Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Years Eve

The clock's ticking down to the start of 2010, I'm afraid I'm not feeling very jovial. Over two weeks since I had a ride on my bike, either one, because of ICE.

I'm determined to go for a ride in the morning, because there's a saying about doing things on New Years day, which totally escapes me for the moment. Something along the lines of .... if you do something on New Years day, you'll be doing alot of the same through the new year....

Suppose I'm just superstitious.

It's dry out and so, even though the temperature is forcaste to drop to -3 degrees centigrade, means there should be no ice out there in the early hours to ambush me. No exercise on the bike has left me feeling, I don't know, just old. I'm feeling stiff after sitting down for an hour, and my legs are creaking, when I walk up and down stairs. It's amazing how quickly, and by the way, I would never describe myself as being anywhere near fit, one loses any kind of tone/capability/ or fitness for an activity of some sort.

Which obviously means, I've got to regain that "tone", or whatever you wish to call it. Sadly, that makes the pimple of a hill, at Aberdulais, which I've always thought of as my nemesis, even more daunting.

Wish me luck for the morning, and a Happy New Year to everyone out there in cyberspace, cheers.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Well here she is...My Carrera Subway LTD.

This is my new bike, complete with Brookes saddle, disc brakes, 21 gears, fenders and rear pannier rack, only one problem, had her for a few weeks now, but haven't managed a meaningful ride on her.

Up and down the street doesn't count. Didn't want to ride her on my commute, partly that, " oh I can't get it dirty", because it's new and shiny, but mostly because I need to get used to the new set up, i.e., the new Brookes saddle, and the 7 extra gears compared to my trusty Subway 1. Sice then it began snowing, and we've ended up with 4 inches of the stuff, that's been hanging around ever since in the form of ice, which after last year's fall I've got a very natural aversion to. So the poor girl's been locked up in the shed, all this time.

Today, I decided it was time to let the world see her, took her out of the shed into the cold -4 degrees centigrade, to take her portrait against the snowy backdrop.

What do you all think?
For me, I hope she's going to be the perfect commuting bike, only time, actually in the saddle, will tell, so go away snow !!!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

On strike...

Not a good week, since Monday I've been involved in industrial action, i.e., on strike. It's over the company's decision to impose 8 hour rosters, at the new signalling centre in Cardiff, which we're all to be amalgamated into, over the next few years. We've all been working 12 hour shifts for over 10 years now, and anyway our national agreement with the company plainly states rosters are to be negotiated at a local level. The company has decided no negotiation, and want to force the issue, and because of other attacks on our national agreements all over the country, we were ballotted for strike action, here in south Wales.

I've been picketing outside my place of work, Port Talbot panel, and sadly had to witness, colleagues who resigned from the union, because they didn't like the ballot result, a weeks strike, going into work across the picket line. But Newport and Cardiff panels are all out. The company has drafted in managers from all over the country, to run the panels. The beauty is they are working 12 hour shifts to cover our absence, on top of which they have only had a few hours instruction on the panels. The last guy to qualify/ sign for our panel, at Port Talbot, took 6 months to do so. It must be a safety issue, but the regulating authorities, despite being informed of these irregularities, all turn a blind eye, on these occasions. Which basically means they are all in cahoots, even the government is on their side.

Ultimately, they, the company and government, want to defeat the unions, force down wages and workers conditions of service, such as pension rights, because the bankers have virtually bankrupted the country, while the government watched on and did nothing. Now they want the public to pay for their ( the bankers ) greed, and their ( the government's ) amateurism and incapability.

The lies they all tell, and it is we the public, who let them get away with it, everytime.

Who's going to fight back?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Missed updating my few readers.....

I've been away from the blogosphere now for quite awhile, I have to admit I haven't missed the struggle to type up posts, but I have missed updating you, my imaginary audience, on my cycling/commuting experiences. So there's no way round it, I'll just have to struggle with my 2 fingered typing. Life, seasons, experience, time have all moved on since my last post in June. I could be here all night typing, but I haven't the time, so I'll just try for a few memories of these past 4 months, where does the time go?

For the past couple of months I've been more involved with my union, the RMT. as the Area Council Rep, it's time consuming, and my employers expect me to carry out my duties in my own free time, which is grossly unfair, as they the employers use their work time to prepare for meetings etc., using a battery of secretaries and human resources staff. Anyway there's alot going on at the moment, and it's all very frustrating. Can't say more than that.

Well that was yesterday. Still haven't typed much eh?

This morning I went out on my regular cycle loop, down the valley, as far as Aberdulais, then back up through Cwmgwrach ( that's valley of the witches, to you non welsh speakers ), around Pont Nedd Fechan, and back home. A round trip of about 23 miles, it threatened rain throughout, I only got damp, more from perspiration than precipitation. The weather remains so very mild, it 's difficult to know what to wear. I enjoyed the ride very much, but I'm starting to feel trapped in this valley, I need to spread my wings and cycle further afield.

Trouble is it's all very steep climbs to get out of this lovely Neath valley, and I'd be worn out before I got very far. I've been 'safe cycling', by that I mean, not too many hills, in this valley for the best part of nearly 5 years now, and though I keep planning that long trip, it never materialises. Life in general, and family committments keep getting in the way, but I suppose that's the same for the majority of people, unless one is wealthy, either in time to spare, or with plenty of money, sadly I have neither.

I'm currently waiting for my new bike. It's to be a backup for my present workhorse, the Carrera Subway 1, it'll be the Subway LTD, which is a limited edition of the Subway. I'm having a Brookes saddle, fenders, pannier rack, and a riser stem fitted, and I've already picked up a load of cycling clothes and gear. It's all come from Halfords, which is why I'm still waiting for the extras to be fitted to it, they blame their suppliers, but it's the same old story.....

So far I've been patient, as my hack bike, the Subway 1 has been catering very well with my cycling desires. I cycle every day, either commuting, or on my local valleybound loops, and nowadays must average around 200 miles a week, but I can't be exact as my cycle computer packed up months ago. That's another extra that will be on the LTD.

Getting back to the new bike, it's got disc brakes, plus 21 as opposed to the 1's 14 gears, but instead of twistgrip shifters it'll have triggers, which I'm a bit nervous of, but I'll have to make the effort and get used to them. I'm a bit worried about the tyres that are fitted, and I expect I'll be changing them to Continentals, the same model as on my Subway 1. They've given me such great service over these last 12 months or so, and must have completed 8,000 miles for me, it's only now that the back tyre is starting to show a couple of bare patches. So I love these tyres. Fortunately, I've got a spare pair plus inner tubes to match in the shed, the first time I spot trouble.

Now to the new gear. I've bought 5 cycling specific T-shirts with zip up fronts, 2 pairs of shorts, 2 waterproof jackets, a cycling jersey, 3 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of glasses, a pair of cycling shoes, a spare set of pedals, and a new front light. All this is aimed at keeping my commute going throughout the winter, as long as I don't have to contend with ice, which is the only weather that will chase me back into my car. I know that sounds wimpy, but after that fall I had a couple of weeks before Christmas last year, I'm definately no hero.

Why so much gear? I hear you ask, well when I went to Halfords, there was a buy one item get another half price, so I think overall I got some great bargains. Did I mention also, I had the bike, which was originally £399, knocked down to £200 ! So I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself, and now I've told you, my imaginary readers, about it all, I'm getting rather impatient to get on the LTD, and go for a ride.

For now the bike, itself, is just missing the riser stem, which won't be in store, I'm told, till next week, and the only things that haven't arrived on the clothing front are the 3 pairs of socks, which have been on order since the middle of August ?? For some unknown reason they never come in on the weekly order to Halfords, despite being ordered over and over again. They are a fantastic bargain if one, and I admit I know nothing about socks, can go by price. They were originally on sale at £34.99 but I'm getting them for £11.99 a pair, they're called Gore Alpine socks. If they're as good as the hiking socks I've been wearing for cycling the last couple of years, they'll be great.

It's now 8th December, so I didn't type or finish this post,.....yet !

Alot has happened since I started it, we're going on strike, as and, from next Monday, 14th December, for a week. I'm not looking forward to it, I don't want to lose a week's pay, and it's going to cause alot of grief between some of us at work.

I've finally picked up my LTD, last Thursday, the only thing I needed to do was adjust the saddle, which I did after I got back from my normal loop, on the Subway 1, down and back up the valley, this morning. I believe I got the adjustment perfect first time, but I couldn't savour my new Brookes saddle for long. Because, even though, as I rode down the street, slipping through the gears, everything seemed fine, yet another problem was looming, the gear triggers seemed to pack up, couldn't change gear at all, and the LTD is now permanently stuck in a very low gear. I'm far from thrilled. I just hope I'm not in for the same misery that I had to put up with via Halfords, when I first had the Subway 8.

Already this year, my Bike2Work deal with Halfords, has gone far from smoothly. Constant delays, and false starts getting the gear, I ordered, into the store. I don't blame the staff at the store, their head office is entirely to blame. I ordered the socks I mentioned earlier in this post back in August, I never got them.

Staff, at the store, said they ordered them 10 weeks on the trot, and 10 weeks on the trot they didn't arrive, so I took the bull by the horns and emailed head office, to make a formal complaint. I got a reply, asking for more details, despite the fact that I'd given all the relevant facts. So I replied with a very terse reply, threatening to ask for my £800 Cycle2Work scheme voucher, if I didn't receive the socks by the Tuesday of the following week, and they could have all the gear I'd received to date, back.

Next day Halfords customer services rang me. I was assured that I would receive my socks as ordered by the Tuesday, delivered to my home address. Tuesday came and went and the socks didn't arrive, I wasn't surprised, it was just the usual Halfords crap service. Wednesday, I had another phonecall from customer services, to be told that the socks had now been discontinued, they apologised for this fact. I told them that I was now very unhappy indeed, they asked if I would consider alternative socks, Sealskinz, that they would give me 2 pair gratis. I told them I would consider their offer.

That night I went onto Halfords internet site, and found the original socks I had ordered were still being advertised, and more to the point, one could order them for delivery!

Next day I rang customer services, pointing out this strnge fact, to be told that their IT department had been instructed to remove the item. Now to cut a long story a little bit shorter, as I was now, so fed up with the whole thing that I agreed to accept the 2 pair of Sealskinz socks for free, they were to be delivered to my home by the Thursday.

On the Thursday, Elizabeth and I had to go to Swansea, anyway, so I decided to pick up my new Cycle2Work bike, the Carrera Subway LTD. While I was in the store, Russell the bike section manager, offered his profuse aplogies that they still had't received into stock my original Gore Alpine socks, that both he, and the store manager, had been onto head office, that day, complaining about the fact that they had been constantly ordering these socks, week in week out, never to be delivered, AND HAD BEEN ASSURED THAT THEY WOULD BE DELIVERED INTO THE STORE THE FOLLOWING WEEK!!!

I then told Russell what had been going on between customer services and myself, that we had come to a compromise with 2 pair of free Sealskinz socks, and that obviously no one in his company communicated with each other, but I was good natured about it, I just wondered if my free socks would be at home waiting for me, when I brought the LTD back.

That was a good bit of news, the Sealskinz did arrive safely, I've used them a couple of times now, and am very impressed, they are 100% waterproof, which they should be at £25 a pair, it's just a shame that Halfords couldn't be half as efficient!

Now, as I've said the gears on my new LTD aren't working, what a farce.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Still can't get into typing up new posts, and still not able to manoeuvre shots around blog ?

Had a beautiful ride this morning, sun was up and blazing with hardly a cloud to be seen, but there was also a cooling breeze, well between 06.30 and 09.30., after that it got decidedly muggy and close. What do they say about that early bird? Rheola pond looked so beautiful, I had to take a few shots.

Then along by the canal at Abergarwed, you can see what pride the canal neighbours take in their gardens that back right onto the canal.

Not only was the sun shining but I saw two lesser spotted woodpeckers at Resolven, one flew across the road and settled on a telephone pole, and was soon joined by another, of course by the time I'd stopped, got off the Subway 1, and got my camera out, they were high in a tree and out of sight. But it's the first time I've ever seen one let alone two, and it's up there with the thrill of seeing the otter and her cubs last year.

Pleased to say I've been doing quite a few miles of late, 280 miles over a 7 day period, I worked 7 days on the trot, and did my commute for everyone of them, hence 7 x 40 = 280. My mileage for June this year must already be my highest for any month, since I started cycling. Even on my days off I'm managing 20-30 miles a day. I'll have to sit down and work it out.

Still I'm having to put up with a couple of problems, and I'm sad to say it's the butt end. Either my padded shorts have lost there cushioning effect or my saddle has turned very hard. I'm told that the gel in some saddles get hard over time, so I'm looking to get a new one. On the internet I came across the "Rido" saddle made by the same named company, looks very impressive, has anyone out there tried one ?
No time to type anymore.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Woke up early enough....

Yes,I could have gone for a ride this morning, but,very unusually,I stayed tucked up in bed until 08.00., had a leisurely breakfast, listened to some radio, then went for haircut. Later on in the morning Elizabeth and I went to B&Q to pick up a new rotary clothes airer, as they call it, but it's a rotary clothes line as far as I'm concerned, when I was growing up we called them clothes lines, and that's that.

On the way we stopped at the old railway viaduct at Cefn Coed, I've always wanted to walk over it, and the good news is it's part of the National Cycle Network these days. It's a very impressive structure, I'll have to try and get the details/dimensions of it, as well as a full shot of it for a future post, but for now here are a few I took while we walked across it.
Still haven't solved this problem of being unable to manoeuvre pictures around the blog, very annoying indeed. Hope you enjoy the shots, there's plenty more.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Best week's cycling so far this year, butt also a sad tail...

Managed to notch up over 200 miles this past week, I mean from Sunday 17th, to yesterday Saturday 23rd May. Sunday saw me do a local loop of about 25 miles, Monday the same, and Tuesday 30 or so, I really should write down my daily mileages. Then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday I did my roundtrip commute of 40 miles. Thus bagging a total for the week of approximately 240 miles.

This is where the but, or should I say butt, as far as this tale, or tail.... oh I can't help it!!..., comes in.

I worked on Sunday, but (butt) couldn't manage to cycle because of saddlesores. Recently I bought some base layer boxer shorts, with the padding, insert thingy, normally I use vaseline in the delicate places, but Thursday I forgot. As a result of the newness of the padding, and the lack of vaseline, I ended up with some chafing, which was sore on the way home that night. I treated said chafing, managed the trip Friday with only some discomfort, but by Saturday night's trip homeward, I was really struggling. So Sunday I had to take the car, discretion being the very best of valour. I've since stayed off the saddle for two days, and am hopefully ready to ride again tomorrow.

A sad tail, I think you'll agree.

Butt! what makes it all the sadder is the fact that the week has been glorious, sun shining, blue skies etc., a complete joy to be out there cycling. Still a valuable lesson learned, which I won't forget, if one isn't comfortable on the bike, it ruins the ride, so I'll make certain, those nether regions are taken care of, in the future.

Monday, 18 May 2009

New bike.....well sort of ?

Well I tried to fix the photo adjusting problem on this blog, but using 'system restore', which I thought would solve it, hasn't worked. So I'm going to have to press on and put up with it, hopefully only for a while, jnr where are you when I need you?
The two pictures above are of my old Raleigh Venture Pioneer GT 27-speed, a touring bike, which I had for free, about 2/3 years ago, and I never rode, except for a few attempts, but was never happy on it. It's the best quality bike I have, according to the sales catalogues, cost about £700, but I just couldn't get on with the gears at all, and didn't like the drop handlebars.
To cut a long story short, I took it to Halfords a couple of months ago, and had a chat with Russell etc., and asked them to put on straight handlebars, and rapid fire shifters, and hey presto, you can see the results above. I'm alot happier riding the bike, and progressing with the gears, sadly I'm still much more content on my "hack", or commuting bike, as I call it, because it's like a second skin to me now. But eventually, I'm hoping to make some long trips on the Pioneer, if I can get used to all those pesky gears.
Also one of the difficulties I've found with the Pioneer, and it could be psychological, is the narrowness of the tyres compared with the Subway 1. The more I ride the more I'll get confidence, I hope, but I'm serious about using it.
What do you think?

Sunday, 17 May 2009

I'm still cycling the Neath Valley.

Yes, it's been a long time since my last post, looking at the date, over 2 months now. Time is the problem, I constantly use the Subway 1, for my commute, and still get out most days to do at least 25 or so miles, but time to write about my trips is hard to come by. I've done alot of miles, even wore out the pedals on the Subway, last week, the bearings had gone in the right pedal, causing a terrible creaking and screaching as I pedalled along. Quite disconcerting for people and animals alike, especially at 04.30 in the morning when it's still very dark, while I'm wending my way to work.

A complete change of subject I know, but for some unknown reason I'm unable to manoeuvre photos onto my post, the top picture, at the start of this post, is a shot of my new pedal, and the second the old one. Naturally I replaced the pair, and fortunately it was done for free, by Halfords, who are going up and up in my estimation. I explained to Russell, the manager of the bicycle repair section, that I'd only had the Subway 1, since September of last year, and even though I'd down over 5,000 miles since, the pedals should still have lasted 12 months. So he replaced them under the Subway 1's warranty. Not that they, or for that matter, the ones that they replaced were expensive, but it's always great not to have to put one's hand in one's pocket. Let's hope they'll be good for another 5,000 miles?

This problem with adding photos is severely hampering this post, because over the last 2 months I've taken lots of shots that I want to incorporate in this and future posts, and I've also alot to report. As the blog is headed, I'm still cycling the Neath Valley, virtually every day, and enjoying it so much. But reporting it is so much more difficult without the aid of a few relevent shots/photos. I'm going to have to ask my son Keiron jnr., to see if he can find out what the problem is.

Meanwhile, I went out for a ride this morning. Got up at 06.30., but didn't leave till 07.45. First I had to adjust my rear brake, after discovering I had very little in the way of stopping power on yesterday's ride, and then I spent a good 20 minutes sheltering in my shed, waiting for a good old fashioned downpour to pass over. As a result of the late start only knocked up 18 miles on a shortened loop, lately I've been averaging 25-30 miles, on my days off work.

Even though I'd waited in the dry of the shed for those 20 minutes, I still got a good soaking, within 20 more minutes of starting out, then as it usually does, it stopped raining, and I had yet another great ride, under gradually clearing skies, until when I got home, it was glorious sunshine amid the blue.

Monday, 9 March 2009

First bike wash.

Probably, what I'm about to write will be completely abhorrent to real bicycle aficionados, but today was the first time I've actually washed one of my bicycles. It was my day off, I'm nights tomorrow, and I've noticed, for quite some time now, that my commuter, the Carrera Subway 1 was looking really dirty and grimy. So as the sun was out I decided to give it a clean.

It didn't take that long, and I suppose I won't win any prizes for the result, but the Subway looked 100% better, even though I cut a few corners.

I should have taken the "before shot", but forgot in a haze of enthusiasm for the job at hand. Above is a view of the Subway half-washed plus all my bike washing gear, which was christened today, having been stored in the shed for at least the last 2 years.

The sight was so surprising to my son, Keiron jnr., that he grabbed the camera and took this picture, me hard at work, with Elizabeth in the background, hanging out some washing.
Since the Subway 1 replaced the Subway 8, as my commuter, it has seen alot of service and miles. Sadly, I'm very remiss at keeping my mileage figures up to date, but a conservative estimate of say 150 miles a week, since September last year, and taking out roughly 3 weeks of no cycling, because of icey conditions and my incapacity after my fall, and I come up with a guestimate of 3300 miles. That's quite a way without a wash.
Of course it's been into Halfords for a couple of services in that time, but they never wash the bike, something I'd very much appreciate. I've always lubricated the chain, and even wiped it free of grime on several occasions, as well as the bottom bracket and hubs, but otherwise I've done no maintenance whatsoever. Just goes to show what a fantastic low maintenance mode of transport a bike is. ( Says he who relies on Halford for taking care of virtually everything ).

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Sorry, but I haven't felt much like posting lately.

Just to let you all know I'm still riding, but can't get into the habit of writing up my experiences, time is the problem. I've got plenty to tell you, and am still taking the odd photograph, on my travels, and I really want to write about so many things, loads of ideas to research etc., but it all takes so much time. Work is the biggest problem, but to get that sidelined I need to win the National lottery big time, so until that happens, I ( and you ) will have to console myself with spits and starts. Not that I suppose anyone has missed my absence from the internet, these past few weeks, but hey, I like to pretend you're all out there, hanging on my every word.

Enough fantasising, and by the way I've discovered a new blog, well actually I've been reading it for a while now, " Bikeskirt," I have to say I enjoy it, gives me a great perspective on what youngsters are doing on their bikes in the USA. I don't believe we have quite the same bike culture here in the UK amongst our set of young people, and it's a shame. God I'm really sounding my age these days. But back to fantasising, I just don't see any young women riding bicycles, at all, in my part of the world, and it's much the poorer for it.

So come on girls, get out there on your bikes, believe me the lads will soon follow.

Well back to me and my riding. I've had a couple of weeks off work, due to a combination of leave and my wonderful shift roster. During that time I went out every day for a leisure ride, between 07.30 and 10.00 round Glynneath and surrounds, did at least 20 plus miles each time, and really enjoyed tootling along looking for subjects etc., to photograph. But then, when it was time to return to work we had a couple of downpours of snow, and the return of very wintery weather, which kept me off my commute, taking to my car. I had a few days of wishing the snow and ice would go away for good, so I could return to my commuting.

That time came, much too slowly for my liking, at the beginning of last week, so I've been back to my commute and enjoying every minute. On top of that my speeds, not that I'm really concerned about my pace to get from A to B, have increased alot, my normal commute is about an hour and a half, these past two days I've covered the 20 miles in 70 minutes. No, I know I won't be troubling Lance Armstrong etc., but I have surprised myself, and inwardly, I feel some accomplishment. Perhaps, at long last, I've improved my pedalling efficiency and style to improve my power ratio? Yes you've guessed, I don't know what I'm talking about. Best thing is, I'm feeling really good as well. Just need that lottery win now, to sideline work and take it right out of the equation of my life. That way I can concentrate on what my family and myself want to do, for me that's my bicycling and I'd like to just let myself "go" at writing. You can all laugh now, but I see this blog of mine as a bit of practise. I'd like to get into the habit of writing something everyday, much easier said than done.

I'm so envious of other bloggers who write so well, eruditely and succinctly. My posts tend to go on quite a bit, while I love to read those few lines that some bloggers can put together which sum up their thought or experiences, in a paragraph. Great stuff.

Once again time has defeated me, I hope to get back to you all soon.


Thursday, 29 January 2009

First pedal strokes? And I just don't believe it.

It's been awhile since my last post, but getting on the computer to type requires a good deal of time, something I'm not well endowed with these days. True I do get big gaps in my shift pattern, but once I've spent a couple of hours out on the Subway 1, and then done some chores, or gone out shopping, or for a walk with Elizabeth etc., it's a struggle to lock myself away here on the pc.

Having said that, the weather here has been changeable to say the least. Last weekend it was cold and icy, so much so that I got my new trainer out, for a first go on Saturday. Thanks to my son Tierloch, who solved my inevitable misconstruction, it was ready and waiting to be connected up to the Subway. I'd got up early, which I usually do when I'm going on one of my leisure rides, but chickened out as soon as I saw frozen water, on the back path. So I set the trainer up and attached the Subway, and was taking my first tentative pedal strokes at 07.30. I tried the various resistance settings, and was impressed.

I had a run at setting 3, for 15 minutes, which brought me out in a sweat, had a glass of water, did another 15 minutes, another glass of water, then rounded off with a 20 minute session, varying the settings. Perhaps it was the fact, that I didn't have the cooling effect of the bike moving through the air and a breeze, but I worked up quite a sweat, and could feel the effect of the workout, on my legs.

My overall reaction is good, when it's icy I can get a ' ride ', but pedalling and not actually getting anywhere, having nothing to interact with as you pass and see things when on a normal ride, is a terrible bore. So when I set it up next time, I'm going to be prepared, either by way of something to read, or an audio book to listen to. Reading will be a problem though.

A major drawback, which hopefully I can rectify, is the fact that when assembled with the trainer, the Subway slopes forward at an angle that I find uncomfortable on my hands. The simple answer is, I hope, a matter of raising the front wheel up by about 2 inches, so making the whole assembly level. I'll keep you up to date on developments, but, as I said the weather is very changeable, and has now gone back to a very mild phase, and I've commuted to and from work 3 times in the last week.

The first commute after my efforts on the trainer was great, I kept imagining to myself that my leg strength had improved, but after that my trips to and from work became really hard work, and I seemed to be getting overly tired for no reason.

Same thing happened today, when I went for a leisure ride with my camera. It seemed hard work over stretches I've cycled now, many, many times. Taking pictures was a relief. Here are some.

This first shot is taken from the old road looking down into the valley, through the trees to the fertile plain below.

And this is the road that meanders along northwest side of the valley.

A big change of subject here. Above shows a pair of workers' cottages, set next to the old coach house and stables, part of a large estate at Rheola pond. I don't know any of it's history, but have decided to find out more asap.

Here I'm looking the other side of the cottages towards Rheola pond, I think you can see that the views have been 'managed' i.e., in the past the owner of the large house did some landscaping to enhance the views.

Looking again toward the pond, and once more I believe one can see the 'managed' setting.

Here is the drive up to the big house, on the right is perhaps a gatekeepers house. Note the sweep of the road with an old dissused factory on the left.

This is the gatekeeper's house again showing it's relationship with the workers' cottages and the stables.

This is a stream which has been walled either side, and is a major feeder for the canal across the road. If you expand the picture you will see it also acts as an overflow for Rheola pond on the right.

Another shot looking up towards the big house, set in the trees at the back of the bold sweep of grass, between the stables on the right and the main house itself.

I said the factory was dissused, but in fact it is now in use by demolition experts, who reclaim stone and timbers from old schools and churches etc., selling it all on to be used again. The factory building meanwhile has found a new purpose, being used every Saturday to house an indoor market, which is very popular in these parts.

As I left the factory I noticed a farmer feeding some horses, across the road, on the other side of the canal, I said a quick hello, and took a couple of picture of their horses.

I left the farmers and their horses and decided to cycle on down the canal towpath to Resolven.

I stopped to take the above photo, it shows a small barge that is used to cut back weeds from the canal sides, a lock and an overflow, used to take excess water away when the lock is closed.

I took this shot from the canal towpath looking north at Rheola forest, which occupies the escarpment separating the Neath valley from Crynant and Seven Sisters.

To my dismay I found that the batteries in my camera had run out, so I put the camera safely in my jacket pocket, and cycled on towards Resolven.

This is where " I don't believe it " comes in. It's the catch phrase of Victor Meldrew, a popular sitcom character on TV, because you wouldn't believe how many things I saw that I wanted to photograph, on the rest of my trip. It was only a couple of hundred yards further on, when I came within 10/15 feet of a dipper. Like an oversized robin, but with a white chest, and darker brown everywhere else, a really smart looking bird, that bobs while standing still. They always make me think that they're wearing an extremely white bib. It's a bird that lives by waterways, feeding on worms, underwater grubs etc., and dives under water to seek it's food out, hence the name dipper. The really amazing thing about these birds is that, while under water they actually swim using their wings.

Anyway, this little fellow was stood in a feeder stream alongside the canal, bobbing, and despite my presence continued to have a good wash, I know I could have taken a great picture save for those darn batteries,........"I just don't believe it"

I carried on toward Resolven, and soon I met a party of walkers, about 15 strong, heading towards me, I gave them cheery " good morning", but all I got in return was a faint hello from one of their party, and sullen looks from the rest. I got the distinct impression that they disapproved of a cyclist sharing "their" towpath?? In fact they made sure I had to leave the towpath to pass them, despite there being more than enough room for us to pass.

A few minutes later I was turning round at Resolven, and because of the miserable walkers, I decided to make the return leg to Glynneath on the road. Just like my last couple of commutes, I found it tiring on the inclines. So when I got as far as Cwmgwrach I decided to have a coffee at MacDonalds. After my coffee, I checked out my bike, and found the back brake was rubbing the wheel rim quite badly, so I adjusted it as best I could, I'm far from mechanically minded, terrible with a spanner or any tool, for that matter, but my efforts eased the problem.

Leaving MacDonalds, I decided to cycle up to Pontneathvaughan, after having exchanged text messages with Elizabeth, who I was due to pick up from her hairdresser at 12.30, when she told me it would be after 1.00., before she was ready.

When I got to Pontneathvaughan, I decided to take a trail I've never been on before, well only a small part of the way. It was to go to the gunpowder works, at almost the head of the valley. I'd stopped short of going all the way up the trail previously, because of dogs, or the possibility of dogs, at the couple of residences along the way.

In places it was very muddy indeed, and I struggled to keep the Subway upright, but I enjoyed the ride and the views, again wishing I had a working camera with me. The ride to the gunpowder factory, well the remains of, took about 15 minutes, and was well worth the effort.

I was so disappointed at not having the camera, but I had a thought, perhaps the batteries had recharged enough for a couple more shots.

I got out the camera, and turning it on was delighted to see the green light flashing, so hastily I took this last shot, and last shot it was because the batteries died for good immediately after.

It shows the river passing through some sort of manmade damn, obviously something to do with the gunpowder works, which I will return to get some shots of, and find out some of its history.
Well, then it was a quick return down the trail to Pontneathvaughan, then by the road to Glynneath and home.
Cheers for now.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


This is what we woke up to in Glynneath today, a layer of hailstones a couple of centimetres thick. It was kind of slippy so my bike stayed in the shed, nowhere else had this layer, including the rest of the village, and as the blue sky promised it was to be a lovely day, plenty of sunshine, with only a couple of showers of sleet.

My worry is that it'll be icy and slippery tomorrow, when I have to return to work. I'm still a big coward of icy roads and paths. I've swapped so have to be in by 08.00, not my usual 05.30. I'm hoping things will be clear and dry by 06.00., when I have to start the trip.
Fingers crossed!

Yesterday I went for a ride on the Subway, around the local area. I took quite a few photographs, but that is when my lack of expertise came through, and big time. I went out as early as I could, just as the light was dawning in the valley. But it remained not light enough for the next hour or so, and my pictures came out too dark to show any of the detail, that I wanted to show. So I've only uploaded the best of a bad lot.

This one above shows the pedestrian/cyclist underpass, below the A465, from the bridge on Chain Walk ( must be a history to that name )

On the same bridge looking at the A465 as it rises, on its built up embankment, to cross above the underpass.

Just a nice shot of the river, well it would have been, if I'd known what I was doing photographically, as it heads towards one of the A465 flyovers.

This is some waste ground between the river and the A465, note the surface water, which illustrates how much rainfall we've had these past days and nights.

Same waste ground looking in the other direction.

I thought this could be a lovely shot, but the light let me down. It shows an old rail bridge, with footpath, which in its heyday, helped carry coal from Merthyr down to Swansea docks.

The same bridge looking straight across it, the rails and sleepers are still in place, I think the footpath must have been added later, which judging by the sign, hasn't lasted as well.

Enough said.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Haven't much time to write.....

So I'll be quick.

Got called in for an overtime shift last Saturday. The forecast was dreadful, but I went on my Subway 1 anyway. I expected to get drenched, however, the ride into work wasn't anywhere as bad, as that. Had to put up with a bit of a headwind, while travelling down the valley, but hardly got wet.

While at work, the weather worsened all through the day, just as the weathermen had forecast, so by the time came to make the trip home, there were gale force winds and deluges of heavy rain, blowing and falling. The lads at work all agreed I must be mad to travel home on the bike in such weather. Kerwin even offered to drive me and the Subway home. I thanked them all for their concern, insisting I'd cycled home before in even worse conditions.

The winds were fierce, but in fact were mainly at my back, and being well prepared gearwise, my beanie hat, goretex workcoat, waterproof trousers, and neoprene overshoes, all kept the rain at bay. The ride was fantastic, I don't believe I've ever experienced such a tailwind before. It made cycling back up the valley, and particularly the hill at Aberdulais, a breeze, if you'll excuse the pun. It was almost like surfing the wind.

Normally the return trip from work to home takes me an hour and a half, Saturday I did it in 75 minutes, with no extra effort on my part, it was all down to mother nature.

Fantastic, cheers.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

This is me in the local paper, fame at last.

Sadly, you can't believe everything that you read, the reporter embellished the facts a little. To date I've only lost 1 and a half stone in weight, not 3 stone. However, I do try to commute to and from work, every day. Since starting to cycle I feel great, and would recommend it to everyone.
The picture and story appeared in the local "Neath Guardian" newspaper, the reporter, to my amazement, had discovered my blog, and sent me an email, asking if I'd mind him writing a piece about me. This happened just a few days after my fall on ice, my smile in the picture, is really a grimace of pain, as my shoulder was still very sore.
Anyway , I just thought I'd let you all see.
Despite very windy and wet conditions out today, I went for a ride on the Subway 1, for the fourth day on the trot. I'd promised a former neighbour of ours I'd call up to see him. Up is the right word, he now lives in Aberaman, a village the other side of Aberdare. Only about 8-10 miles away, but quite a climb up out of the Neath valley, over Rhigos, through Hirwaun, and then dropping down into the Cynon valley.
It's only recently, back in November, that I'd first climbed all the way up the Rhigos bank, as it's called locally, and then after a good couple of hours riding. This morning I thought about and decided against doing a warm-up, like a swift ride through the village. Big mistake, I had to stop three times on the climb, making my excuse, to myself, that I wanted to take a photograph or two. I managed OK for the rest of the trip, and spent an hour with Peter McNemin, chatting about old times etc.. It was good to see him again.

This is where I made my first breathless stop, probably a third of the way up the aforementioned Rhigos bank, looking back down the hill. Below is a pretty waterfall, that I "had" to take a picture of, for my second.

While this one below, is taken from close to the top of the Rhigos bank, looking back down and across the Neath valley, please excuse the raindrops on the photo.

This one isn't a very good shot, but the best I could do from the roadside. The houses that are peaking through the trees, are Pontneathvaughan, or Pontneddfechan in Welsh, a small village about 2 miles up the valley from Glynneath, Cwm Nedd in Welsh.

Another shot from the top, looking north towards the Black mountains, if my geography is correct.

All in all it was a good morning's ride, I left at about 09.30, got to Pete's at roughly 10.45, spent an hour over a couple of cups of tea chatting, he also told me a few things about this digital camera of mine, that I know next to nothing about. Consequently, I now can store vast quantities of photos on it, instead of being limited to only 12. The trip back home was uneventful, but I did get very wet, and I discovered a new bicycle path, the Cynon trail, which I will need to explore in the future.

So a nice morning and I learnt something as well, to take the time to warm-up, before going straight into a climb, as well as better knowledge of my camers, cheers.