Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Off the road...

My Subway has been in my LBS, Halfords, they finally took delivery of a replacement tyre, it was fitted for me last Saturday. I made the mistake of not trying the bike out, after picking it up, but I was in a rush to get back to work. Then Sunday, I didn't get out at all on it, so that Monday morning, when I started my commute, was the first time I rode it. It soon became obvious that the gears were all wrong, had to turn round, head home and take my car, to do the trip, extremely annoyed.

I've been here before, new tyre fitted to the back wheel = gears cocked up, it seems they forget to readjust after refitting the back wheel!! Monday was a bank holiday, so Halfords basically were able to fob me off, saying no mechanic would be available till tomorrow, Wednesday. Anyway, I had a look at it, and it is clearly apparent that the gear cable was in correctly routed, which I was able to rectify, then I read up the late Sheldon Brown's article about the Nexus 8, and feel confident that I can sort it out myself. I'm going to do it tomorrow in my break, if I fail I'll take it back to Halfords, but hopefully I'll be back commuting for Thursday night shift.

These past few days have been extremely frustrating, seeing loads of new cycle commuters giving it a go, while I've been stuck in the car.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

What sort of weather is this?

It's been a while since my last post, the weather has been awful, nothing but rain, rain and more rain. Not that, that has taken anything away from my enjoyment of my commute, quite the reverse, I love to cycle in the rain, but drying my gear has been a problem, especially at home. It's been a constant rush, getting in from work, stripping, loading my gear in the washing machine, having a shower, eating my evening meal, putting my gear in the tumble drier and finally having them ready for the morning again. These couple of weeks, no change, and it's August, I thought global warming promised the same weather as Portugal for Wales!

While there has been heavy and constant rain, unusually, we have not suffered any flooding of note. Last year and the year before we had terrible flooding in some areas, so perhaps alot of the flood prevention work by government agencies has paid off, which is very encouraging. The cycnic in me just can't believe such an organisation can get something done right, so not convinced yet.

Last night I arrived home soaked to the skin, as usual, didn't bother with the washing machine routine etc., as no work for me today, just had a relaxing shower, ate a fantastic bangers and mash, that Elizabeth had made and watched a bit of TV. Old shows i.e., "Murder she wrote", and "Ryan ace of spies". Then I had to go and pick up Keiron, our eldest son from Neath train station, he's been in Scotland for the last week, on a writer's course. As soon as I got him home I opened a bottle of cider, and quenched my thirst, since arriving home earlier in the evening I'd had several galsses of water, but it wasn't until I'd had the cider that my thirst was sated.

Had some disappointing news from Halfords, which remains my LBS, telling me that Continental tyres were refusing to replace my "guaranteed" tyre, stating that, as they had replaced the original tyre once because of puncture, they had fulfilled their obligation to the warranty/guarantee. Russell at Halfords, however, said that they would replace the tyre free of charge, as a measure of good customer relations, because they too, felt that Continental tyres, had let me down badly. It turns out that Continental tyres have stopped producing/manufacturing that tyre model, perhaps it was failing to live up to the expectations of both clients, like myself and themselves as manufacturers'. Russell told me that the closest spec he could get to the original was more expensive, but Halfords would stand the cost, and he believed it to be a much better tyre? Let's hope so, anyway I'll be writing to Continental Tyres seperately, to complain about their poor service and poor standard of customer service. If they continue to evade their responsibility on this issue, I will be writing to cycling magazines etc., to make sure as many as possible in the cycling community know about their dreadful customer service, and poor product.

I think I may have solved my lights problem for my early morning commute, when certain sections of my route are almost pitch black, particularly the hill I dread. Meirion, a colleague of mine at work, knew I was looking for something to light up the road ahead, and he has a friend in the village where he lives, Llanpumsaint, who runs a bicycle shop. Well he got his mate to let me try a double front light system which is rechargeable, Meirion helped me set it up on the bike yesterday, but it's in the morning that I'll be testing it, on my run to work. So fingers crossed.

By the way my mileage, as shown on my cyclecomputer, is now over 2,800 miles, I'll have to look back through my blogs to ascertain exactly how long it has taken me to achieve that figure. Just checked back in an April post, when I'd recorded that I'd just passed 1000 miles, and had set up the cyclecomputer on the bike, back on 7th January this year, so I've done 2,800 miles since that date. That works out at approximately 400 miles a month.

Still small beer when compared with some of my blogging heroes, but it's onwards and upwards.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

As usual, got the facts wrong...

I really should get a diary to make notes in, my last post said that I'd had 6 weeks of puncture free cycling, but having looked back over my posts, I can plainly see that I haven't had a puncture since at least 14th May, which almost doubles the time to 11 weeks..... a much better result eh?

Didn't cycle today and missed it, no work for me today, but I had to do some shopping with Elizabeth, will be back commuting to and from work tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday.

Got my Subway back on Tuesday, they established the guaranteed tyre had been punctured, by a piece of bone, about half an inch thick, tapered to an extremely sharp end. It went straight through the tyre and tube, and was lodged in the tube itself, so they've put a new inner tube in the old tyre for now, while we wait for a new tyre to come into stock at Halfords. All free of course, because of the guarantee and my 'Bikecare' agreement.

Did the commute yesterday no problem, with the Subway at least, I found it very warm and humid, on the way in, in the morning, and was soaking in sweat when I arrived, thankfully it was alot cooler when I made the trip home. I'm still struggling on the one hill, on the way in, mainly because I need a better headlight, it's so dark in the mornings now, at about 04.30 that I can't judge when to change gear. Usually I get half way up, then sit back and tootle up the rest in 2nd gear, so not extending myself there then! On the way home, when it's light, I have another problem, self-conciousness. I hate other people to see me, when I'm obviously struggling up an incline of some kind, sad I know, but if there are people around I climb quicker, pushing harder and for longer, usually ending up exhausted out of the sight of those prying eyes. If I can't make it out of sight, I hope I'll have the courage to get off and push, or I could end up in casualty. Worse, what would a psychologist make of that?

Sorry but that's all I have time to type for now, ugh 3 days in work now, if it wasn't for the cycle commute, and of course, if I could afford it, I wouldn't bother to go.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

6 Fantastic weeks

Well I've had a good run for my money, as they say, but after 6 weeks of cycle commuting pleasure, disaster struck yesterday, with a flat tyre. Fortunately, I was on my homeward leg of my commute, and the Cycling Gods must have been watching over me, because I was only about 500 yards from home. I heard a bang and felt the complete loss of pressure on the back wheel. So I pushed my Subway the rest of the way home.

I checked the tyre over, and couldn't find any obvious cut/tear etc., because it was the back wheel I didn't attempt to take it off, too much hassle, I'm not back in work till Tuesday, so I'll take it to Halfords to repair, as the tyre is guaranteed against puncture for 12 months, then, if it is a puncture, I'll have a replacement tyre and inner tube for free.

6 weeks, is probably the best run I've had, without a flat, since I've been back cycling, which must be approximately 3 years now, averaging it out, at say a flat every 6 weeks (that's being generous), that is 156 divided by 6 weeks, then I've had to contend with 36 flats, adding inthat horrendous period of 8 punctures in 2 weeks, back in June, I come to a figure 44 flats, or 156 divided by 44, which gives a depressing return of a flat every 3 and a half weeks!!!

Cycling must be very important to me, for me to have persisted against such disappointments and frustrations. But let me try to remain positive.

These last 6 weeks have been great, on average I've commuted at least 3-4 times a week, only used the car twice, once because I overslept, and the other I had to run Elizabeth to the airport, she was going to her niece's graduation and to stay with her mum, in Belfast. So my commute is 40 miles a day round trip, I reckon I've knocked up over 800 miles in those 6 weeks. This is where I need a diary to make a note of such details, also for what has happened on my commutes, weather, widlife I've seen and so on, in order to write it up in this here blog.

For the moment, I'll have to regale you with the fantastic 10 minutes I experienced on my way home the night beore last. I was on my final leg of the commute, I'd just passed Aberpergwm mine coal washery entrance, along the front of which is an old section of the canal. You'd have to know it was there, because it's hidden by reeds, and overgrown with weeds. I had been cycling through really heavy rain, and enjoying the ride immensely, as I passed the entrance I heard a squeeking, some sort of distress call, from an animal, as I cycled it got louder, then I knew it was coming from the reeds on my left next to the hidden canal. I stopped parked my bike next to the road as quietly as I could, stepped over the low fence, and crept towards the reeds. As I approached the squeeking stopped, but then I heard anothe squeeking back towards the entrance, the reeds were above my waist in front of me, and I carefully looked over them to see what was happening, keeping as still and silent as I could.

To be honest, I thought I had stumbled across a family of mink on the move, a female transporting her kits to a new location, which was tremendous the first time I saw it, oh a couple of years back, whilst riding my first bike, the Raleigh Chiltern along another stretch of the canal. Getting back to this present scenario, I watched and waited hoping to catch a glimpse of something, within a few moments I was rewarded, with the sight of something swimming through the water, submerging and rising between the reeds. It was far too big to be a mink, but the same colour as a rat, but again much too large an animal, almost immediately it dawned on me, that this creature was, an otter. It continued purposely, on it's course, disappearing into the reeds on the bank of the canal directly opposite me, then reappeared with a smaller version of itself, swimming alongside, submerging , diving in and around the weeds, swimming now towards another squeeking, further along to my left.

The waist high reeds in front of me hid me from this pair completely, as they swam slowly and quite leisurely, and I was able to follow their progress, padding gently through the grass, which fortunately had just been cut. I followed them this way for about 15 yards, only at most about 7-8 yards away. At this point I was rewarded again when another otter cub, came out of the weeds on the far bank to join them. All three of them, a mother and her two cubs then swam on almost as one , undulating in and out of the water and weeds, till sadly I could see them no more.

This whole episode lasted a maximum of 10 minutes, but it was a brilliant experience for me, and I couldn't wait to tell Elizabeth and the boys about it. I feel very priviledged at having been able to view wildlife such as this, the opportunity came simply because I was riding my bike, if I'd been driving by in my car, like everybody else, I would not have heard the squeeking of the otter cub, and so missed it all.

To some of you, such a sight/experience might be somewhat more commonplace, but otters have only recently started to return to the local rivers, as these have become cleaner etc.. I knew there were otters around these parts because sadly, I had seen a very large specimen, presumably a male,dead at the side of the dual carriageway I used to travel, in my car, to and from work, about 3 years ago. But now I have seen an otter and two cubs, which means they are, hopefully, established in the area, great news indeed.