Follow our tide in real tine...

Follow along on our rides

I use an app on my smartphone called LocaToWeb which uploads our actual GPS ride in real time. If you send me an email I can even add your t...

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Day 5 Birmingham to Derby

Our hotel was a block away from the main Birmingham train station -- too tempting.  So we took the train to Lichfield and started from there.

This was the best day so far. No mechanical issues, almost all the trails either paved or well conditioned crushed limestone. My main complaint is there were lots of silly gates one had to go thru. Some you had to lift your bike over a wooden beam -- twice. Others were almost like an airlock -- you had to go into one section and close the gate behind you before you could open another gate to back your bike out.

Sometimes we hit them every quarter mile, other times it might be a couple of miles. We couldn't figure out what they were trying to keep out -- livestock would just step over the wood beams. The only thing we could think of was motorcycles -- because even motor scooters/mopeds you could get thru if you wanted. Very frustrating.

We passed Burton-upon-Trent, which is one of the historic brewing towns in England. We had been there for a day trip 7 years ago but didn't really have the time (or energy) to seek out the good pubs we knew, so we settled for a Marston's pub just down from the brewery for lunch and a beer.

As we were getting close to Derby we met a gent standing at one of the gates. He asked us if we had seen a woman in black cycling the other direction. We said we saw a woman but didn't know what she was wearing. He said it was is wife and she hadn't been on a cycle for years and decided to take it up again. The man had his hand in a cast so couldn't go with her. We assured him that she wasn't lying by the side of the trail (at least as of the time we saw her). She was going to be in a bit of a shock coming back, though. The trail there had a slight downhill grade (in her direction) -- probably not enough to really realize you are going doing hill but it enough to feel "boy, I'm doing great," Coming back up the grade would be a bit of a slog -- nothing impossible just tiring. We get the same thing in LA riding along the beach -- a good tailwind and fell you can ride forever -- until you turn around and have to fight the headwind all the way home.

By the way, the section below is supposed to show a map of that specific ride, not a list of all rides. I've sent a message to LocaToWeb support and hopefully will get things fixed...

Day 4: Statford to Birmingham

Finally, and uneventful day!

We cheated a bit and took the train over about 15 miles of hill bits in the middle, but all in all it was a nice day, The route was mostly on country roads and back lanes, almost all paved with just a few sections thru the woods.

We had a bit of consternation when we reached the outskirts of Birmingham -- the route we had planned (from maps and the Sustrands National Cycle Routes) had us following an old canal into town. But when we got where we'd join the canal there was massive construction going on and the signposts showing our route (NCR 5) went off in a different direction.  We decided to trust the signposts. It took us on a route mostly thru parks and eventually got us to the city center from a different direction and it took us a while to figure out how to get there but we finally made it

Day 3: Oxford on Statford-upon-Avon

On paper this was the longest and hilliest day and it was clear we weren't going to be able to do it in one day. Unfortunately it was also the day with the least train options -- just one town about at the halfway point. So we decided to take the train to Banbury and ride from there.

That went well, but just after leaving the train station I again heard a hiss coming from the rear -- another flat. Something was clearly wrong. Mr Google provide the name of a nearby bike shop that was open and we walked the bikes over there.

Turns out I had a small cut on the tire. The guy (Luke) said it look like it got cut when somebody tried to put the tire on the rim (which was a local bike shop, BTW).

The only tire he had that would fit was a Kenda Kwest 20x1.25, which is pretty narrow (I use 20x1.5). I suggested he move the front tire to the rear and put the narrow on on the front. I also had a broken spoke on the rear wheel, which he fixed (with my spare spoke). And all this time he was dealing with other customers but after just over an hour we were ready to go. Oh, and he had no tubes that small so we used my last spare tube for the front.

The next problem was to find the bike trail, which didn't actually come into to town. After a few false starts we finally found it.

Then we came to the worse trails so far -- in many ways worse than the ones we saw in Eastern Germany 2 years ago. Narrow dirt tracks thru the woods, full of ruts and roots and really had to be walked if not on the level (up or down). One case it was an 8 inch wide dirt track thru a field -- mostly level but you could barely go 3 miles/hour. And another case you could see it had been paved in brick at one time -- still plenty of broke bricks to dodge.

The last 8 miles or so was the "Stratford Greenway" -- which was an abandoned rail line that while it wasn't paved was at least crushed limestone in good condition.

Finally at about 8pm we pulled up to the B&B -- and of course had to wait for the owner to come as he had closed up for the night (he did know we where coming).

Day 2 Maidenhead to Oxford

Day two started off OK -- we had our usual issues getting out of town. The trail surface still wasn't very good once out of town so progress was slow.

Once thru Reading and heading for the countryside this guy on a bike wearing a bright orange shirt rode straight at us. I though he was going to run into us but it turns out it was a friend, Pete, who lives in Reading and checking the status updates he realized we rode by his house. He took off to find us (not knowing the route we'd take).

So he rode with us for a while when I heard a loud hissing from my rear tire. Oh no's a flat!

We pulled over and started the process of putting in a spare tube. We couldn't find anything stuck in the tire and the tube didn't have a major leak so ???. After a struggle to get the tire on and off the rim (the problem with Schwalbe Marathons) we were finally ready to go.

Well, almost. In getting the wheel on and off we knock the derailleur out of adjustment. So I didn't have a low gear and if I shifted to high the chain would go off the sprocket altogether. Not a good thing. So we pulled over and fiddled with it and at least got it so I wouldn't lose the chain, but still no lowest gear.

By this time it was getting late and we realized we wouldn't make Oxford and the next train station in that direction would be a tough bet, so we decided to ride back to the Reading station and take the train there. Pete took us a different route that was much more scenic and almost all paved -- I have no idea why that isn't the official route.

Out adventures weren't over. It turns out do to track repair there is no train service between Didcot and Oxford, only bus service. We got to Didcot and since the passengers seemed to mostly be people heading to Oxford for a Saturday night out there was not much luggage and they let us stash the bikes in the bus luggage compartment.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Day 1: London to Maidenhaid

Well, sort of.

We took the tube from Kings Cross to Earl's Court to Richmond, so we didn't have to ride thru central London. We had to wait for a number of trains until there was room for us and the bikes. But finally just after 11am we we actually riding. The first part was thru Richmond and then Richmond park and it was generally OK.

Then we hit the Thames. The bike path there is really the Thames tow path hiking trail. It was rough, often with tree roots and big holes. And full of people walking their dogs who mostly made room for cyclists. A couple of times it was just a dirt rut thru a field.

Needless to say we didn't make very good time. There was also a small diversion to find a bike shop as I had a gear cable that looked, as they say here, "dodgy/" The first bike shop provide by Google wasn't a bike shop but I guy with a van who would come to you, but he was on vacation. The next one was too busy to work on my bike but did sell me a cable.

Anyway it was getting on to 5pm and we still had 20 miles to go on these terrible trails, so we bailed and took a train. That is itself was an adventure., but more on that later.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Follow along on our rides

I use an app on my smartphone called LocaToWeb which uploads our actual GPS ride in real time. If you send me an email I can even add your to an alert list that will email you when we start a ride that day.

ou just have to promise not make fun of our (slow) speed or if we get lost often

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Google Earth Videos of Our Planned Route

Turns out Google Earth will let you do a virtual tour of a GPS track. So I've embedded some videos made from Google Earth...

Day 1: Richmond to Maidenhead

Day 2: Maidenhead to Oxford

Day 3: Oxford to Stratford-upon-Avon

Day 4: Stratford-upon-Avon to Birmingham

Day 5: Birmingham to Darby

Bicycle Tour This August!

With my long time cycling companion Tom, we are doing a ride from London to York. We are not taking the most direct route but will pass thru Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Birmingham, Derby and Sheffield. Some good beer to be found along the way!

Here is our planned route...

Day One: London to Maidenhead...

Day Two: Maidenhead to Oxford...

Day Three: Oxford to Stratford-upon-Avon...

Day Four: Stratford to Birmingham...

Day Five: Birmingham to Derby...

Day Six: Derby to Worksop...

Day Seven: Worksop to Sheffield...

Day Eight: Sheffield to Pollington....

Day Nine: Pollington to York...