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.