutes of this passed and I failed to spot the woodpecker, so I can't even say what type it was, they're not that rare in these parts, but I've only ever seen one.

My ride continued with the return trip back from Pontneathvaughan, into and through the village of Glynneath, heading down the Neath river valley, towards Resolven. Following the main road through the village, by now it was 08.00, very few people about, just the odd one walking the dog, and getting the Sunday papers, and up to this point, I'd only seen 5-6 cars maybe. So I continued my lazy ride, past the Cwmgwrach drift coalmine to join the cyclepath which follows the canal all along the valley to Neath, and joining the National Cycle route 4 at Briton Ferry. The coal from the mines in, not only the Neath valley, but also Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil, used to transported via the canal and rail links right into Swansea docks, when coal was king, as they say, days long gone now.

I didn't go far along the cyclepath, sadly there some very muddy patches, which I didn't want to get involved with, not today anyway, so I returned to the main road, heading for Cwmgwrach itself, I stopped at the McDonalds, on the roundabout, and a, not very good, cappucino. Then I cycled back through the village home.

All in all a nice easy ride, which has reminded me how good the cycling is to be had, in and around Glynneath itself. I was surpised to find, on checking the cyclecomputer, I'd done almost 12 miles, mind you it took me an hour and a half, a really gentle ride. I was fortunate, however, because now we're having a deluge of rain, here in the conservatory, it is thundering on the roof, but I'd love to be out in it.

Until next time.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Really out of sorts today.

I knew it was coming, and now it's definitely hit me, a really bad cough and cold. Only a few weeks ago, I had the audacity, to suggest, that since I'd been cycling, colds etc., were a thing of the past, well not so, because I feel dreadful. The consequence is, no cycling today, it's damp, cold with an above average breeze. I feel so tired, I tossed and turned all night, coughing and spluttering, tried to sleep in Tierloch's room, he's in Benidorm, lucky boy, so I wouldn't disturb the rest of the household.

Been sat at the computer here, for most of the day, and just feel so listless. It seems there's no overtime next week, so I'm off until a week Sunday. There's alot brewing at work, I've had emails, from my union, telling me that my colleagues in Lincoln are on strike tomorrow, and the following Saturday, on top of that the union will be balloting, the whole of the Northeast area for strike action. We already are in the process of a referdum on this years pay offer, with the union proposing we reject it, also the company, Network Rail, is trying to push through a new pension scheme, with no consultation at all with the union. We are certainly going to have a battle on our hands, we can't give in, whether or not the union members have the stomach for the fight is another matter. Everyone, these days is committed to mortgage payments and the like, so to lose pay while on strike, is a big issue.

The truth of the matter is quite simple, if we fold on these issues, it will be a steep downward spiral, to conditions of service on the railway, undreamt of in over 100 years. But that is the aim of the company, and also the government, to force wages, pensions etc., down. The media will take the side of Network Rail, because currently we signallers are paid well, but if we let these matters go, without a fight, not only our pay will take a steep drop, but our pensions also, will not be adequate. I've been in the pension scheme for 16 years, it has already been split into two parts of differing scales, to all members detriment, but the company's imposition of a "Career Average Pension" will decimate it.

Realistically, it will depend on how many union members, will directly be affected by these moves, sadly "the I'm alright Jack" attitude, is to be seen everywhere these days, it will be a major test of loyalty to both the union and ones colleagues.

But it's on it's way and with an ever-increasing pace.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

No I'm still here!

Well I've not posted anything for weeks, but that doesn't mean anything hasn't been happening, far from it. I've been consistently doing my part-commute to and from work, and have now clocked 309 miles since attaching my cycle computer, only missed one day's commute, when I thought I had a problem with my Nexus 8 internal hub gears. There's been a cold snap of late, alot of severe frost overnight, and freezing temperatures in early morning. Last Sunday I unloaded my Subway 8, off the car rack, etc., only to find, when I started to cycle, that I couldn't change gear, I was stuck in 3rd. I persisted on my route, hoping the problem would self-rectify, but after a mile or so I turned back, loaded everything back into the car and drove on to work, fortunately I wasn't late.

Later that morning, during my break, I took my bike into the workyard, and gave it a spin, it worked perfectly? I couldn't figure out what had been wrong, next day same thing happened as I started my cyle part of the journey, however, this time it self-rectified itself, before I got out of the car park. Discussing it all with my colleagues at work, we decided it had to do with the temperature, it had been -4 , and -2 degrees celsius, on the Sunday and Monday respectively, which I would have thought should be in the range of tolerance for such a piece of equipment as the Nexus 8.

Especially when I read about Doug, mncyclecommuter's exploits, with his Nexus 8, in the really severe winter temperatures of Duluth, Minnesota. I'll have to ask some questions on some of the cycling forums. I checked for technical data on the Shimano site, but mostly it's gobbledegook, as far as I'm concerned. However, I did find out there is a special grease in the Nexus 8, which needs to be replaced, say when the bike is serviced, but at most, since I've had the Subway, I can only have done approximately 600 miles, which would appear very low, for the grease to be replaced? If anyone out there can advise, I'd be grateful.

Other than that, everything has been fine, I became 58 on the 15th February, so Elizabeth and I went to Brighton for a few days, stayed at the Twenty One hotel, bed and breakfasting, I took the Subway 8, and cycled every morning between 07.45 and 09.30, returning to have breakfast with Elizabeth, and then spending the day together. The cycling facilities were great, and there was plenty to do all round, and great restaurants for that special evening meal. We tasted our first Thai meal, at the Sopa restaurant, and were very impressed.Anyone going for a stay in Brighton, I can' recommend The Twenty One highly enough, thanks to Mat and Andy for making our stay perfect. I've put a review on TripAdvisor.

Well that brings it up to date, I'm officially off work now until a week Sunday, though I have no doubt I will be called in for overtime shifts. Of course because I'm off, it's raining and I seem to be coming down with a sore throat etc.,well it looks that way, sod's law as they say. Talk to you all (??) again soon.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

What a great commute.

In terms of weather, it was the worst I've had to put up with so far, but as far as enjoyment goes, it was ten out of ten. The forecast was for heavy rain, it held off all day, until that is, just after I'd set off from Neath car park, 100 yards of cycling, and whoosh down it came, and it didn't stop for the whole trip in. I had already decided to go via the canal towpath, so didn't turn back to go on the road route, and I'm glad I didn't.

At times the rain had an almost hail like quality, as it stung my face, I was half expecting it to turn to the snow, the foecasts have been predicting for the last week or so. As I looked up at the hills to my left, it definitely looked like snow, for a while I thought, this as close as I'm ever going to get to the conditions, that Doug in Duluth,Minnesota, and Jill in Juneau, Alaska, have to face. By the way good luck to Doug in his attempt at the Arrowhead Ultra 135 snow bicycle race tomorrow.

I hadn't gone but a couple of miles, when already my feet were soaking, I really must get some overshoes, to keep them dry, mind you these hiking socks are great, even soaked through, they kept my feet warm. The wind was predicted to be 30 mph from the southeast, directly into my face, most of the way in to work, and it was, but I felt fine, my legs were in great form, I have had a rest off the bike now for four days, and I made good time, so good in fact, I took a detour, because I didn't want to get to work too early. As it is, I arrived at 17.00., just right to dry off, change and take up my post.

I set up my clothes to dry, ready for the morning. But getting back to my ride, I only saw three people, along the canal, a lone fisherman, making his way home with his gear, and two dodgy looking fellows, who looked and sounded, when I said hello, Polish. They were wearing extremely dirty clothes, and daps on their feet, no good for this weather, anyway they only grunted something back to me, which sounded foreign.

I had planned to travel from Aberdulais today, the forecast had put me off, so I started from Neath, that's my only regret about today's commute, it would have been great to have those extra couple of miles under my belt, and the added 20 minutes or so, in the saddle would have been very welcome. I'll know better next time, who was it that said, "just do it".

They were and are, oh so right, as I listen to the rain pouring down outside, I can't wait for the trip back in the morning. All the best for now.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Nothing much going on here.

Whilst I've been avidly reading about, Doug in Duluth ( mnbicyclecommuter ), and Jill ( up in alaska ), busily preparing for the Arrowhead Ultra 135, and the Iditarod, respectively, I haven't even been aboard my Subway 8. Compared to their adventures everything here seems very tame and predictable.

I'm only riding my bike to commute these days, I have plenty to do at home, when I'm off work, which is three days this week, no overtime at work, because of a dispute brewing, between us, the workers represented by our union, the RMT, and the management. I agree with our union, we have to make a stand against what has been going on, I just hope, when it comes to it, the lads will stay strong. I'm afraid if they don't, it will all be downhill, and very fast from here on in, as far as our conditions of employment are concerned.

This is the third day of no biking for me, in a row, and I'm missing it, so much so, I actually cleaned the Subway 8, for half an hour at lunchtime, today. Have never cleaned a bicycle before in my life. When I was a boy, we might have used some oil, once in awhile, and I don't ever remember having even a puncture, or perhaps I have a very selective memory. I do remember, myself and the rest of my mates, always had our friend, David Houseley, who was just ace, at fixing things, and particularly bikes.

In fact, it was he, who built my first bike for me, from parts we scavenged from the local scrapyard, in fact nobody on our estate, bought a new bike. Even when we upgraded, or accessorised our steeds, it was to the scrapyard, where we would go. Maybe that was a major part of the fun of it all, seeking, searching out a bargain piece. I particularly remember a brown leather saddle, I paid 50 pence, to the scrapyard owner for it. That bike of mine was still rideable, years after I'd left home, still in my parents shed, I only rode it twice more, to and from Cadoxton, where I moved when I left home. It was still in their shed, when Elizabeth and I moved to Cork, Blarney to be exact, and I'm sure it was still there when finally, my mum died, in 1989. I'd love to know what happened to it. I don't know where David Houseley is these days either, but I'm certain he's an engineer of some sort, he certainly built bikes to last.

But to get back to my bike cleaning effort of today, I'd bought a cleaning kit from Halfords, the same time as I bought my bike computer, I just opened it up, and followed the instructions. I must admit I cut a few corners, but the Subway 8 is looking quite dandy, out there, it's still out the back basking in the sun, where I left it to dry off.

Snow was forecast for today, thankfully it seems to have passed us by, and you'd swear it was Spring, now, just a few clouds and plenty of sunshine, with no wind to speak of, perfect cycling weather, but I'll have to wait till Sunday, I'm nights so I'll be cycling part way to work, can't wait. I'm only working the one night, and then won't have to go to work until next Thursday on days. So I'm thinking of increasing my mileage, by starting my trip from Aberdulais, which will add an extra couple of miles, each way. I'll try it and see how it goes.

Another lad at work is now biking to work, Kerwin Chapman, about 40, wants to lose weight for his holidays, in March, so has decided to ride his bike to and from work. He lives about 8 miles away, so he's doing the same mileage as me, well, until I up it, on Sunday. Anthony, in his 20's is still biking 2 miles each way, weather permitting, bit of a fair weather cyclist, for now, anyway. But I now have two converts, which can't be bad, though, I'm quite saddened, that I'm not the only "strange one" at work, anymore.

Like I said, not much going on here.