18 March, 2010
There's a common misconception (foreseen by Winston Churchill, oddly enough) that because, unlike motor vehicles, bicycles don't require tax discs, cyclists don't pay 'road tax' and therefore have no right to use roads; that cyclists are only there at the sufferance of drivers, who 'own' the roads, and must always defer to motorists.
'Road tax' is not a payment to use roads – there's no "no pay, no play" rule.
There is no such thing as 'road tax' (nor 'road fund licence'), and there hasn't been since 1937. The tax paid by drivers is Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) i.e. cars are taxed, not their road usage.
The proceeds go to HM Treasury not the Department for Transport: VED is not specifically reserved for road building or maintenance. Those functions are funded from general and local taxation, so cyclists (and pedestrians) do pay their share, in full.
The misleadingly named IPayRoadTax.com makes an excellent suggestion: that the 'road tax' nickname for VED be discouraged, with organisations such as the DVLA or DirectGov only referring to it colloquially as 'car tax' or 'vehicle tax'. It's not a trivial point: the latter are a fair descriptions, whereas the former perpetuates antagonism.
4 January, 2010
I've noticed a few news reports this morning about shortages of road salt in certain areas of the UK, so I have sympathy with the need for local councils to prioritise and restrict their use of grit. However, though Lancashire County Council is responsible for 6,961 km of highway and prioritises 2,418 km, its policy for deicing pavements and cycle tracks seems a little extreme.
We will only... treat footpaths in periods of prolonged severe weather conditions i.e. significant snow, slush, and frozen slush. It does not include general frost and ice.
Cycle tracks are not mentioned at all.
So the designated cycle route to the University, one of the city's primary employers (with 13.1% of its staff commuting by bike in 2007, the highest proportion in the county), goes totally ungritted, accumulating several nights of unthawed frost into thick sheets of smooth ice whilst any thawed frost refreezes into black ice.
Perhaps due to its near-coastal location overlooking Morecambe Bay, Lancaster very rarely experiences lying snow, so the primary source of road ice is frost (and rain, of course). It really isn't some marginal risk which can be safely ignored. Besides, 'significant snow' has a degree of texture so is relatively easy to cycle over – I was doing so quite happily in December – but full-on ice is impassible.
18 August, 2009
Roads are dangerous and some drivers are irresponsible. Excellent reasons to improve the road environment and driving skills/attitudes, but not remotely excuses for cyclists riding on the pavement. There is no such excuse. Ever.
I was going to stop there, as it adequately encapsulates my view of the subject: it's illegal, unacceptable and not open to debate. However, a commenter on that feeble Guardian article made a useful additional point: that the primary stereotypical criticisms of 'cyclists' (as if every single person who uses a bike is part of one homogenous class) are of riding without lights, ignoring traffic lights and riding on the pavement. Even if some fool can justify such practices to him/herself, it's not in a cyclist's interests to give critics any ammunition.
As another commenter says: "If you can't cycle on the road, you shouldn't have a bike".
27 April, 2009
I cycled ~29 km on Friday, ~40 on Saturday and 67.5 yesterday (photos to follow... eventually).
So why was a mere 5.4 km ride this morning such hard work?
10 March, 2009
Cycle ride: Lancaster University-Dolphinholme-Abbeystead-Trough of Bowland-Lancaster
I cycled home from work 'the long way' today, passing through Dolphinholme and Abbeystead to take photos of Wyresdale in the beautiful evening light.
I reached the head of the Trough of Bowland just in time to climb part way up Whin Fell and appreciate the last of the direct sunlight catching the hills around the Trough, before turning back at sunset and cycling home in darkness. Purely by chance, I'd chosen a day on which the full moon photogenically rose over the moors a little after sunset. As I said in one of the photo captions, it'd have advantageous to have been carrying a tripod, but the results aren't bad anyway.
6 December, 2008
Walk/Cycle ride: Bentham-Ingleborough-Lancaster
Today's weather was cold but cloudless and particularly clear, so was an excellent opportunity to play in the snow on Ingleborough.
Though the main roads in Lancaster and Bentham were fine, the lane to Ingleton hadn't been gritted at all, so was far more dangerous than I'd anticipated. Seeing a car approaching along the narrow lane, I decelerated and moved aside – on totally invisible black ice. The resulting fall was trivial but made me nervous, so when another car was following a little too closely a few minutes later, I chose to pull off the road to let it pass. Unfortunately, the fresh-looking snowdrift I'd expected to slow me safely was days old and had refrozen to solid ice – hitting it at speed flipped me off immediately.
This time it did hurt, and I was very glad of a helmet when my head bounced off the frozen verge. My leggings were torn at the knee and for the following fortnight the base of my thumb was badly bruised, with occasional loss of sensation. [Update 9/5/09: the scars on my knee are still colourful after five months.]
It could have been far worse, and I wasn't injured, so after cleaning myself up in Ingleton, I went on with the planned walk. At least the blood trickling down my leg kept it warm.
Leaving the bike at Skirwith Quarry, I crossed the fields to Fell Lane and on to Crina Bottom. A thin crust of ice on snowdrifts then 'proper' ice on the track forced me to walk slowly, to the extent I thought I'd have to turn back simply because I wouldn't have time to reach the summit and return in daylight. As it happened, though the round trip took ~90 minutes longer than usual I managed it with about half an hour to spare, so was on well-gritted roads before dark.
There weren't many people on the path from Crina Bottom to the summit, but I was amused when one person I'd seen struggling uphill ahead of me carrying a huge rucksack then unpacked a parachute and jumped off the edge of the summit plateau. It must have been a great day for paracending.
The views from the summit were wonderful in the clear air, and I took several photos (including of fascinating ice structures left in the snow by high winds), but it was far too cold to leave my gloves off for long, and I soon headed back to the bike; as I said above, I reached Skirwith by sunset but cycled as far as Burton in Lonsdale before the light completely faded, leaving me in darkness for the final 24 km to Lancaster.
28 October, 2008
Cycle ride: Lancaster University-Conder Green-Lancaster
Another slight diversion from my usual route home from work, though it's a little late in the year to take my camera on such trips, since unless I leave work extraordinarily early, the light fails before I can cycle anywhere especially interesting.
This time, I reached Conder Green, planning to continue along the edge of the Lune Estuary, but the sun had already dropped below the horizon, and I returned home with only one photo.
27 October, 2008
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Crook O'Lune-Lancaster
Showery weather today: long intervals of sunlight demanded a bike ride, but the interposing heavy rain clouds cautioned me to avoid going far. Hence, I simply followed the canal to the Lune Aqueduct then along the river to Caton.
With my camera, obviously.
4 July, 2008
Cycle ride: Lancaster University-Quernmore-Lancaster
I sometimes refer to going home from work 'the long way', to denote 40-70 -km evening cycle rides, but this is more literal: a slight diversion into the Conder Valley as far as Quernmore, then straight home to Lancaster; 10.8 km is almost exactly double the direct distance, but hardly remarkable.
Frankly, nor are the two photos I processed, but I might as well publish 'em anyway!
4 July, 2008
My employer is introducing a suite of 'flexible benefits': salary-sacrifice schemes allowing one to avoid paying tax on a range of products and services. One is a 'cycle to work' plan, whereby an employee can buy a £1,000 voucher for a bicycle, if the primary purpose is to travel to and from work.
£1,000 for an everyday commuter bike? Impressive. Almost as impressive as the foolhardiness of then leaving those £1,000 in generally insecure locations for ~40 hours each week.
Oh, and behind the carefully-obfuscatory wording this is exactly the same cycle leasing deal I mentioned a while ago: it seems the bike remains the property of the employer, though the employee is still liable for the full cost if anything happens to it, and the employer is not obliged to transfer ownership when the full purchase price has been paid.
30 June, 2008
Still exercising due care & attention
In last year's EuroRap report, my main cycle route east from Lancaster was ranked as the third most dangerous road in the UK.
This year¹ it's no.2....²
However, summary data are provided (.pdf), indicating that, as expected, accidents overwhelmingly involve motorcycles, and that none involve cyclists.
1: Actually based on 2001-2006 data.
2: No, it's not mentioned in the BBC report, but it is in the linked .pdf.
7 June, 2008
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Caton Wind Farm-Lancaster
Somehow, I haven't got round to visiting Caton Moor since the wind farm was overhauled in 2006; I suppose I've considered destinations a little further from home as more 'exotic'. That's a pity, as this corner of the Forest of Bowland AONB is understatedly attractive, so I returned today.
I worked on Caton Moor almost daily for the bulk of the 1990s (starting before the windfarm was laid out, in fact), so the route is rather familiar. My visits generally involved collecting river sediment during rainstorms, but I resisted the temptation to cycle out in thigh waders for old time's sake.
I also resisted the temptation to hurry: ~90% of the times I've followed the Littledale road from Stock-a-Bank (near Quernmore) have been nocturnal and/or during heavy rainfall, so I've rarely actually seen it. For example, I hadn't noticed that one of the first farms one passes was once, rather obviously, a substantial watermill, and this may have been the very first time I've looked south-east from the crest of the road, rather than fixating on the windfarm and my research catchment. That may mean the accompanying photos will have a novelty only I appreciate – thanks for indulging me!
Once on the southern flank of Caton Moor itself, I followed Roeburndale Road to its highest point, then walked my bike across the top of the hill (on a gravel track which had, thankfully, bedded-in since I last visited – ~1 km on very loose stones and ceramic fragments had been hard work) The views west though the windfarm were even better than I remembered but into direct sunlight, so photos of the turbines needed to wait until I'd reached Quarry Road and could look back at them from the south-west. Technically the site is private land, but **** it – this was my territory well before it was the power company's.
The return trip (~240 m vertically, over ~3 km) back down to the floor of the Lune Valley was rather easier than the climb, but again I avoided freewheeling too quickly and admired the (haze-masked) scenery for once. That took me into the very familiar surroundings of Caton; after a quick look at the Crook O'Lune, I cycled home.
31 May, 2008
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Dunsop Bridge-Chipping-Lancaster
My usual 74 km cycle ride through the Trough of Bowland continues to, or from, Slaidburn and the Lune Valley. However, in 2005 I went through Chipping and around the southern margin of the Bowland Fells, avoiding the climb to Cross of Greet at 427 m asl. On that occasion I rode clockwise, but today I reversed the route, dealing with the major hills first and the flatter sections later.
Though the weather was warm and sunny, it was also very humid. I can't explain the result: whilst the amount of visibility was excellent – I could readily see hills ~40 km away – the quality of visibility was poor – haze slightly obscured objects even 200 m away. As the accompanying photos show, I had excellent, atmospheric views across Wyresdale from Jubilee Tower, but not clear views.
I paused at the head of the Trough for short walk, to the edge of Blaze Moss for an overview of the valley, which was well worth the effort of climbing a near-vertical grass slope, and I'll certainly return on a genuinely clear day.
The rest of the ride was similarly punctuated by 5-10 min diversions on foot (not all of which resulted in photos worth publishing), including St. Hubert's churchyard near Dunsop Bridge, the Inn and wooded banks of the River Hodder at Whitewell, and Chipping village.
In total, I cycled 71.5 km (44.45 miles) in 3:52 hours (at an average of 18.5 km/h and reaching 52.1 km/h at least once), but was out of the house from ~10:30 to 16:33; that's over two hours spent off the bike.
24 May, 2008
Walk/Cycle ride: Clapham-Crummackdale-Ribblesdale-Settle-Lancaster
As is fairly usual, I wasn't entirely sure where I was going today: I caught the early train (08:12 from Lancaster) to Clapham and the Yorkshire Dales, but it wasn't until I was in my seat that I studied the map and made a rough plan. I'd visit the Norber Erratics well before other Bank Holiday day trippers arrived, return to my bike, go on to the Ribblehead Viaduct, then reconsider the options.
The main obstacle of the day hit me as soon as I left Clapham station. Given the sunny weather, I'd come out in a T-shirt and walking leggings (if I hadn't anticipated crossing rough grassland inhabited by sheep ticks, I'd have worn shorts), merely carrying my lightest fleece as some slight protection against showers – a strong, cold headwind was a nasty surprise.
First, I went into Clapham village seeking photo opportunities; since I was already there and was planning to park on the hill above Austwick, I got the climb out of the way immediately by following the unsurfaced Thwaite Lane from behind Clapham Church (passing as the clock struck 09:00). I'd been that way before, and hadn't been inclined to repeat the experience, but the surface was smoother and the ride hence less slow than I recalled. I still wouldn't recommend it to riders of 'racer'-type road bikes.
After locking my bike to a convenient yet unobtrusive bench, I was soon amongst the boulders at Norber, without a single picnicker or young family in sight. Unfortunately, the famous 'Norber Erratics' (large sandstone boulders perched, apparently precariously, on disproportionately narrow limestone pedestals) were about as scarce. Publicity and visitors' photos might suggest they're everywhere, but last year I struggled to find even one – there were dozens, even hundreds of boulders lying on/in the grass, but not raised on limestone pillars. This time I kept looking, and did find a few photogenic examples (hint: try towards the top of the area, rather than amongst the greatest density of boulders on the mid-slope).
In theory, the next stage was to return to my bike, but I didn't want to simply retrace my steps, and planned to complete a streamlined version of the route I'd followed last year. My only hesitation was that the sunny weather was deteriorating, with broken clouds increasingly obscuring direct sunlight and haze diminishing long-range visibility. I completed the route anyway (north along the eastern side of Thwaite to Long Scar, north-east to Thieves Moss, then returning via Beggar's Stile and the floor of Crummackdale), but walked quickly, knowing I wouldn't be able to improve on last years photos. I think I was back at the bike by ~11:30, having walked 9.5 km (5.9 miles) and having encountered only one other person.
That was slightly surprising, as there were plenty of people around: I'd noticed several busy campsites around Clapham and, cycling from Austwick towards Helwith Bridge, passed two completely full campsites which I'd never seen occupied at all before.
So far, so good, but the moment I reached the head of the pass at Swarth Moor, entering the wide-open Ribblesdale, my plan was blown away. The final kilometre of the road to Helwith Bridge took about as long as the foregoing four, as I was battling into a powerful north-easterly wind. The next 3 km north to Horton were even worse, as the gusty crosswind alternately tried to throw me off the road or into traffic.
Horton was as busy as I've ever seen it, with campsites full and closed to all but pre-booked visitors – bear that in mind if you ever wish to visit at peak times. Road traffic was fairly heavy too, so I made a diversion towards High Birkwith, up a ~4 km cul-de-sac on the opposite side of the valley to the main Ribblehead road. My intention was to explore some of the named potholes (or at least their entrances in sink holes, anyway), so I parked halfway along the road and headed onto the edge of Horton Moor on foot. Penyghent Long Churn was surprisingly easy to find, as was Red Moss Pot (I actually managed to go underground there, but retreated after stepping in – yes, in – a very dead sheep) but the highlight was Jackdaw Hole, a huge tree-lined, well, hole. In my enthusiasm, I could easily have got into serious trouble, so again, I took my photos then went back to my bike. I subsequently calculated that I'd walked ~3.75 km, or 2.3 miles, but that ignores the steeply-stepped limestone topography.
I'd considered following ~3 km of bridleway from High Birkwith to rejoin the main road just short of Ribblehead, but that route was temporarily closed, so I'd need to cycle 4 km south to Horton only to cycle ~6 km north-west again to the viaduct. That'd have been a minor annoyance normally, but in high wind it wasn't a serious option.
Instead, I returned to Horton and continued south (assisted by the wind) to Settle. I'd never visited before, and didn't take the time to properly explore today, merely glancing at the main street long enough to find a decent (if expensive) fish & chip shop and the road home. I should really have investigated Giggleswick station too, for a future trip, not least because joining the A65 there would have saved me the effort expended on the road I inadvertently chose, over Giggleswick Scar – an avoidable 166 m ascent wasn't the best start to my long ride home via Clapham, Bentham, Wennington and Hornby.
Incidentally, passing Hornby Castle at ~17:20, I noticed an open day had ended at 16:00. Not to worry; it's open tomorrow & Monday too, so I think I know where I'll be cycling next....
I reached home at 18:07, over ten hours after I'd left. Though my torso and limbs had been thoroughly covered against the wind, my nose was alarmingly red; if I'd taken longer, I think I'd have experienced my first sunburn in years.
In addition to (at least) 13¼ km on foot, I covered 83.1 km (51.6 miles) by bike, which was in motion for 4 hours (and 4 minutes) at an average speed of 20.4 km/h (12.7 mph) and attaining 54.9 km/h (34.1 mph) at least once.
12 May, 2008
Dolphinholme & Over Wyresdale Church
I took a slightly circuitous route home from work today: south from campus (i.e. directly away from home) then inland to Dolphinholme, then back to Lancaster over Hare Appletree Fell.
My primary objective had been to take photographs of the old mill village in Lower Dolphinholme, but I hadn't planned ahead, neither knowing what I was looking for nor allowing for the early onset of dusk in the narrow, steep-sided valley of the River Wyre. Another time....
I had greater success with an unanticipated stop, at Over Wyresdale church, just outside Abbeystead: not 'chocolate-box' quaint, but with interesting details and a picturesque setting.
6 May, 2008
Cycle ride: Lancaster University-Galgate-Glasson-Lancaster
The sunny evening was far too good to waste, so I decided to cycle home from work via the Glasson Branch canal and Glasson Dock.
Again, the precise route is less relevant than the photos, but in short I cycled from the University to Galgate, along the branch canal to Glasson, wandered around the village then returned to Lancaster along Ashton Road (the A588).
Somehow that took 1 hour 45', (though the bike was stationary for 37 minutes) and involved a minor altercation with a distinctly non-mute swan (if you don't like people passing, don't nest there). I travelled 18.6 km (11.6 miles) at an average of 16 km/h (10.1 mph), peaking at 36 km/h (22.5 mph). If it matters.
3 May, 2008
Cycle ride: Windermere-Wrynose Pass-Langdale-Windermere
When planning our camping trip to Seathwaite last week, I considered travelling by bike: either by train to somewhere on the Cumbrian south coast then up the Duddon Valley or by train to Windermere then across to the head of the Duddon via the Wrynose Pass. On that occasion I was pleased to accept a lift by car instead, but today I attempted 'Plan B' of the original idea.
As always, I was glad to get the first stage, the narrow but busy main road from Windermere to Ambleside, out of the way as quickly as possible – setting that pace was a problem later. However, once on the more pleasant road towards Elterwater, I stopped to look at a new footbridge over the River Brathay; new to me, anyway, though it opened 18 months ago, apparently.
The start of the Wrynose Pass wasn't too bad, but I think I'd cycled to Little Langdale a little too quickly, so abruptly – and totally – ran out of energy. That's not an excuse: I'm not suggesting I'd have found it easy under other circumstances, but it was disproportionately difficult. Normally I'd just drop into a low gear and plod along slowly, but a rest at Wrynose Beck Bridge (halfway) didn't refresh me and at a couple of points on the (steeper) second half, I literally couldn't turn the pedals. Reaching the top was extremely welcome, but slightly disappointing.
Firstly, the weather was awkward for photography: thick but broken cloud meant a bright sky contrasted harshly with deep shadows cast on the ground. Sounds dramatic. It wasn't: I took several photos, but only a couple were worthwhile.
Secondly, I knew I couldn't go on: I don't think I'd have been able to descend the other side of the Wrynose Pass then climb back up on the return journey, considering that I'd still have a further 45-60 -min ride back to Windermere station. The alternative, going on as far as the coast and a train home from there (if one existed – I hadn't checked the schedule), seemed similarly impractical.
Hence, I turned back early. I'll have to try again some other time, pacing myself better and in better weather. Instead, I returned to Windermere via Blea Tarn and Great Langdale, taking a few more photos.
2 May, 2008
Cycle ride: Lancaster University-Quernmore-Lancaster
I planned to take advantage of the good weather by following a long route home from work: via Littledale and Caton, in fact, which would be something like five times the usual distance.
I started by heading towards Galgate – the absolute opposite direction from Caton – in order to go around the worst of the steep-sided ridge bordering the Conder Valley. Kit Brow Lane is a good compromise between steep ascents and an excessively circuitous route (I could have cycled via Five Lane Ends and avoided almost all hills, but that'd mean going most of the way to Dolphinholme!).
That led to Long Lane and a gentle, bluebell-lined road to Quernmore, where I stopped to take a couple of photos of the busting metropolis: yes, the post office and the parish noticeboard.
Luckily, I made a further photostop at the end of Rigg Lane, as I wouldn't have been pleased to climb the steep Littledale road then discover that my camera batteries and the spares had failed. Instead, I dropped back to Stock-a-Bank and straight back to Lancaster. I'm sure I'll try the upland road to Caton again soon.
19 February, 2008
Oi, me! No!
It takes a certain type of confidence to accelerate hard towards the back of a stationary bus, relying on it having moved off before I get there.
I think the word I'm looking for is "misplaced".
15 February, 2008
I have two bikes at present, and no dedicated storage in a small house, so they're taking up a significant amount of space in my front room (which has a bare concrete floor, so water/mud/road salt isn't a problem). A bike rack would be really useful.
So it's great to see IKEA Hacker's really simple repurposing of components from the 'Stolmen' storage range: I can built my own bike rack for £30 (plus the cost of visiting IKEA, so the project might have to wait until I'm there anyway).
And as has been noticed, if something happens to the bikes, one is still left with a handy stripper pole....
9 February, 2008
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Morecambe-Heysham-Lancaster
I fancied a bike ride this afternoon, but nothing too ambitious, not least because I'd left it rather late in the day.
Hence, I merely cycled to Morecambe, along the promenade (surprisingly busy) to Heysham then back via the bypass and north bank of the River Lune. It was a familiar route which I've photographed before, so I'll only publish a few of the photographs.
5 February, 2008
Cycling jury's in
As reported earlier, I replaced my bike last summer, buying a Specialized Globe Comp IG8. Now I've had a full six months (er, very nearly seven) to become accustomed to it, what do I think?
I'm not sure.
Fundamentally, I think I was poorly advised by the bike shop staff.
I explained my requirements quite clearly:
- I commute ~7 miles each working day, then go for a recreational ride of ~50 miles at the weekend* . Almost all riding is on roads, though I need the ability to tackle unsurfaced canal towpaths and farm tracks. However, I don't ride fully off-road.
- I favour the mountain bike riding position, and have been very happy with my previous hybrid bike: a MTB profile but with road-optimised components.
- Performance (speed & efficiency) is a priority, though not as much as robustness – I've had lightweight road wheels in the past which have buckled under little more than a meaningful glance.
- Comfort is not remotely a priority, though I wouldn't actively choose discomfort either.
- Realistically, I don't find time for careful maintenance; whatever my initial intentions, I'm self-aware enough to know that regular cleaning, lubrication and readjustments just wouldn't get done.
I don't think there's anything contradictory in all that, but in hindsight the shop staff seemed to focus on the daily commuting aspect at the expense of the weekend recreational riding, and ignored my disinterest in comfort.
'Cos that's what I've ended up with: a bike better suited to gently pottering around town than blasting up the Lune Valley and over high passes in the Yorkshire Dales.
The 'IG8' part of the name indicates that it has an eight-speed hub gear system rather than derailleur gears with ~27 increments. I'd never tried this variety before, and didn't seek it, but the promised ease of maintenance (i.e. none) and robustness certainly impressed me: I already have a (non-deliberate!) tendency to use components until they wear out and need replacement, so the fact I'd have to do that with internal gears was no problem. An enclosed mechanism protected from mud & grit and reduced wear on a thicker-than-normal chain seemed ideal.
Only... the performance is mediocre. The highest gear isn't as high as my old derailleur, and the lowest not as low. On my old bike, I could attain a cruising speed of 18-22 mph knowing that a little greater pressure on the pedals would accelerate me to about 27mph (on the flat). On this bike, the same effort gets me to 16-18mph with little left in reserve; greater pressure on the pedals doesn't transfer much extra power to the wheels. 22 mph is achievable but requires an exertion – very rapid pedaling – I couldn't sustain for 10 miles (as I used to do), and 27 mph would be a brief all-out sprint.
That's partly because it's a heavier bike with greater rolling resistance. The internal gears are appreciably heavier than a derailleur system and overall, the new bike is slightly heavier than the old one, with the weight distributed differently.
The rolling resistance is a result of strange wheels: they're huge, with surprisingly wide tyres (for a road bike). Presumably the wide tyres are intended to cushion a comfortable ride, but as I said, I don't particularly want that, and have tried to pump them up for stiffer yet faster performance. However, the sheer volume of air is an obstacle, and it's difficult to maintain 65-70 psi.
Another problem is that the riding position is more upright than I'd choose, particularly unappealing when the arc of one's arms and chest form a sail against a headwind. I prefer to be lower over the handlebars, but with the saddle set correctly for my leg length and the headset as low as possible, the seat is ~3 cm lower and the handlebars ~3 cm higher than my previous bike – surprisingly significant. I was tempted to buy tribars, so I could get right down, elbows on the handlebars, but the bike isn't really designed to be controlled that way, and it could be foolhardy.
Some of the 'comfort' features are pleasant enough, I suppose, but just not what I'd have chosen; the money spent on a sprung seatpost and anti-vibration frame inserts could have been better invested in components optimised for speed & strength.
I don't like the saddle: too soft and too wide, impairing my ability to pedal in a way an otherwise-sedentary commuter mightn't notice but which becomes annoying after 30 miles at 18 mph. It's a saddle for sitting on, which may seem obvious, but that's not what I need. Whilst pedaling, my weight is supported in my legs and the saddle is merely an aid to balance or an axis against which to push. Hence, I prefer to rest lightly against the very back of the saddle, not sit on the middle. I've become used to this saddle to some extent, but I'm still tempted to swap it for my old one.
In summary, my short-term reaction to the shiny new bike was profound disappointment, even depression: I'd 'upgraded' to a heavier bike with markedly inferior performance or, at the very best, no better than the one I already had. I really should have invested £150 in a bike I liked (a lot) rather than £450 in one I didn't. A. really likes it, particularly praising the simple, uncluttered lines, but I haven't been able to muster any enthusiasm. In fact, I'm not sure whether the wet weather really is the main reason I've only been for two long rides within the past half-year; cycling just doesn't have quite the same attraction as it did and no-one likes a constant reminder of a poor decision.
However... I'm coming to realise the bike mightn't be as bad as I thought: not inferior but different. Though my peak (sustainable) speeds diminished drastically, my travel times over familiar routes only dropped slightly. This may be a matter of cadence.
My favoured riding style features a low cadence of something like 50 individually-powerful strokes per minute which isn't exactly orthodox cycling. Though it's considered more sustainable, and maybe better for the bike, to practice a higher cadence of 60-70 gentler strokes per minute, I prefer to get into a high gear quickly and have one slow, powerful stroke carry me a certain distance rather than 3-4 individually gentler strokes. If even the highest gear won't provide the resistance I like and I have to pedal quicker to attain the same speed (and can't sustain the extremes), I suppose I'm forced into better practice. Hence, over a 40-mile route I'm less likely to vigorously ride at 22 mph on the outward leg then limp home at 12 mph, instead riding at 18 mph out and 15 back. That's almost 8 minutes faster overall – and I'd still have the energy to cycle further.
Even over the short distance to work, I've noticed the difference and as my leg strength has changed (perhaps less in total, but with improved stamina) my winter trip times are back up to the summer trip times I was routinely achieving on my old bike.
So, if I replace the thick tyres with thinner ones when they wear out, and if I do find a way to refine my riding position, maybe this won't have been such a bad buy, after all.
*: Probably not a lot by the standards of 'real' cyclists, but I ride in order to take my camera to pretty locations, not for the exercise and definitely not for the 'challenge'.
22 January, 2008
Under a sensationalist headline about London "clamping down on cyclists", the Guardian reports that local authorities are seeking legislation which will enable them to remove obstructions from busy pavements. These 'items deposited on the highway' may include advertising boards, building materials – and parked bicycles.
Campaigners fear that if Transport for London and London's 33 councils get their way, bikes chained to lamp-posts or railings outside designated cycle parking areas will become fair game for forcible removal by council officers.
More sensationalism. In fact, the local authorities have been keen to stress this isn't supposed to be about decluttering public spaces as a matter of misplaced tidiness or aesthetics, and it's not supposed to be about removing all bikes parked in other than specified areas.
Hence, a bike parked inconsiderately, such as locked to a lamppost in the middle of a pavement, would "become fair game for forcible removal"
, but not bikes chained to railings, out of the line of pedestrian traffic and causing no problems. Sounds entirely reasonable to me.
That's just the authorities' claim, of course, and 'causing obstruction' is dangerously open to interpretation/abuse, so I'm not unreservedly happy about extending council powers. However, unlike certain 'campaigners' who regard cycling as the One True Path, to be promoted irrespective of the cost to other users of the public environment, I'm not going to whinge about it as a matter of principle. A badly-parked bike is a nuisance, and should be removed.
I don't know how it'd be administered, but I'd quite like to see this extended to designated cycle parking areas, giving authorities the ability to remove plainly abandoned bikes. That's certainly a problem here at the University, where a small but annoyingly significant proportion of the parking spaces are permanently occupied by bikes with flat tyres, rusted chains and bits missing, yet security staff have no powers to 'seize private property'.
14 December, 2007
My new bike lock came with a £700 anti-theft protection guarantee: if I lose my bike because the lock is successfully broken, the manufacturer will pay out so long as I've followed their 'Proper Bicycle Lock Up' guidance.
Which states: 'Keep your bike locked at all times'.
Kind of limiting....
23 November, 2007
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Dolphinholme-Lancaster
Contrary to expectations, I did need to visit campus today, but I didn't stay long: I completed what I had to, then bought some lunch and left for a bike ride, making more use of the sunny mid-afternoon than I'd have achieved in work terms. I'm sure my boss would agree.
I didn't have a particular destination in mind, but being 5½ km south of the city anyway, it made sense to continue in that direction. I headed to Galgate via Green Lane (which used to be my daily route home in the mid-90s, so it was good to note the changes) then inland to Dolphinholme.
I pass the tiny village quite frequently, but this time I stopped to photograph the church and the 19th Century mill complex of Lower Dolphinholme. The latter was difficult, as the low winter sun was already being blocked by the steep valley sides; I think I'll have to return in spring.
From there, I followed unfamiliar narrow lanes to Street, then my usual route to the brow of Harrisend Fell. After locking my bike to a signpost, I climbed the fell on foot in order to eat my lunch sitting on the heather, admiring the view across the Fylde to Blackpool and across Lancaster to the Lake District. I really enjoyed that, and I'll remember it for a long time, but I'll have to: unfortunately, I was facing straight into the sun, so took no photos.
In hindsight, I'd limited my options by coming this way.
I could go on to Oakenclough and around to Scorton or Garstang, but that's a surprisingly long way, and I'd soon be cycling in the dark and, more to the point, cold: I'd brought lights, but only a thin jacket.
I could head inland up Wyresdale to Abbeystead then back to Lancaster via the upland road past Jubilee Tower. That was even further & colder, and all those hills were a bit daunting – I wasn't out for that sort of ride.
Or I could head straight back to Galgate and the A6 to Lancaster, passing Dolphinholme and the University again. Boring, perhaps, but that's what I did.
11 November, 2007
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Glasson Dock-Lancaster
Somehow, I didn't get round to a bike ride until rather late today. The autumn light was already fading by the time I left home, so I kept it quite short: just to Glasson Dock and back, a ~16 km round trip.
I usually head out along Ashton Road and return along the riverside cycle track, so for a change I reversed it, heading to Aldcliffe and the river first. Luckily, it was the right decision (I wish I could say I'd carefully thought it through), as the last of the sunlight was photogenic and there's little to photograph along Ashton Road! As the accompanying photos show, the light really had gone by the time I'd visited Glasson, so it'd have been a waste to ride back along the river. Worth remembering.
21 October, 2007
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Hornby-Warton Crag-Lancaster
Today's trip was almost the reverse of one I completed in November 2005, thereby avoiding a nasty ascent and offering different views. It was a good ride, which I'll probably try yet again in spring or summer.
The first section was very familiar: to Hornby via the Crook O'Lune. Crossing Loyn Bridge to Gressingham is also part of a route I've frequently followed (and described), but instead of simply returning to Lancaster via Halton, I turned north-west, crossing the ridge into the Keer valley and rapidly dropping down (remember the ascent I mentioned?) to Capernwray and Borwick. Apart from Hornby, I stopped in each of the aforementioned locations to explore on foot, but one of my intentions, to possibly improve on photos taken on earlier trips, somewhat failed: I'm only publishing six of the 52 photos I took today. Hazy autumn sunlight is deceptively harsh.
After visiting a probably-private part of Borwick Hall's grounds, I went on to Warton. Again, I locked my bike to a fence and wandered around the Old Rectory on foot, then took a brisk stroll to the top of the Crag but, again, only one photograph is better than I'd taken before.
Which, in a sense, is gratifying.
14 July, 2007
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Tunstall-Leck Fell-Kirkby Lonsdale-Lancaster
On Tuesday, I bought a new bike, so today (Saturday) was my first opportunity to test it properly. My initial plan was to simply ride to Kirkby Lonsdale along the floor of the Lune Valley and back via the ridge to Halton, but I soon decided to add a decent hill climb and to incorporate places I hadn't visited before: Tunstall Church and Leck Fell.
I'll review the bike's performance in a few weeks [nearer seven months, as it happened], but I'll just say that the ride to Tunstall, ~7 km from Kirkby Lonsdale, took longer than normal but felt easier; it's that type of bike.
I've passed the tiny village innumerable times, but never left the main road to investigate the isolated Church. As the accompanying photos show, it's a pleasant enough building, but it's more significant for its literary association, being the inspiration for 'Brocklebridge Church' in Charlotte Bronte's 'Jane Eyre'. The Brontë sisters attended school in nearby Cowan Bridge, so it seemed logical to go there next, if not quite by the same route – presumably they followed footpaths across fields whereas I had to cycle via Burrow and surfaced roads.
Not having planned to visit, I didn't research the location of the School for Clergy Daughters in advance, and didn't go hunting, instead heading straight on towards Leck Fell, on the western flank of Gragareth (the highest point in Lancashire). This is one of the very few upland valleys on the south-western edge of the Yorkshire Dales that I'd yet to visit; in fact, I think it's the last, and I've now explored all nine access routes to the moors between Ribblesdale and Barbondale.
Climbing 300 m within ~3.5 km (and not as one gradual ascent) could have been exhausting on a humid July day, but it was easier than usual: the lower gears of my old bike had been inaccessible for a long time, so it was a novelty to be able to use those on this new bike. Still, I was very glad to reach the top near Leck Fell House, sitting on the edge of the moor for a while to take in the view and a banana.
The descent was somewhat easier, though I was uncomfortable about riding at full speed on an unfamiliar bike, on an unfamiliar road (with patches of loose gravel) in an isolated location, so stayed under 50 km/h.
After a brief diversion to attempt a photo of Kirkby Lonsdale that I've been failing to capture properly for a while (and failing again, really), I crossed the River Lune at Devil's Bridge and headed back towards Lancaster along the northern edge of the valley, making one more stop to supplement/replace photos I'd taken in Halton on earlier bike rides.
In total, I covered 70.3 km (43.7 miles) in 3hrs20', giving an average speed of 21 km/h (13.1 mph) and reaching 47.8 km/h (29.7 mph) at least once. Every ride is different, with different gradients and differing numbers of photo stops, so it's difficult to compare this to previous trips and hence my old bike, but it felt slower – my legs could have pedaled harder, but the bike didn't respond quite as I'd hoped.
10 July, 2007
My bike has been ill for a while, badly worn gears slipping whenever I put even moderate pressure through the cranks. This has been particularly annoying when the chain has jumped from the top chainring to the middle ring at speed, requiring me to stop and relocate it by hand or keep going with my little legs moving in a blur.
I priced repairs a few days ago and was alarmed to discover I'd need to replace pretty much everything in the drive system: chain, rings, front & rear derailleurs and freewheel. The combined cost (over a third of the initial purchase price) settled an issue I'd been prevaricating about: whether to sink more money into this bike or upgrade to a totally new one.
I'll probably comment on the new one (a Specialized Globe Comp IG8, with an eight-speed hub gear system rather than derailleur gears) once I've ridden it for a few weeks [update 05/02/08: have done], but this entry is to mark the transition, and to record Bikey's final mileage.
Unfortunately, I'd already had the bike for a couple of years when A&A gave me my first bike computer, but before that point I'd only really used it for routine commuting, ~7 miles per working day, so the majority of my riding has been logged. Since 1 February, 2003, I've travelled 10,138.4 miles (16,316.2 km), in motion for 412¼ hours.
Bikey is dead (not really – it's still a rideable spare bike); long live Bikey!
25 June, 2007
I've belatedly noticed that my bike computer has logged 10,065 miles (16,198½ km) since 1 February, 2003. I covered 34½ yesterday, and my round-trip to work is ~7 miles, so I suppose I must have passed 10,000 last Monday.
25 June, 2007
Due care & attention
Wonderful. According to a EuroRAP report. er, reported by the BBC, my main cycle route east from Lancaster is the third most dangerous road in the UK.
Don't tell my mother.
9 June, 2007
Walk/Cycle ride: Bentham-Ingleborough-Lancaster
Ingleborough again this week; I seem to have visited the Yorkshire Dales a lot recently. This time was slightly different, as rather than the summit being my main objective, I wanted to explore the extensive area of potholes on Ingleborough Common, the shoulder of the hill above Ingleton.
As usual, I caught the train to High Bentham by 11:30 and cycled across to Ingleton, then followed the Ribblehead road to the start of the most direct Ingleborough path, just outside the village. Safe bike parking was a problem, but I found a secure fence post some distance from the road, inside Skirwith Quarry. If anyone's counting, this was 8½ km (5¼ miles) from Bentham station, and took 27 minutes.
I started the walk at 12:10 by passing Skirwith Cave, a disused show cave, now with limited surface expression. That was a common characteristic of the walk: several potholes are unremarkable small holes in the open moor, and less than photogenic above ground.
Joining the main path, I realised the day was hotter and even more humid than I'd anticipated; fine for cycling cooled within one's own flow of air, but more sticky on foot. I wouldn't be walking quickly.
I left the path at Crina Bottom, heading straight up the slope to the crest of Ingleborough Common/Dowlass Moss. My next realisation was that in the absence of any tracks or landmarks, it'd be difficult to find specific pot holes – or any potholes, as I couldn't distinguish grassy hollows from level moorland from more than 20-30 m away, never mind spot the cave entrances themselves, typically less than 2 m wide. As the accompanying photos show, I found a few, but it was a little frustrating to be unable to identify them. In hindsight, this may have led be to take foolish risks, precariously balancing over vertical drops to get good camera angles. If I'd fallen, no-one would have known where to look for me.
I eventually rejoined the Ingleborough path somewhat disappointed. From long experience, I'm very aware how difficult and hence slow it is to walk across nominally flat moorland; meandering wildly and stopping frequently, it had taken me two hours to travel about a kilometre, with very limited success. I had a quick look at Quaking Pot, a hole I could find and the entrance of which I could readily access, then I climbed Ingleborough itself, if only as an opportunity to stride along a decent path again.
The summit was rather crowded (I even met work colleagues, who were attempting the Yorkshire Three Peaks route) and the views slightly masked by dense haze, so I made one complete circuit of the plateau edge, then returned to my bike. For the record, the decent took ~55 minutes.
After a 15-min break for a bottle of Coke and a banana, I cycled home by 17:35, taking 1 hour 48' to cover the 41 km (25.5 miles), at an average speed of 22.7 km/h (14.1 mph) (23.8 km/h until the final climb from Moor Lane Mill!).
26 May, 2007
Walk/Cycle ride: Bentham-Kingsdale-Lancaster
My last 'big' cycle ride of 2006 took me through Kingsdale, a secluded glacial valley above Ingleton, at the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It seemed quite pleasant, and looks interesting on the map, but I passed at dusk (with ~30 km still to go) and was too tired to appreciate it. Considering a motivation for that ride had been to visit one of the few dales I'd yet to see, today I returned for a better look and to take photos.
I used the opportunity of the train ride to Bentham to plan my route. Like most hills in the area, the western side of Kingsdale has a distinctive profile, determined by interbedded Carboniferous gritstone and limestone. A short slope rises steeply ~100 m to a level area dotted with sink holes, then rises more gradually (~200 m over ~750 m) to the foot of a second very steep slope, which rises ~50 m to the top of the ridge; an ascent of ~300 m overall. I planned to leave my bike somewhere on the valley floor, walk along the lower 'terrace' all the way along Kingsdale, exploring the main potholes named on the OS 1:25,000 map, then climb to the the ridge and walk back via the summits of Gragareth, Great Coum and Crag Hill.
In hindsight, that was too much, and is two separate walks, but based on that initial idea I decided to park by Yordas Cave, about halfway along the valley, and walk back to the mouth of Kingsdale before climbing the gentler slope at the end of the ridge (rather than go straight up the steep side). I'd follow that past Gragareth's trig. pillar to the head of the dale, look down over Deepdale and Dent, then follow a rough track and surfaced road back to my bike.
The optimum route from the station to Kingsdale (yes, I had consciously considered that) passes through Ingleton and Thornton in Lonsdale, so I made a slight diversion almost before I'd really started: I went into Ingleton to use the public toilets, check for photo opportunities, successfully avoid being rude to a christian evangelist, and buy a little more food for the trip. Another brief stop in Thornton was planned, as I knew I wanted to photograph the church where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was married.
The climb to the mouth of Kingsdale was the only strenuous part of today's ride, and not too bad (160 m in 2 km) though the road up the valley from there was steeper and much longer than I remembered.
There were quite a few cars and vans parked near Yordas Cave; I was briefly concerned that I'd stumbled across a popular picnic site or coincided with a rambling club's excursion, but I think most visitors were cavers, and I encountered very few people on the surface all day.
Yordas Cave (incidentally, it is 'Yordas Cave', from Old Norse 'jord-ass' ('earth stream'), not 'Yorda's Cave' – no apostrophe) is only a couple of minutes walk from the road. A cursory web search about Kingsdale had informed me that one can go in, so I'd made a point of bringing my bike's headlight. However, I hadn't checked the state of the batteries, so even after waiting about five minutes for my eyes to adjust to the small amount of daylight from the entrance, I ended up exploring the huge main chamber by touch and hearing – luckily the stream bisecting the cavern was audible.
Abandoning that part of the walk, I followed the gorge up through Yordas Wood to the other end of the cave, where Yordas Gill vanishes underground. It's quite an attractive area, and if anyone plans to visit the cave, I'd recommend making the extra effort to continue uphill a little.
Leaving the wood, I readily found a path seeming to head straight up to the top of the ridge, but not the one I wanted, across the slope. There had to be one somewhere; it was marked on the map and must be used regularly by cavers. I'm afraid it defeated me, and I wandered straight across the moor, navigating by dry stone walls until I jumped one and suddenly found myself on the proper path. I still don't know how that happened, but I suspect the problem was the similarity between the OS's depiction of a 'path' (a dotted fine black line) and a 'line of shake holes' (a dotted fine black line).
Somehow I missed the first named pothole on my route, Jingling Pot, but the next was impressive. Rowten Pot is a relatively large feature containing a small tree-covered shelf beside a deep open shaft. I walked around the perimeter, then found a way to descend at least as far as the shelf. That was good in itself, but I managed to find my way into a horizontal cave. For once I regretted walking alone, as despite my enthusiasm, it would have been too foolhardy to explore further. I took a couple of photos and sat for a few minutes to absorb the sounds, smell and appearence of the softly-lit rock, but then returned to the surface.
Despite there being several named potholes within the remaining two kilometres to the end of the upper ridge, and hence the start of the second part of my walk, the only notable surface feature I found was Kail Pot, a large, er, hole in the ground. Unfortunately, the sides were vertical (it was fenced-off to protect sheep) so I couldn't explore. I think I'll have to go back, with the specific intention of lingering to find other holes off the line of the main path – today I was a little too aware that the walk was taking much longer than I'd expected, and I still had a long way to go (not to mention the ~40km bike ride afterwards).
Crossing to the dry stone wall on the ridgeline and county boundary (the second phase of the trip couldn't have been more straightforward: follow a wall for 7 km), I diverted to follow a line of large sinkholes, one containing a cave mouth, to a small copse (itself unexpected on open moorland) containing another well-known pothole, Marble Steps Pot. This was attractive, especially surrounded by vegetation, but again the sides were too steep for me to (safely) investigate.
The ridge walk was, well, a chore, despite the excellent views. As I said above, this trip was taking far longer than I'd anticipated. It may be that I'm too used to judging distances as a cyclist – 7 km might take 20 minutes by bike but an hour at a strenuous walking pace, and that's on flat tarmac, not undulating moorland. After visiting the trig. pillar at the nominal summit of Gragareth, ~100 m off the path, then returning to the wall, I had to reconsider. Even without measuring on the map, I could see that most of the intended route was ahead of me (I measured it later; I'd covered 8½ km with 14¼ km still to do, the final ~5 km on a road) and it was time to mention the cycle ride home. It was too much, so I cut the walk short by scrambling directly down the valley side to the lower 'terrace', straight across the moor back to Yordas Wood and my bike. I'd walked almost exactly 10 km overall. Next time, I'll probably pick-up the route at the same point on the ridge.
The ride home wasn't too bad, taking 1 hour 52 mins. I didn't think to check the distance from Clapham to Yordas Wood, thereby providing the distance from Yordas Wood to Lancaster, but I rode 53.8km (33½ miles) in total, at an average speed of 21 km/h (13 mph) and reaching 46½ km/h (29 mph) at least once.
5 May, 2007
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Knott End-Lancaster
Another warm Spring day, so I decided to go for a bike ride. The only problem was the humidity and consequent haze, which restricted visibility (though not to the same extent as last month) and hence limited my choice of destinations; there'd be no point going somewhere for the long-distance views.
I selected Knott End-on-Sea, somewhere I'd been planning to revisit for a while to supplement/replace photos taken in 2005, as my camera batteries had failed in the middle of that earlier trip. The village is just across the Wyre Estuary from Fleetwood, at the north-western corner of the Fylde, itself a near-featureless low-lying plain. Apart from hills on the horizon, there aren't really any long-distance views anyway, so I wouldn't be missing much.
The first stage was straightforward: from Lancaster to Pilling via Cockerham. I was tempted to turn back there, as I had last time I considered this route; I don't cycle in sunglasses, and the haze-diffused sunlight was literally painful. I'm glad I went on, as crossing the width of the Fylde in light mist was an odd experience. I could see a couple of kilometres, but there were no landmarks visible in any direction until I approached Pilling and Damside Mill faded into view, yet that didn't seem to get any closer for several minutes, as if a mirage. Evidently, I can't really describe it.
Though Knott End was the furthest point on my intended route, Pilling was the main objective, to take photos of the windmill and church, plus anything else I might discover, such as a unicorn.
Unfortunately, the effect of the haze was greatest facing the sun, so my photos of Fleetwood from Knott End ferry quay / slipway weren't as clear as I'd hoped and the Blackpool skyline was totally hidden. I did have a good view out to sea, though, so watched the Irish Sea ferry approach and enter the mouth of the River Wyre, fully loaded with cars and lorries. It's extremely rare for me to just sit and watch the world for half an hour or so; even on mountain tops I only stay long enough to absorb the view before moving on. Sitting on the sea wall today was surprisingly relaxing.
I didn't want to retrace my outward route exactly, so took a different road out of Knott End, to have a look at Preesall windmill (now part of an industrial estate and not exactly photogenic) then, back at Pilling, headed east towards Garstang via Winmarleigh. Rather than join the A6, I followed the parallel minor lanes north to Forton, admiring the fresh growth in the hedgerows. From there, I did join the A6, and headed home.
I'd covered 63 km (39 miles) – further than I thought; the roads across the Fylde may be flat and fairly straight, but they're not short, and I did follow a rather circuitous route back from Pilling. Not counting photo stops and time at Knott End, the ride itself took 2¾ hours, at an average of 22.5 km/h (14 mph). If it matters, I reached 40.5 km/h (25.2 mph) at least once.
29 April, 2007
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Garstang-Nicky Nook-Galgate-Lancaster
Today's much-modified ride was comparatively short but enjoyable, filling gaps in my local knowledge and offering a few decent photo opportunities.
As usual, I got the lead-in out of the way as quickly as possible, by blasting straight down the A6 to Garstang at ~22 mph. Having studied the map, I thought I'd discovered a shortcut from there to the lanes south of Scorton: a ford across the River Wyre. However, I was extremely lucky that a Land Rover was crossing the river as I was about to start, demonstrating that the water was about a metre deep. Some ford.... There was a pedestrian bridge and footpath along the riverbank to the next surfaced road, so it wasn't quite a dead-end, but I doubt I'll try it again.
I had considered going on to Bleasdale and back via Oakenclough, but after stopping to talk to a horse (what?), I changed my mind: I'd stay west of the higher ground and simply head back to Lancaster via Scorton and the Dolphinholme/Galgate road.
Within a couple of kilometres I modified the plan again: since I wasn't cycling so far, I'd take the opportunity to stop and climb Nicky Nook for my first time. I was just scouting the route, really, as the weather wasn't great for long-distance photography of the views: hazy yet very windy. I'll return some other time.
The next stage was something of a mystery. The idea was to join the familiar road at Harrisend Fell, but the lane seemed to go on for several kilometres longer than expected, through farmyards and another ford. It looks so straightforward on the map. And I was bleeding; I'd caught the inner side of my elbow on a barbed wire fence.
The onward road was straightforward, passing Dolphinholme on the way to Galgate. I made another diversion there, though, following Chapel Lane, the 'back way' to the University and home from there, rather than face the wind on the exposed A6.
I'd been out for three hours, of which the bike was moving for two (and two minutes). I'd covered 40½ km (25 miles) at an average speed of 19.8 km/h (12.3 mph), exceeding 45 km/h (28.2 mph) at least once.
15 April, 2007
Walk/Cycle ride: Bentham-Whernside-Lancaster
Slightly later than expected, today I (sort-of) completed one of the walks I've been planning: Whernside in better visibility than November 2005.
Sort-of: though there was no low cloud this time, today seemed particularly humid, with dense haze limiting visibility to only a couple of kilometres. On past occasions, I've noticed this to be a coastal effect so, hoping it'd be clearer inland, I caught the 14:45 train to High Bentham after lunch.
I cycled straight to the Old Hill Inn, where the Three Peaks route joins the road; the obvious starting point. However, I couldn't find anywhere safe to park the bike, so dropped back to Chapel-le-Dale and a secure fencepost in the church car park. That added about a kilometre to the walk, but I'd be able to return via a different route, passing several pot holes and adding a little variety.
Passing the Old Hill Inn again and following Philpin Lane, I reached the open moor behind Bruntscar Farm and finally started the 'proper' walk at about 16:15. If only the National Park Authority could install cycle parking at that point....
Despite the humidity, I found the steep climb to the Whernside ridge fairly easy, though I wasn't rushing. Somehow, the next section, the gentle ascent along the ridge to the summit, was less pleasant, largely because the destination was constantly visible (though one constantly wonders if it's a false summit and whether the hill continues to rise beyond the apparent horizon), unexpectedly far away. It's only 1.2 km, according to the map, but felt further! Hillwalking doesn't only require physical stamina....
I reached the summit shelter at 17:35. Though I wasn't remotely tired, the ascent had taken much longer than anticipated, as the humidity didn't encourage rapid movement. Given the time and the fact that the end of the walk was merely the start of the 20-mile bike ride home, I realised I'd have to reconsider my plans. After stopping to take a few photos and have a drink, I studied the map.
Continuing along the path to the Ribblehead Viaduct and back to Chapel-le-Dale along the valley (which I think is called 'Chapel-le-Dale' too – anyone know? It's not named on the OS map) looked considerably further than retracing the route I'd already followed, so I did the latter. Similarly, the path across fields from Bruntscar and a steeply undulating track to Chapel-le-dale looked as if it'd take rather longer than following the tarmac'd Philpin Lane back to the main road, so I decided to retrace that part, too.
As I started back down, I finally caught a glimpse of Pen-y-ghent – as the sun began to drop, the mist was thinning. Whilst remaining appreciably misty, the view across to Ingleborough was drastically clearer than before; not really enough for decent photos, but adequate to prove there are some very impressive views eastwards from Whernside. I'll have to visit Whernside again some time, in reliably clear weather if that exists.
Back at the bike by 18:45, I had another drink then set off.
I think I've identified the easiest route back from Ingleton, avoiding almost all the steep slopes at the particularly 'lumpy' junction of the glacial valleys now occupied by the Rivers Lune, Greta and Wenning. At the crossroads where the Chapel-le-Dale road joins the A65, go straight on, past the Mason's Arms, ostensibly towards High Bentham via a narrow lane. About halfway there, turn right after Langber and follow the remarkably straight lanes directly to Wennington. It's not immediately obvious on the map (which is why I hadn't found it until actually visiting the area), but this route follows a ridge, undulating no more than 25-30 m all the way.
Having had a decent lunch made a major difference on the ride back. Most of my trips are fueled by breakfast, 2-3 cups of tea then a very light snack before heading out for 4-6 hours and ~60 km. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that the final 10-15 km tend to be rather hard work. Today, however, I felt fine all the way, if a little bored on the long, familiar sections I don't normally notice – zoned-out exhaustion does have at least one benefit.
Approaching Caton, I noticed that the fog was begining to gather again over the river, becoming quite dense before Lancaster. It was lucky that I decided to take the 'shortcut' (a rough track, so probably not actually quicker than the main road) from Denny Beck past HMYOI Lancaster Farms to Williamson Park, as I didn't have lights and I wasn't happy riding in fog and the associated early twilight. By the time I reached the Park, the fog was so dense as to hide the dome of the Ashton Memorial from only ~50 m away.
As I subsequently saw on the TV news, the North Lancashire coast had experienced this fog for most of the afternoon; I'd made the right decision to head inland, rather than complete another ride I'd planned, to Knott End near Blackpool.
I'd been out of the house for six hours (14:35-20:35), cycling 53 km (32.9 miles) from Bentham to the Old Hill Inn then back to Lancaster at an average speed of 21.9 km/h (13.6 mph) (22.7 km/h until I took the 'shortcut'....). The bike was in motion for 2:25 hours; if anyone's interested, my maximum speed was 50.1 km/h (31.1 mph), presumably on the steep descent into Ingleton.
13 April, 2007
Walk/Cycle ride: Silverdale-Burton-in-Kendal-Holme Park Fell-Lancaster
I made a point of avoiding popular tourist destinations such as the Lake District this week, as last weekend was the statutory easter holiday. Hence, despite being obliged to take 5-11 April off work (statutory days plus employer policy), I waited until today, when people were likely to be back at work, to take voluntary leave and to visit the Lakes.
That was the plan, anyway, rather defeated by the weather: totally cloudless and warm (for April, anyway), but humid, with a thick haze limiting visibility. It seemed pointless to climb, say, Bow Fell for the views if one couldn't see more than a kilometre. So I went to work....
A couple of hours later I saw sense and decided to go for a bike ride anyway – I'm not paid to sacrifice leave.
My chosen destination was Hutton Roof Crags, an area of limestone pavement north-east of Carnforth. That's within cycling distance, but I avoided the familiar lead-in by catching the train to Silverdale by 14:33. From there, it was an easy ride past Leighton Moss and Yealand Redmayne to Burton-in-Kendal. I stopped there to take a few photos of the Georgian main street, then went on to the outskirts of the village and the lane towards Newbiggin/Hutton Roof.
There's a layby and information sign at the head of the pass between Hutton Roof Crags and Farleton Knott, with footpaths leading to each summit. Parking my bike, I planned to visit both; according to the map each path was only 1 km long.
I began with the northern route, towards Farleton Knott via Newbiggin Crags and Holme Park Fell. The former was particularly photogenic, even in the haze, but immediately made me realise the impracticality of my plan. Walking across limestone pavement, taking due care of the fragile environment and my own safety, was a slow process, and it took a long time to reach the summit. I stopped for a drink and to peer at vague hints of nearby hills, but then returned only as far as my bike. I'll have to visit Hutton Roof Craggs on another, hopefully clearer occasion.
Studying the map again, I concluded that I'd save scenic cycling routes for another day too, so simply dropped back down to Burton the way I'd come then followed the main road to Tewitfield and the northernmost navigable point on the Lancaster Canal. I made another photo stop there, then returned to Lancaster by 18:00 via the Kellets and the familiar 'B' roads. I'd cycled 36 km (22.4 miles) in 1 hour 50 (average 19.5 km/h, peak 48 km/h).
6 April, 2007
Walk/Cycle ride: Clapham-Moughton Scars-Crummack Dale-Lancaster
Crummackdale, between Clapdale (above Clapham) and Ribblesdale, is one of the few valleys I'd yet to visit in the south-west corner of the Yorkshire Dales. I'd wanted to visit for a while, not only for completeness but because of the spectacular features: the glacial erratics at Norber, the views across the eastern side of Ingleborough from Thwaite Scars and the limestone cliff of Moughton Scars. It's surprising that it's not better-known.
As usual, I caught the train from Lancaster to Clapham Station, then crossed to Austwick by bike. Parking above Town Head was straightforward – it's worth noting that there's a secure bench situated just off the start of the main footpath to Norber.
After a few minutes of walking I reached the famous Norber Erratics, huge sandstone (greywacke, in fact) boulders perched on tiny pedestals of limestone. Frankly, those erratics I found were slightly disappointing, but there were several young families and picnickers around, so I didn't linger as long as I might have, and I suppose I could have missed the best examples.
My plan involved crossing to the western side of the hill, straight over the summit plateau of limestone pavement. There were no paths, so I was a little nervous about damaging the fragile landscape or myself by stumbling into deep, sharp-edged crevices. If I did the walk again, I think I'd revise this part of the route; I wasn't pleased (with myself) about having to vault a dry stone wall, either.
Once I was on the western side of Thwaite Scars, the route became easier (and more legitimate) and offered the expected views over the landscape I crossed almost exactly a year ago. It was particularly good to see the features I'd visited on that occasion from a different angle, even obtaining the exact reverse angles of earlier photos. Choosing my spot carefully to avoid disturbing nesting ravens, I sat for a while to study the view and watch distant walkers & cyclists on the more popular path.
Traversing the cliff edge, I soon joined the (ex-)green lane of Long Lane, climbing back over the hilltop to Long Scar and the head of Crummackdale. I recommend that easy track to everyone, for the panoramic views over an unearthly limestone plateau backed by two of the Yorkshire Three Peaks (Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent), with the dramatic cliff of Moughton Scars overlooking the gentler Crummackdale valley, the latter almost lush compared to the utterly bare limestone. Unfortunately, it's understandably popular, including with off-road cyclists, so I was quite glad to leave the main path and crowd at Sulber Gate, heading south-east along the Moughton Scars cliff edge, alone again. Not to be antisocial about it, I simply don't enjoy walking alongside groups of 15-20 people who've loudly brought their daily concerns and mobile phones to the countryside.
As a regular (on-road) cyclist, I'm always slightly surprised how long it actually takes to walk modest distances over rough ground, which means I've wasted previous walks by impatiently striding past the very sights I'd travelled to see. It's not as if I need the exercise, so I consciously stopped myself a few times, taking in the view, investigating the limestone pavement, and thoroughly enjoying myself.
I stopped for lunch in the cliff edge, dangling my legs over the ~20 m drop before casually glancing across at the neighbouring and heavily fractured limestone exposure. Ah well; if it was going to collapse, it would have done when I first sat down.
I descended the cliff, rather more safely, via the footpath at Capple Bank, then followed the valley floor ~4 km directly back to Norber Brow and my bike. Only another ~38 km to ride home....
I reached home at 17:35, having been out for 6 hours 50'. My bike had been moving for 2 hours 10', covering 44.75 km (27.81 miles) at an average speed of 20.6 km/h (12.8 mph), peaking at 44.4 km/h (27.6 mph) at least once.
Nearly forgot to mention: I was carrying a camera....
6 February, 2007
It's not a war out there
As I may have happened to mention ;) I'm not a cycling activist. My view is that cyclists are road users like any other, with the same rights and obligations as the drivers of cars and lorries. As such, I assert my rights, but feel no affinity with self-righteous pseudo-hippies who regard traffic regulations as optional or even oppressive (one idiot I encountered this week likens cyclists to suffragettes).
Personally, I think such people are at least as dangerous as inconsiderate or aggressive drivers, primarily in the sense that they're a physical risk to themselves and others, but also in the sense that their irresponsibility reflects badly on other cyclists, like me. Why should I accept the public hostility generated by their pathetic little 'civil disobedience' campaigns?
If you agree, consider visiting Stopatred.org:
a campaign to improve the status of cycling in the eyes of the public and policy-makers alike, and to tackle the attitudes of those cyclists whose behaviour perpetuates the image of cyclists as a low-status social 'out-group' on wheels.
Stopatred was created by concerned cyclists, alarmed about how the cause of cycling is being undermined by the reckless actions of an unrepresentative minority.
There's an online petition in the form of a pledge to stop at red traffic lights, which you might wish to sign. I haven't, for two reasons: I never participate in petitions
and I consider traffic lights to be compulsory, not a matter of choice – one shouldn't be publicly promising to do something one is obliged to do already.
4 February, 2007
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Great Stone of Fourstones-Cross of Greet-Lancaster
I thought I'd try something simple for my first real ride of 2007. Simple, but not short, as it turned out....
The plan had been to catch the train to High Bentham, cycle the short distance to the Great Stone of Fourstones on Tatham Fell, then return to Wray via Lowgill and the rural lanes east of Roeburndale. After that easy, mainly downhill section, the ride back along the Lune Valley to Lancaster would be flat, discounting minor undulations.
The slight problem was that under the winter timetable the first train of the Sunday service to Bentham was scheduled to depart Lancaster after 16:00, leaving me with mere minutes of daylight. Somewhat impractical, so I decided to complete the whole trip by bike.
Leaving home at 12:30, I took a shortcut along the canal towpath to Caton Road then followed the main roads virtually non-stop to High Bentham, sustaining 20-22 mph for extended periods, though I deliberately avoided tiring too quickly – this was merely the necessary lead-in. I did make one diversion, to Tatham, as I wanted to improve on photos I took of the church a while ago.
The Great Stone was nearer High Bentham than I'd thought; if you're tempted, it'd be an easy walk from the railway station. When I passed this way last September, I went on to Slaidburn without visiting the Stone itself, as I could see from ~100 m away that there were several people already clambering all over it; that's largely why I'd returned, and in February. I noticed two people already on the Stone as I arrived and locked my bike to a fence (front wheel in Lancashire, back wheel in North Yorkshire), but by the time I'd crossed the moor, a young family was approaching too, and I struggled to ignore the squeals of delight of three little Tarquins & Cressidas for quarter of an hour or so as I sat on the Stone admiring the view. Okay; that's overstating my annoyance, and once they'd left, I really appreciated the location on such a crisp, clear day. Highly recommended. See the accompanying photos for annotated views and more about the Great Stone itself.
Having rested for almost an hour, I was tempted by the relatively short distance to the top of the Bentham-Slaidburn pass at Cross of Greet, so I made that diversion rather than head straight back. It wasn't an easy ride, even refreshed, but I did manage the extremely steep final climb to the Cross without pausing; on previous visits I hadn't so much stopped as simply run out of momentum and stalled.
Incidentally, I'm glad no-one was around when I returned to my bike after leaving the Great Stone, as I jumped backwards and forwards across the county boundary at least twenty times, giggling wildly, simply because I could.
The view south-east from the Cross was good too, but as the photos show, I particularly enjoyed looking north across the Yorkshire Dales, Lune Valley and Lake District, as if from the top of the world, an impression increased by low cloud in the distant valleys. Wonderful.
From past experience, I knew this left me almost exactly 31 km (19 miles) from home, though at least my tyres were fully inflated and I was sufficiently clear-headed to avoid returning to Lancaster via Slaidburn and the Trough of Bowland. For once, the ride back from the Cross was as straightforward as I'd planned today to be. Pleasantly tired, though not exhausted, I was home by dusk, at 17:15.
I'd been out for 4¾ hours, of which the bike had been moving for 3 hours 10 mins and had covered 67 km (41.6 miles). So much for a gentle first ride of the year.
My average speed was 21.1 km/h (13.1 mph); rather faster for ~80% of the trip, but diminished by the steep and hence slow ride up to the Cross of Greet. Coming back down, though, I'd reached 48.8 km/h (30.3 mph) on the winding road.
2 February, 2007
Equal, not special
Writing in the Daily Torygraph Telegraph, Andrew Gimson suggests that 'Bicyclists are justified in breaking the law'.
Like Ian at Spinneyhead, I'd argue that we're not, but unlike Ian I wouldn't go on to say that car drivers are more dangerous, justifying greater attention from the police. That relativism isn't relevant, and I take the view that the police should be actively targeting bad cyclists, not as an afterthought when they get a little spare time. A large part ¹ of the bad image imposed on cyclists is that they're perceived to get away with ignoring laws, so it'd be in the interests of cyclists if the police were to take action against all road users – drivers and cyclists identically, not one or the other.
To return to Gimson's argument: his sensationalist introduction eventually gives way to an entirely conventional, reasonable view: that there are certain circumstances when cyclists might be justified in breaking the letter of the law, taking due care.
When I started bicycling, I was appalled by the behaviour of many other bicyclists. They were dangerous, reckless and rude. The way in which they wove in and out of the traffic, acting like the kings of the road and forcing busses and cars to give way, struck me as quite unacceptable.
True, though if the cyclists did have the right of way in those instances, as road users of equal status with buses and cars, they were absolutely correct to assert it. Bikes shouldn't automatically defer to cars.
But what is the most unacceptable aspect of this hooliganism? It is not the law-breaking but the sheer rudeness.
To force other drivers, and pedestrians, who are proceeding in an orderly fashion, to give way as one races past at breakneck speed on one's bike, is very bad manners.
I couldn't agree more (so long as those other drivers and pedestrians really are acting legitimately, rather than parking or walking in a cycle lane). There's no need for rudeness, and cyclists have no special status justifying self-righteousness.
There is, I realise, another point of view. The main demand of many other road users is that bicyclists should invariably obey the law, so should never go through a red light or trespass on a pavement.
Yes, I'm a cyclist ², and that is my view. Cyclists are road users, with the same rights and obligations
as any other. They have no special dispensations to act above or outside the law. Cyclists should never, ever, ride on a pavement (walking with a bike is fine).
It seems to me that the only people who can with honour maintain this purist line are those who, while walking through a town at night, have never crossed an empty street against a red light. There are circumstances in which it is perfectly reasonable to do that, because not a single other vehicle is in sight.
That's entirely different, and makes the earlier statements somewhat disingenuous. True, in a tiny number of very specific circumstances, such actions might be reasonable, but that's a long way from the blanket statement in the opening line, that "bicyclists are justified in breaking the law"
I would cycle past a red traffic light on an entirely empty road at 2am (after stopping to check that it really was safe to proceed), not least because traffic lights controlled by pressure sensors ignore bikes and would stay red all night! However, it doesn't remotely follow that I'd do so under any other circumstances, and if another cyclist did, I'd cheerfully act as a witness in a full prosecution.
A second problem with this whole issue is the idea that 'cyclists' do anything. Cyclists are not one coherent mob of people all acting identically, any more than 'drivers' are. Cyclists are individuals, acting individually, who happen to be acting individually on bicycles. The actions of one are not the responsibility of any other, and it's unfair to blame all for the illegitimate actions of some. 'Cyclists' don't ride through red lights, certain irresponsible individuals do.
¹ Another part of the bad image imposed on cyclists is media-driven hype, so it's mildly encouraging to see a right-wing newspaper giving screen space to a reasonable, if sensationalised, point of view.
²: I said 'I'm a cyclist' there merely for clarity (I hope) in that sentence, but as I said subsequently, I don't regard myself as 'a cyclist', as I think classification into homogeneous groups is flawed and divisive.
I'm emphatically not a cycle-activist, either – smug Greens simply make me see red.
I'm a road-user who happens to ride a bike. I claim equal status with car, bus and lorry drivers, but no rights or especial consideration above and beyond them.
27 January, 2007
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Crook o'Lune-Halton-Lancaster
I didn't have a particular destination in mind for today's bike ride, my first of the year. I knew I wanted something relatively short, as the weather wasn't great and, overstating slightly, I'm still recuperating from my mystery weight loss in Nov-December.
I decided to head out to the Crook o'Lune, to investigate the path up to the viewpoint at Gray's Seat. That'd provide a gentle 16 km (10 miles) round trip, and I could easily go on if I felt like it.
When starting longer rides up the Lune Valley, I tend to leave Lancaster via Caton Road and straight onto the A683, passing the familar local sections as quickly as possible to maximise time in new locations. However, as I wasn't planning to go far, I followed the canal towpath as far as the Lune Aqueduct then dropped down to the Lune Cycleway (aka Millennium Park) and on to the Crook.
Locking my bike to a fence by the viaduct – not the most secure place to leave it – I followed the riverbank footpath up to the main road, then had second thoughts. If the path to the viewpoint was accessible from the road, I could retrieve my bike from the viaduct, lock it somewhere safer, visit Gray's Seat then return to Lancaster without having to go back to the Crook.
Yet Plan 'B' immediately gave way to 'C': long-distance visibility didn't really justify a trip to a viewpoint anyway, so I might as well go somewhere else today and, having established its approximate location, return to Gray's Seat some other time.
The five-mile ride to Caton had been a surprising effort (I really do need to build up my strength again!), so I didn't go further up the valley, with further to return, instead crossing to Halton Green then back to Halton-on-Lune.
The residents of the village recently protested against a new residential development, resulting in planning permission being frozen pending further investigation. The accusation was that a 'Benidorm-style' apartment complex isn't in keeping with the rest of Halton. Approaching the village from the east, and passing estates of ugly 1960s/70s dormer bungalows, I thought it a bit cheeky of the inhabitants to complain.
However, I stopped at St. Wilfred's churchyard and briefly wandered around the more historical core of Halton; maybe the locals did have a point.
Needless to say, I was carrying my camera, primarily to update or replace photos of places I'd been before. Some are okay, but I'll have to go back to Halton later in the year; it's worth closer examination, though not late on on a damp January evening.
12 November, 2006
Random queries no. 85
One of a series of genuine search engine enquiries which successfully brought visitors to the Ministry. Can I help?
information on how to repair a puncture on a bycycle
'Bicycle', not 'bycycle'....
I suspect almost any puncture repair kit will include instructions, but here's my (utterly normal) technique:
You will need:
- Two plastic tyre levers. Do not use screwdrivers, metal spoons or anything else likely to damage the wheel rim.
- Latex cement.
- Tyre patches. Just squares, circles or ovals of rubber, with plastic/paper/metal film keeping at least one side clean.
Self-adhesive patches exist, and eliminate the need for separate latex cement. Follow the instructions on the packet. In my experience, these are for temporary repairs, and degrade, so one needs to replace the inner tube fairly soon. The technique I'm describing, with separate cement, effects permanent repairs.
- A small block of chalk.
- A small strip of medium-coarseness glasspaper.
These are the contents of a standard puncture repair kit. You'll also need a spanner of the appropriate size to loosen the nuts holding the wheel to the frame, unless the wheel has a quick-release hub.
- Invert the bike.
- Deflate the tyre (if it's punctured, it's probably already flat). Disconnect the cable from the brake (so the brake opens far enough to remove the wheel). Undo the wheel nuts (or the quick-release lever). Remove the wheel from the bike.
- Remove the dust cap from the air valve.
- Insert the tip of a tyre lever between the tyre and wheel rim. Hook the other end around a spoke. Insert the other tyre lever into the gap you've created, then slide it around the rim, widening the gap until the tyre is no longer attached to the wheel. Remove the tyre and inner tube from the wheel, and remove the inner tube from the tyre. Remember the relative orientation for a moment.
- Carefully examine the tyre for the cause of the puncture. Remove any glass, metal, thorn, etc., ensuring that the object is completely out - thorns in particular can break-off leaving the sharp tip ready to cause another puncture.
Examine the corresponding part of the inner tube to find the puncture.
Alternatively, partially inflate the inner tube outside the tyre. Find the point where air is escaping. I do this by holding the tube to my face, so I can feel the air on my lips. I don't immerse the tube in water to observe bubbles from the puncture; I consider it better to keep the tube dry for subsequent stages.
Check the corresponding part of the tyre for the cause of the puncture, and remove it. The offending object, that is, not the punctured section of inner tube.
- Mark near, but not over, the puncture with chalk. Fully deflate the inner tube. The hole might no longer be visible.
- Roughen the surface of the inner tube over and around the puncture, using the glasspaper. The roughened area needs to be about the same size as the intended patch.
- Discover your latex cement is in Manchester, having been borrowed to repair something entirely different. No? Just me, then....
- Apply a thin film of latex cement to the roughened area. Only a thin film! Do not apply the patch yet. Let the cement dry.
- Remove the plastic/paper/metal film from the inner-facing side of the patch (it's usually obvious which side is which). If it's present, leave the film on the other side of the patch. Apply the patch to the inner tube. Press down on the centre first (directly over the puncture itself), then press outwards to the edge of the patch, thereby preventing air bubbles being trapped.
- Non-standard stage: I tend to add a little latex cement to the border of the patch, to help the edge melt to the inner tube.
- Press down firmly on the patch, ensuring a uniform, tight seal. If you did the non-standard previous step, you might like to place the removed plastic/paper/metal film back over the patch and press on that, to prevent the excess latex cement sticking to your fingers. If so, remove the film afterwards!
- If there is one, carefully remove the plastic/paper/metal film from the outer side of the patch, ensuring you don't damage the seal to the inner tube.
- Grate the chalk against the glasspaper. Allow the resulting chalk dust to cover the patch and any exposed latex cement. Smooth it into the surface. This prevents the repaired tube sticking to the tyre.
- Insert the inner tube back into the tyre. Check whether the tyre has a preferred direction of travel (there'll be an arrow marked on the sidewall) then put the tyre back onto the wheel, starting at the air valve. This can be done by hand; tyre levers are only used to remove a tyre, not reattach it.
Partially inflate the inner tube, then ensure it and the tyre are properly seated on the wheel rim, with no pinching of the tube.
- Put the wheel back on the bike. If it's the back wheel, ensure the chain is on the right gear ring. Spin the wheel to double check the tyre is straight and even on the rim. Tighten the wheel nuts or quick-release lever.
- Reconnect the brake.
- Turn the bike back over, onto its wheels.
- Fully inflate the tyre. It should remain inflated.
- Now wash your hands.
11 November, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Leighton Moss-Lancaster
As A. has a (very) shiny new bike, we went for a ride today. For some reason, the tenuous excuse of my birthday was used to justify inviting several other people (not that justification is required), though it's nearer to next weekend than this one, really, and I still plan to do something then.
The weather wasn't great: dry but dull and very windy, with showers forecast, so I wasn't exactly surprised that only A. & I went ahead with the ride – if it hadn't been arranged beforehand, I'm not sure I'd have chosen to go outdoors either; if we'd planned a longer or different route, I'd have been tempted to cancel.
Ordinarily, a quick blast up the A6 to Carnforth and Warton would merely be the necessary preamble to a longer ride. Today that was virtually our destination: we only went on a further ~2 miles to Leighton Moss near Silverdale, visited the RSPB reserve then returned to Lancaster, following the canal from Carnforth to Skerton.
However, that's ignoring the effect of the wind, which made the whole trip rather more challenging than normal. By definition, the canal towpath must be level, but into a headwind it certainly felt like a constant climb, and tensed against gusts of cross wind, my lower back and shoulder began to hurt as badly as after a 40-mile ride.
My camera is unsuited to wildlife photography and the light was poor, but I took a few photos in the bird reserve. Now I've confirmed that admission is free to those arriving by bike or public transport, I'll have to visit again. It seems strange that though Leighton Moss is ~40 minutes from my current home and I've frequently cycled past the reserve, both my previous visits were at least twenty years ago, when I lived over a hundred miles away.
Today's ride covered 35.85 km (22.28 miles) in 1.41 hours, at an average of only 21 km/h (13.2 mph), but that included diversions to the hospice and Halfords; the trip itself was a little quicker.
9 November, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Kirkby Lonsdale-Dent-Kingsdale-Lancaster
In hindsight, I'm a little surprised I planned today's ride. I suppose I must have considered it the natural evolution of earlier trips, linking two routes I know I can manage without especial effort. It turned out to be the longest ride I've done yet.
Over the past couple of years, I've visited all six of the significant valleys in the south-western 'corner' of the Yorkshire Dales between Ribblesdale and Barbondale, apart from one: Kingsdale, above Ingleton, on the opposite side of the Whernside ridge from Chapel-le-Dale. The road up the valley is a through-route, linking Ingleton and Dentdale over a pass between Whernside and Crag Hill/Great Coum. I've cycled to Dent before, and have frequently cycled to/from Ingleton as parts of longer rides or in combination with walks up the Three Peaks (individually!), so cycling out over Barbondale and back over Kingsdale, finishing with the familiar ride home from Ingleton, shouldn't have been a problem. Right?
Completing the route clockwise may explain why I chose to ride the full distance. I could have saved ~19 km (~12 miles) by catching a train to Wennington, but I'd have been avoiding only the easiest part of the lead-in, plus waiting for the train and traveling via Carnforth would have taken about as long. It would have been worthwhile to stay on the train to Higher Bentham and follow Kingsdale first (i.e. reverse the route), but I particularly wanted to avoid the extremely steep climb (~145 m of ascent within 1 km) from Dent to Barbondale and wanted to get the tough part (Barbondale) out of the way first. Anyone who knows the area will spot the huge flaw, but I didn't until later.
I didn't exactly rush. Nowadays I tend to complete the lead-in sections of longer rides as quickly as possible by following the most direct routes out of Lancaster, typically 'A' roads. Today I followed the canal to the Aqueduct, then the cycle track to the Crook O'Lune, making several photo stops. Similarly, once on the Lune Valley floodplain, I didn't blast along to Kirkby Lonsdale at ~30 km/h as usual, instead stopping to explore Melling churchyard. I'd normally bypass Kirkby Lonsdale on the way to Barbondale, but I made a diversion across Devil's Bridge and into the village, mainly to take photos, but I also took the opportunity to buy a little more food & drink.
I did optimise the route in one way. Rather than following the main road to Barbon and very steep lane to Barbondale, I turned off the A683 immediately after Casterton, following tiny lanes and an easy climb past Whelprigg. Must remember that one.
As the accompanying photos show, the weather had been fine to this point, but as I turned north-east into the main section of Barbondale, the sky darkened abruptly and I was concerned about rain. Yet as I reached the head of the pass, it brightened again, clearer than ever. Why does that always happen?
I paused there, looking down into Dentdale. This was the 'point of no return' (in senses other than the literal). I could turn back now, with an easy downhill ride almost all the way back to Lancaster, but I'd have failed to reach my destination, and would have to cycle all this way again to make a later attempt. I could go on to Dent and turn back from there, but I'd have to face the nasty ascent back to this point and still wouldn't have seen Kingsdale. Or I could go on.
I had a quick look at Dent Church and the village's cobbled main street, but even at 14:20 the shadows were lengthening, so I soon checked the map for the next stage. I'll need to explore the rest of Dentdale at a later date – November days are too short.
Remember I mentioned a flaw in the plan? Somehow, I'd misread the map or merely presumed that the road from Dent to Ingleton was an easy, low-level pass. Only now did I look closer, and realise what I'd taken on. The top of the pass was high – much higher than Barbondale; over half as high again, in fact (468 m asl vs 300 m) and almost as steep in places. Okay, ~320 m of ascent in ~4 km isn't extreme (which is why I wasn't dissuaded), but remember that this was ~45 km into the ride, and I knew I'd have at least a further ~35 km to go after the head of the pass. Slightly daunting.
It was as tough as I'd expected, especially where the road builders had given up on hairpin bends and had just cut straight up the 1-in-less-than-5 gradient. I managed that, but it nearly finished me; twice within the next kilometre I found myself unable to turn the pedals, lost forward momentum and simply stalled. I was almost too tired to appreciate the achievement of reaching the top and seeing Kingsdale, and had already freewheeled for a kilometre before realising a photo stop might be appropriate.
Again, I'll have to return to Kingsdale another time, as I'd reached it too late in the day to explore and too tired to be bothered. The only part that really interested me was the ~40 m ascent to get out of the valley – grr! In fact, my immediate memory of Kingsdale wasn't especially favourable, so the accompanying photos were a pleasant surprise.
So that was it: I was back in a familiar area, just above Thornton-in-Lonsdale and Ingleton, and the remaining distance was just a formality. I stopped for a rest and to drink the last of my water (actually, Coke; I'd finished the water quite a while ago), then headed home non-stop. I don't remember the final ~28 km being a struggle, but then again, I don't remember it at all.
Overall I'd covered 93.21 km (57.92 miles) at an average speed of 20.27km/h (12.6 mph) and reaching 49.08 km/h (30.5 mph) at least once. As that low average and the foregoing description illustrates, I didn't exactly push myself, and the trip took seven hours (10:45-17:45), but no-one said it was a race. I ride for the views, not the exercise.
1 November, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Sunderland-Overton-Lancaster
The sky was absolutely clear this morning, so I took a little unscheduled leave (time I can easily make up by staying late for a few evenings) to visit Sunderland (Point) again. Last Saturday, I'd been slightly disappointed that I reached the saltmarsh road from Sunderland too late in the day, and the best, south-facing, views were directly into the sun. In theory, I could avoid that by going earlier.
Not early enough, I'm afraid; the sun's angle was better at ~09:20, but I'd have needed to be there by ~07:45 at this time of year, really. I went on anyway, and took a few decent photos.
Returning to Lancaster, I made one diversion to somewhere I hadn't visited before: the southern half of Overton village, including the 11th Century church of St. Helen.
Then to work....
29 October, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Sunderland-Heysham-Bolton le Sands-Lancaster
Despite the fine weather, I didn't manage to leave for a bike ride until after 13:30 today, so didn't plan to go far: just to Sunderland (the tiny village near Sunderland Point, at the mouth of the River Lune) to take a few photos supplementing/replacing those from earlier trips.
I needn't itemise the entire route, as it's obvious from a map and I've described it before, but in short I crossed the Lune at Millennium Bridge and followed the north bank of the river to Overton via Snatchem's, then across the saltmarsh to Sunderland.
That didn't take as long as I'd expected, so after returning to Overton I crossed the peninsula to the Morecambe Bay coast at Heysham then followed that north through Morecambe to Bolton le Sands. From there, I crossed back to the Lune at Halton and returned to Lancaster along the cycle route. That's more-or-less the reverse of a ride I completed in February 2005, so I presume the distance was comparable at about 45 km (28 miles).
14 October, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Scorton-Garstang-Calder Vale-Lancaster
Not a bad ride today, combining a few previous trips to supplement (and replace) earlier sets of photos. However, it became... complicated.
My route seemed straightforward and not especially long, but I made numerous diversions, probably adding at least fifteen miles to a direct, join-the-dots route; 25 miles on paper became about forty on the road.
For example, it's ten miles from Lancaster to Garstang along the A6 main road, which I can cover in less than half an hour. Today, I rode to Galgate, on to Bay Horse, then Forton motorway services, inland to Street Bridge near Dolphinholme, then back down to Garstang via Scorton, taking a couple of hours in all. Even at that first stage, I wandered around Galgate for five minutes refreshing my knowledge of what was my home village in the mid-1990s, and at Street I left the bike for a brief walk up- and downstream of the bridge along the riverbank. Scorton was another extended stop as I thoroughly explored side streets looking for photogenic historical buildings, particularly the three churches.
Entering Garstang, I paused at the information board outside the 'Discovery Centre'. This identified places of especial interest in the town, so I took time to explore the mediaeval high street, the canal basin & aqueduct, and Greenhalgh Castle.
I had half-considered going on much further from Garstang, perhaps even around the southern edge of the Bowland Fells again, through Chipping to Dunsop Bridge and home via the Trough of Bowland. However, it had taken much longer than expected to get even this far, so I decided to revisit Calder Vale instead, and take the shorter direct (yes, really) road back to Galgate and Lancaster.
The first stage almost went to plan, though I took a wrong turning. For future reference: turn left at Ringing Hill – it's very slightly shorter, but more importantly involves a shorter, steeper ascent rather than a shallower one which drags on without respite.
The first minor disaster occurred as I crossed Calder Vale churchyard. Opening a gate, I thoughtlessly gripped my handlebars in such a way that I held down the bike computer's 'reset' button, discarding today's distance, speed and time data. I suppose I could trace my extremely circuitous route on a map and calculate the total distance, but I think I'll just call it 'about forty miles' overall.
Just one more diversion: passing Grizedale Lea Reservoir, I turned into the gateway, spending a further unplanned half hour exploring that and the adjacent Barnacre Reservoir. Hence, it was sunset before I reached Galgate and fully dark by the time I got home.
I hinted above that there was another disaster. It actually occurred the following morning (yes, I'm writing this several days later). Downloading the photos to my PC, the camera batteries failed part way through the process, and I didn't notice. Thinking everything had been successfully saved to my hard drive, I cleared the camera's memory card , discarding at least a hundred images – everything taken after arriving in Scorton. Sickening.
There was only one thing to do: while the locations of all the photos were still fresh in my mind, I repeated the entire bike ride.
Well, nearly; I was able to take the fastest route straight to Scorton and familiarity enabled me to eliminate the unproductive digressions, saving about ten miles. Today's ride covered 52.4 km (32.5 miles) in 2:42 hours (19 km/h average, 52 km/h peak) between 14:20 and 18:00. I think I reproduced most of the earlier photos and improved on a couple. I hope you like the results – they were harder work than normal!
About fifty were worth publishing. That's too many for one index of thumbnails, so they're divided into three sections: Galgate to Scorton, Garstang, and the remaining route to Calder Vale and back to Lancaster.
23 September, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Wray-Slaidburn-Lancaster
There's a right way to cycle the route described in the title, and a wrong way.
One attacks the steepest hills in the first few miles, has all other ascents in the first half, and ends with a long downhill then level ride along the Lune Valley.
The other tires one with a fast valley ride and gradual climb to 427 m asl then features three other significant ascents in the latter half, two at the very end.
Guess which I did this time.
The first twelve miles to Wray were fine; that's a routine part of most rides up the Lune Valley. The next section, to Cross of Greet at the top of the Bentham-Slaidburn pass, was tougher, not because of steep hills but because it seemed endless. My mental map of the area is a bit faulty, locating Wray within about five miles of the top. However, Lowgill is about five miles from Wray along undulating but generally uphill lanes – there's a further 2-3 miles over featureless moorland to the top. Oh, and the final few hundred metres are very steep.
I bypassed Lowgill today, instead heading further east to investigate the ancient Great Stone of Fourstones, on the county boundary. However, there were several other visitors to the viewpoint (especially surprising considering the humidity and consequent dense haze), so I didn't park and approach it myself. Maybe next time.
Something else I might do next time is catch the train as far as Bentham, omitting the 15-mile lead-in to the 'real' ride. Some cycle for the enjoyment of cycling or for exercise, but my objective is sightseeing: taking the camera to interesting places. The number of miles I cover is relatively incidental, and if I can save some energy, I will. Or rather, I'd prefer to omit fifteen miles on familiar roads and expend the same energy going fifteen miles somewhere new.
I was unusually tired when I stopped at the Cross of Greet and, knowing the hills ahead, seriously considered returning the way I'd come. However, I'd convinced myself this was a 40-mile round trip and the Cross, 19 miles into the ride, was therefore virtually the halfway point; returning the way I'd come would be no shorter than going on. That still ignored the fact that retracing the route would have involved no significant ascents whilst the onward route featured three more. Odd as it seems now, I went on.
Apart from one climb out of a stream's valley, I freewheeled almost all the way down to Slaidburn, which was a very pleasant change on a road I've previously struggled up! I paused briefly in the village for a couple of photographs, then went on to Dunsop Bridge via Newton.
At this point I realised two obvious things:
- As I'd already written last November, and plainly forgotten today, this isn't a 40-mile ride, and Cross of Greet isn't halfway. It's a 46-mile ride and I was startled to leave Dunsop Bridge at sunset with fifteen miles still to go.
- Yes, at sunset, and I hadn't brought any lights. Foolishly, I'd totally misjudged the timing of the ride.
Though something of a slog, especially the horrible gradual climb from Lower Lee to Jubilee Tower*, the rest of the ride was strangely easy. I've always had an ability to acknowledge a task is necessary then switch-off and just complete it, but I really zoned-out this time. I was still aware of my surroundings & traffic and was more-or-less safe, but I wasn't really there
. I have full recollection of the ride, just not of any physical sensation; I must have struggled in places but I don't remember doing so. The descent from Jubilee Tower to Quernmore peaked at 37.3 mph (60 km/h) – a personal record – but I don't recall it as especially fast. If I'd been fully aware, I'd have been terrified approaching a 45° turn at that speed, after dusk, without lights.
One thing I haven't mentioned is that I wasn't entirely well today. I developed a sore throat a couple of days ago, which was extremely uncomfortable for the first 10-15 miles of the ride. I thought it was no more than that, but as is obvious from this account, some of the decisions I made today suggest my judgement was impaired, and the aftermath was unequivocal. In short, I gradually collapsed.
Reaching Lancaster, I knew I wouldn't have the energy to cook a meal, so bought fish & chips before going home. I managed to eat them, but that was the end of Saturday. Shivering and exhausted, I managed to have a shower then went straight to bed by ~20:30.
[Ruining the illusion that I wrote this within a couple of hours of getting home, rather than a month afterwards, I can report that I was feverish and lethargic on the Sunday too. I took sick leave on Monday and Tuesday, sleeping through virtually all of the former. I briefly thought I'd exhausted myself with the 46-mile ride and contracted an opportunistic infection, but in hindsight I was ill from the start.]
In case anyone's keeping count, I covered the 46.26 miles (74.4 km) in about five hours (4:03 moving), at an average speed of 11.1 mph.
*: I took the wrong road again. For future reference: when descending from the Trough of Bowland, turn left at the chapel before crossing the Tarnbrook Wyre, and go through Abbeystead itself then along Abbeystead Lane to rejoin the more direct route about a kilometre from the Tower.
Don't go straight on at the chapel; that route, Rakehouse Brow, is indeed more direct but is also 3-4 km of continuous gradual ascent, not steep except at the start but relentless. In a low or middle gear, it's easy enough, but stop pedalling and the bike will stop – there's absolutely no opportunity to freewheel and rest which, towards the end of a long ride, one tends to want.
27 August, 2006
Cycle ride: Oxenholme-Sedbergh-Kirkby Lonsdale-Lancaster
Somewhere new today: Sedbergh, at the edge of the Howgill Fells.
It may seem odd that I haven't taken my bike and camera to the town before, as it's not a great distance from Lancaster; too far for a round trip by bike, but well within reach of a combined 'train out, bike back' ride. The problem is that whilst I can travel with my bike on any local/regional train heading north then north-west or east from Carnforth, the route north-east from Carnforth is the West Coast main line, primarily served by Intercity trains, for which I need to pre-book space (in a goods compartment) for the bike. I've used that service precisely once, and seen how easily one might miss the correct station (one needs to be specifically let out of the compartment by train or station staff, and if they forget...). The alternative is an infrequent local train which tends to travel at inconvenient times. Even then, the train is to Windermere, so I've always been tempted to visit the Lake District rather than leave the train at Oxenholme and head inland towards Sedbergh.
The first ~10km, to Junction 37 of the M6, were dispiritingly boring, to be honest, but once past Lambrigg Fell and the wind farm, the view east towards the Howgill Fells justified the effort. The local geology and glacial history differ from the Lake District (volcanic) and western Yorkshire Dales (limestone), so the tall yet rounded hills were both picturesque and novel.
Inspired, I decided to make a diversion along a ridge parallel to the motorway for more views of the Howgills across the Lune Valley, rather than head straight to Sedbergh. I'm fairly pleased with the resulting photos, but the memories are better.
If anyone wants to reproduce the route, leave the A684 main road to Sedbergh at the first left turn after the motorway junction, then follow the lane north as far as the right turn towards Firbank Fellside and Fox's Pulpit (not signposted; check a map). Don't mistake it for merely the access road to a farm and overshoot the junction by over a kilometre, having to backtrack up a very steep hill. Ahem. Follow that single-track road round to the south, rejoining the A684 10 km after you left it – or 2½ km if you'd stayed on the main road. It's not a shortcut!
I made one more digression before reaching Sedbergh, parking near Lincoln's Inn Bridge and walking along the riverbank for a couple of photos. I'd recommend that too, though not the slipping and accidentally paddling bit.
This wasn't the very first time I'd visited Sedbergh (the third, I think), but I was still surprised to see how small and undeveloped it actually is. It's called a town because of its historical prominence as a livestock/wool market and because of the famous public school (US: private school), but I've seen larger villages. Unfortunately, the sun was in precisely the wrong place for decent photos of key landmarks, but I took a few anyway before moving on.
Note for non-locals: Sedbergh is pronounced 'Sedbuh', not 'Sedburg'.
The plan was now to follow the River Lune south to Kirkby Lonsdale then on along my familiar route (still following the Lune) back to Lancaster via Hornby. That's quite a long way, but fairly easy on the valley floor.
Each time I passed Kirkby Lonsdale over the past couple of years i've revisited the same spots to try to improve on photos taken previously in awkward light. This was no different: the light was awkward. I tried. I'll try again.
Having left Oxenholme at 10:54, I reached home over 6½hours later at 17:33, though I made far more stops than I've itemised above, and my bike computer reports it was in motion for only 4¼ hours. It travelled 77.9 km (48.4 miles), which doesn't count my digressions on foot, at an average speed of 18.3 km/h (11.4 mph) peaking at 45.9 km/h (28.5 mph) at least once.
16 August, 2006
Vale of Glamorgan Council provides even temporary road signs in both Welsh and English – as they should, of course. However, a slight clue that they're merely meeting a statutory obligation, and that their recruitment policy might be a little lacking, is that they translated 'Cyclists Dismount' as 'Llid y Bledren Dymchwelyd'.
That's (approximately and ungrammatically) 'Bladder Disease Upset'. Either a bilingual staff member drafted it as a joke, and it somehow received approval unchallenged, or the Council's Highways Department doesn't employ a Welsh speaker and this is the typical result of online translation software.
14 August, 2006
The way forward?
A new Google Maps app offered by byCycle assists cyclists with route planning. When one specifies a start and end point, the Trip Planner doesn't merely calculate the quickest or shortest path, but considers hills, traffic density and other factors that the basic Google algorithm, optimised for car drivers, ignores.
It's limited to a couple of US cities at present, but even if it was available in non-metropolitan areas of the UK, I'm not sure whether I'd use it myself.
I'm no cycling activist, and feel no urge to fight for special rights (quite the contrary), but my view is that cyclists are road users like any other. I'm not a second-class citizen to be tidied out of car drivers' way by being directed down cycle-friendly side-streets and dedicated cycle tracks. I want the main roads to be safer, and to take the direct routes (as I already do, generally).
My current daily commute follows part of the Council-defined cycle route simply because it is the most direct route. When I lived on the other side of town, I wouldn't have dreamt of using the much longer inconvenient route along back streets and off-street tracks, and I followed the main A6 road each day, amongst the cars and trucks, as is my right.
Whatever; I suppose byCycle's utility is a good idea for the more timid or less energetic cyclists.
Actually, backpedalling* slightly: perhaps this'd be a really good idea for all cyclists. ;)
My problem is with officially-designated cycle routes, which are plainly devised to keep cyclists off main roads even if that means sending them over unnecessary hills or by much longer circuitous routes, and I don't believe that's done primarily for the cyclists. If this utility could use unbiased raw topographic and traffic data to determine genuinely optimised routes, ignoring official designations, great.
[Via the CCA blog.]
*: Ahem. That pun was accidental, honest.
12 August, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Claughton-Lancaster
Claughton, in the Lune Valley 6-7 miles inland from Lancaster, is one of those places everyone passes through without stopping, or even especially noticing. I've done it myself dozens of times; it's a little further than I'd reach on short bike rides and merely somewhere en route on longer rides, but not itself a destination.
Yet the hamlet contains an ancient church, a barely younger manor house and an interesting old brickworks (if bricks are your thing), all in an attractive rural setting. It's worth pausing for a closer look.
That's what I did today, as the primary objective of a medium-length ride to eliminate gaps in my local knowledge and to replace substandard photos of places I had already visited. The latter didn't really work, as the weather was awkward: dry and bright but overcast, which seemed to confuse my camera's metering.
First, I blasted out to Claughton along the main A683; no messing about with cycle tracks and I was able to maintain 18-22 mph all the way. After a quick look at the brickworks (virtually hidden by trees – disappointing) and Claughton Hall Farm, which I'd seen before, I left the bike, to wander around St. Chad's churchyard. Even from the point-of-view of an atheist it felt a little regretable that the church closed in 2002 after over 900 years, and parts are already degrading.
I explored a tiny side road onto the floodplain before turning back to climb the steep lane onto the edge of Claughton Moor, specifically to see the 13th Century Claughton Hall, a manor house moved ~1km uphill, stone-by-stone, in the early 20th Century. I took a couple of discreet photos.
Back to Caton from there, following part of the Lune Cycleway to the Crook O'Lune then the road to another even smaller and lesser-known hamlet, Halton Green. This is composed of well-preserved yet clearly old farm buildings; I wish I knew more about the place, and that my photos had been better... maybe next time.
I'd done everything I'd intended, so returned to the cyclepath at the Crook O'Lune and followed that to Lancaster, pausing briefly at Halton Weir.
Including a round-trip to Sainsbury's this morning (I forgot to zero the bike computer before heading back out to the Lune Valley), today's ride covered 21.26 miles (34.2 km) in 1:52 hours (not counting time spent stationary); an average of 11.3 mph and a maximum of 25.5 mph.
16 July, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Yealand Conyers-Arnside Tower-Silverdale-Lancaster
Another day, another bike ride. Yesterday's mustn't have been sufficiently tiring.
I suppose I could have started today's with a train trip to Carnforth, but saving ~12 km is barely worthwhile and besides, it was a sunny day.
Before crossing the River Lune at the Millennium Bridge, I stopped to examine the new (last October) memorial commemorating Lancaster's role in the slave trade. Despite it's slightly out-of-the-way location, it's worth a look; I hadn't understood the symbolism initially.
From Carnforth, I headed over the eastern side of Warton Crag, hoping for a decent view of Leighton Hall (not bad) and to take a few photos I'd missed on previous visits to Yealand Conyers; specifically the 1692 Friends' Meeting House.
Next, I popped into Arnside, again hoping to take photos of details I'd missed before, but the sun was in the wrong place and I barely stopped. Next time.
Today's main objective was Arnside Tower, a 14th/15th Century pele tower (aka peel tower) I've been passing for at least a decade (I remember surveying subsurface groundwater levels in the very next field in the mid-Nineties, but didn't have time to wander across). This time, I locked my bike to a fence on Arnside Knott and followed the farm track/footpath to the Tower itself. It's ruined, having lost key features (roof, floors, doors, windows...) at the end of the 17th Century and partially collapsing at the end of the 19th, but it's still very impressive.
That was as far as I'd planned to ride today, so I headed back along the coast, stopping again near Silverdale for a quick look at the Jack Scout Crag SSSI, the location of Lancashire's only coastal cliffs.
From there, back to Carnforth, and on to Lancaster to download the photos.
15 July, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Cockersand Abbey-Lancaster
A consequence of publishing photos of local landmarks is that they might subsequently appear in web searches, and some might be ranked quite highly. That's fine in itself, but one has no way of knowing in advance which will achieve prominence, and it can be a little embarrassing to receive numerous visitors for a mediocre photo one only took as an afterthought.
Hence, I occasionally revisit certain locations for a second try, supplementing or even replacing the original photos. When I passed Cockersand Abbey last year, I only captured a silhouette of the ruins from 400m away, so today I went back, and right to the site itself.
The route was straightforward. I left Lancaster by Ashton Road to Conder Green and on to Thurnham, then crossed the coastal plain to the coast at Cockersand. Familiarity and the fact I'd photographed the main features before meant I made few stops, but one pause was to take a few extra photos of the disused Royal Albert Hospital on the outskirts of the city.
It isn't possible to cycle to the ruins, so I locked the bike to a fence near Lighthouse Cottage (Cockersand Lighthouse itself was demolished in 1954) and followed the sea wall on foot, a round trip of ~2 km. I won't bother to describe the remnants of the Abbey here; see the text accompanying the photos. It was certainly a little difficult to extrapolate the few half-buried walls and intact chapter house to a full mediaeval abbey which had dominated the district for centuries until the Dissolution in 1539. It looks more like a tiny, remote hermitage, which, ironically, was how the institution was founded in 1184.
I had been tempted to continue to Knott End-on-Sea, as the last time I was there, my camera batteries failed and I missed a few opportunities. However, by the time I'd returned to the main road, I simply didn't feel like at least doubling the length of the ride, so went on only as far as Cockerham before heading inland to the Bay Horse, stopping for a brief drink (not at the pub itself!), then returning to Lancaster along the A6.
Having had a specific objective and making fewer stops than normal, the 33 km (20.4 miles) took 1½ hours at an average of 12.8 mph (with a maximum of 27.3 mph, if anyone's counting). Those stops I did make, plus the walk to the Abbey, added an hour to the overall trip.
3 June, 2006
Walk/Cycle ride: Clapham-Pen-Y-Ghent-Ribblehead-Ingleborough-Lancaster
When people attempt the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk (three adjacent hills on a circular route to be completed within twelve hours), they usually begin with Pen-Y-Ghent (694 m asl), but in my case it's the last I've climbed, having visited Ingleborough (723 m) numerous times over the past decade (most recently in April) and Whernside (736 m) in November 2005. Time to complete the circuit.
I did try to climb Pen-Y-Ghent several years ago, on the occasion of A or K's birthday, but in hindsight it was unsurprising that late January brought driving rain and zero visibility, so we gave up halfway and retreated to the café.
Today's weather was much better, and a cloudless morning in June was likely to remain that way (hopefully), so I caught an early train to Clapham. Giggleswick might have been closer; maybe next time. On a trip last year, I explored the lanes from Clapham to Austwick then on to Horton in Ribblesdale, so knew which rough tracks to avoid and was at the start of the walk by about 09:40.
I planned to follow the fairly direct route across Brackenbottom Scar around and up the southern end of the hill, rather than the better-known path along Horton Scar Lane and across the moor to climb the middle of the western side of the ridge. I remembered the latter as somewhat boring (though the conditions hadn't been exactly ideal) and I always prefer to climb steep paths rather than descend them (a choice reinforced on Coniston in April). That worked very well; the Brackenbottom route was attractive, not especially busy, and dealt with the steep sections pleasantly quickly. Even stopping to take several photos, I was at the summit shelter by 10:45.
I did follow the Horton Scar Lane path back down to the village, largely because I wanted to make the diversion to Hull Pot, a huge chasm I'd seen on that aborted trip. In fact, I hadn't – that had been Hunt Pot, a narrow (though at ~60 m, three times deeper) slit nearer the main path. It's strange that my memory had been distorted, presumably by seeing other people's photos.
By midday I was in Horton again, the planned trip complete rather early in the day. Now what? Whernside had been a less than challenging walk last year, and just as brief, so I decided to do it again, taking advantage of the improved visibility.
As I hadn't anticipated two walks today, I had only brought a couple of handfuls of cashew nuts, a little cheese and 500ml of Coke, all of which I'd already consumed at the summit of Pen-Y-Ghent. It seemed sensible to refuel with a cup of tea and a sandwich at the Pen-y-ghent Cafe. A key rest stop on the Pennine Way since 1965 (i.e. it's as old as the long-distance footpath itself) and the official clocking-in point for the Three Peaks challenge, it also serves distinctly unimpressive toasted cheese & pickle sandwiches.
Leaving Horton, I cycled to Ribblehead, past numerous trainspotters, then back down the next valley to the Old Hill Inn, where the Three Peaks route crosses the main road. My plan was to follow the surfaced road (Philpin Lane) by bike to Bruntscar, cutting ~1¼ km off the walk, then climb Whernside the same way as last year. However, the lane was totally clogged with pedestrians (in the middle of the road – that's road, not footpath, ****ers!) so I could only ride at a walking pace anyway, and I could see the path up to the ridge was similarly busy. By the time I reached Bruntscar, I'd already pretty much decided that I didn't want to walk with a crowd (queuing my way up Scafell in 1996 put me off that for life), but the deciding factor was that there was nowhere to safely leave my bike. I think I made the right decision in turning back, even if it meant fighting my way through the inconsiderate pedestrians again.
It was still only about 13:30, so Plan 'B' was to climb Ingleborough instead, parking the bike near Chapel-le-Dale church then joining the Hill Inn path via a shortcut (legitimately – one shouldn't roam randomly in a sensitive environment like limestone pavement, so I kept to a designated footpath). Initially, that went well, and I passed the famous limestone pavement exposures without meeting an abnormal number of people, but on the narrow ascent to Humphrey Bottom I struggled to overtake what seemed to be whole coach parties. Looking up at the final ridge, I could see that I faced much the same for the rest of the walk, and the summit was bound to be lost in a braying horde, so again I gave up, to return on a quieter day rather than spoil this one.
Please don't misunderstand. I don't remotely object to sharing Ingleborough with a couple of dozen other walkers, and I wouldn't have dreamt of being rude to those I passed, but the sheer number of people was just excessive. Again, please don't interpret this as empty snobbery, but several weren't 'proper' walkers. There may well be an appropriate place to loudly discuss golf via a mobile phone whilst strolling in pristine deck shoes, but I really don't think it's at ~500 m asl on Ingleborough.
I retrieved my bike at ~15:15, which limited my options for the rest of the trip. I could continue down the valley to Ingleton and wander around the village for over an hour before going on to Bentham and the train to Lancaster, or I could head home immediately, covering the ~32 km by bike. I did the latter.
I'm afraid I didn't notice what time I reached Lancaster, but I'd been out all day, covering 67 km (41.6 miles) by bike in 3 hours 37 minutes (not counting time the bike was stationary), which gave an average speed of 18.5 km/h (11.5 mph), peaking at 45 km/h (28 mph) at least once.
1 June, 2006
Still cycling along....
Oops. Missed a landmark: three-quarters of the way towards having cycled 10,000 miles since 1 Feb 2003. At the time of writing, my legs have pushed Bikey 7,538 miles (12,131 km) in 1216 days, an average of 6.2 miles/day. Negligible for a 'pro' cyclist, but I'm only a commuter who goes sightseeing at weekends!
That's overall, but considering the intervals between each 1,000 mile mark, I'm accerating rapidly. The first 1,000 took 194 days (5.1 miles/day), but 6->7,000 took 135 days (7.4/day). The first 5,002 miles took 873 days, but the next 2,535 took 343.
Previous milestones logged:
29 May, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Warton-Lancaster
As I said a couple of weeks ago, Warton Crag is an excellent viewpoint across Morecambe Bay on a clear day. Unfortunately, that hadn't been one, but today's weather was more promising: showery, but otherwise totally clear, so I went back.
The (publishable) photos I took happened to be of features on the way to/from Warton and of the Crag itself rather than longer-range views, but as I reached the final climb to the summit, a heavy shower over Kents Bank offered a rather special opportunity.
10 May, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster University-Galgate-Glasson-Lancaster
This afternoon was clear and sunny, so I took a longer-than-usual route home from work.
Considering I've lived in Lancaster for 12½ years, including ~3 in Galgate itself, it's surprising that I've only followed the Glasson Branch canal about three times. Linking the main Lancaster Canal at Galgate with the sea port of Glasson (Glasson Dock), the five miles of grassy towpath with six locks are attractive, particularly in spring.
The annotations accompanying the photos speak for themselves, and provide links back to a previous bike ride which explains the route, so I'll just let you read them.
6 May, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Warton-Bolton-le-Sands-Lancaster
I've cycled past Warton, the first village north of Carnforth, numerous times on the way to Arnside and Silverdale, and I've climbed Warton Crag 2-3 times within the last year, yet all the photos I've taken have been from, not of Warton, or taken in bad light and hence discarded. Today I wanted to correct those omissions by specifically visiting the village and Crag.
The route barely requires mention: straight up the A6 from Lancaster to Carnforth (with an accidental diversion towards Caton Road and the Lune Millennium Park cycle route – I'm not sure where I thought I was going) then the minor road past Carnforth station, through Millhead and into Warton.
I locked the bike to railings outside the Village Hall in order to visit St. Oswald's churchyard (where I was pleased to find the gravestone of a member of the Washington family, ancestors of the first US President) and the ruins of Warton Old Rectory. I suppose I could have left it parked there for the next stage, as I only cycled for a further ~100 m before locking it to a signpost on Crag Lane and joining the path up Warton Crag.
Spring is supposed to be the optimal time to see the Crag, as rare butterflies exploit a distinctive community of wildflowers on the limestone pavement. However, I was a few weeks early: few plants had really emerged yet, and as the accompanying photos show, the ground and trees were still rather bare. Not that I'm complaining; the ~20 min walk to the summit is pleasant at any time of year and can offer great views... in less hazy weather.
Heading back to Lancaster, I left the suddenly-congested A6 almost as soon as I'd joined it at Carnforth, instead following the Lancaster Canal towpath. This meant I passed the unusual church tower in Bolton-le-Sands. Again, it's somewhere I've frequently passed, but always in the final ~7 km of ~50 km rides, so I've never stopped for a closer look. I was pleasantly surprised – the 17th Century heart of the village has rather more character than the 20th Century streets lining the A6, mere dormitory estates of Morecambe.
Returning to the canal, I was soon back in Lancaster.
30 April, 2006
Walk/Cycle ride: Clapham-Ingleborough-Clapham-Lancaster
At 723 m asl, Ingleborough is the nearest 'big hill' to Lancaster, or at least the most readily accessible. I've climbed it several times over the past decade, but I'd only followed the route from the south-east once before today. That's an odd omission, as the path from Clapham is probably the most pleasant, avoiding the duckboards and crowds of the Hill Inn footpath and passing more landmarks than the direct route from Ingleton.
Saving a lot of effort, I caught the train to Clapham station and cycled to the village. I suppose it'd be possible to do the whole trip by train and on foot, but be aware that Clapham's railway station is about 2 km from the village and the usual start of the walk. The disadvantage of the alternative was parking: I wasn't entirely happy about locking my bike to a fence adjacent to the unofficial car park, both for reasons of security and imposition on private land. It was still there when I returned, but it wasn't ideal (I've since discovered a proper car park, with cycle parking facilities, on the other side of Clapham).
The first part of the standard route follows a private 'nature trail' through the Farrer* estate of Ingleborough Hall, and a nominal fee is imposed. I object to that on principle, and nor did I especially want the company of young families, so I found a public footpath around the boundary of the estate (on my second attempt – it's clearer on the map than on the ground). That's a pleasant route in itself, with amusing signs, stiles and wild flowers probably not apparent on the more heavily-used path. Give it a try.
Rejoining the main track near Ingleborough Cave, I went on via Trow Gill and Gaping Gill then ascended Little Ingleborough on the ridge to the main summit. As usual, the sunny, clear sky at the start of the walk became cloudy as soon as I gained any altitude (I don't think I'm jinxed), then cleared as I descended, an equally familiar experience. Hence, though I obtained a few good photos, or rather, adequate photos of good views, none of this published set were taken at the top. In fact, as soon as I emerged onto the summit plateau, I seriously regretted not bringing a compass, as it could have been difficult to rediscover the start of the correct return path after visiting the summit shelter. I took extra care to note the position of minor cairns and studied the layout of the start of the path, which seemed to work. Could have been awkward, though.
After lunch staring out at a grey vista extending only 15-20 m from the shelter, I started back the same way – there isn't really a practical circular route on Ingleborough. Descending from the cloudbase on Little Ingleborough, I tripped, bruising one knee and grazing the other palm. That's a risk I take when walking alone – if I'd really hurt myself with so far still to go (it happened seconds after I'd taken this photo), I'd have been in trouble. I don't think that's really avoidable in itself, but perhaps I shouldn't have been running on a loose surface....
The rest of the return route, including the diversion around the private path, was straightforward; perhaps too straightforward, as I was back in Clapham much earlier than expected, not remotely coinciding with the rail schedule. That left one option: after wandering around the village for quarter of an hour or so, I reset my bike computer at 17:30 and simply cycled home. That was surprisingly and pleasantly easy, even after the walk, and the 34.6 km (21.48 miles) took 1hr 40 non-stop, at an average of 20.6 km/h (12.8 mph), peaking at 43 km/h. It's good to know that's practical after a walk, and that I'm not reliant on trains.
*: Reginald Farrer (1880-1920) introduced over a hundred new plants into Europe from the Far East, including the Himalayan Rhododendron. So it's his fault that Snowdonia was overrun by the species.
27 April, 2006
Yesterday, Ian rightly mentioned that the inside (i.e. nearest the kerb) two feet of a road is the most likely to hold debris or have pot holes. Cars and larger vehicles push stones, etc. out of the main carriageway, but bicycles don't have the weight or tyre width to do the same. It's a fundamental flaw of on-road cycle lanes; most debris collects in the area reserved for the very sector of traffic most vulnerable to it.
There's a particularly bad example in Lancaster, where Bowerham Road becomes Barton Road. Heading south, a sweeping descent to the right crosses a road junction. Normally, traffic on the main road travels at speed, but there's always a chance one might have to brake. In the cycle lane, that means doing so on loose gravel. The very idea scares me, so I never use the designated cycle lane, instead sticking to the main carriageway.
The only person to question that was another cyclist, who insisted that all cyclists should use all cycle tracks/lanes at all times – "show some gratitude" and "use it or lose it". Well, so far as I'm concerned, losing it would definiterly be the preferred alternative. The Barton Road cycle lane is only a couple of years old, and was much better when it wasn't designated as such, as passing cars kept all but the gutter clear of stones. I'm not remotely 'grateful' for the segregation.
Despite their inherent design flaw, the rest of Lancaster's on-road cycle lanes actually aren't too bad, if one carefully watches for debris. It's the off-road cycle track that annoy me, as several with perfectly good tarmac have been resurfaced with loose gravel. Last week, the Environment Agency resurfaced one of theirs with crushed glass; the local newspaper reported punctures and vets' bills. There's also an issue of occasional pedestrian hostility (actively inflamed by the same local newspaper), meaning shared-use cycle paths can be unpleasant to use.
All of which explains why I tend not to use dedicated cycling areas, preferring to ride on the road itself.
22 April, 2006
Cycle ride: around Coniston Water
Having returned from our walk a little earlier than anticipated, I still had time and energy to do something else with the late afternoon, so I decided to go for a quick bike ride around Coniston Water.
Unfortunately, the mist was still rather thick, so there were few good views of the landscape; the light was poor for photographs of closer objects, too. Hence, only three photos are worth publishing.
Coniston Water is a narrow strip of water aligned roughly north-south. Having carefully studied the map, it seemed best to cycle anticlockwise, covering the higher western road first before I tired. Unfortunately, it was too late; I was already more weary than I'd thought, and I struggled with the hills.
Additionally, the logical theory was flawed in practice. The road along the eastern shore had fewer extremes of altitude, so looked flat on the map, but it undulated more within that narrower height range (i.e. less than the map's contour interval) and was actually just as hard work. The supposedly tougher western side took exactly 30 mins with photo stops, but the return trip took 34 non-stop.
In total, that was 14.16 miles (22.8 km) in 64:37 minutes, at an average speed of 13.1 mph. Though I reached 28.2 mph at least once, that was a slow ride, and I'm glad I had the excuse of having already climbed a 762 m (2,500') peak today!
22 April, 2006
Walk/Cycle ride: Coniston lakeshore
I'm pretty sure I was the first up today, so went for a short walk to the shore of Coniston Water before breakfast.
The first thing I'd noticed on glancing out of a window was that the weather was disappointing: rather misty, with visibility limited to under a kilometre. I thought this might provide a few fairly atmospheric photos, but soon realised that the 'mist' was dense, low cloud, and it was actually rather dark outdoors. The walk was a good start to the day, but few of the photos were usable.
So I repeated the entire exercise the following morning. Sunday was brighter and near-cloudless, and photos from the same locations were much better. The second visit only took a few minutes, as I was on my bike, so I extended the trip by cycling around the head of the lake to Brantwood (John Ruskin's home), to also capture a few images I'd missed the previous evening.
17 April, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Hornby-Wray-Roeburndale-Lancaster
In January 2005, I fulfilled one of my (very) minor ambitions to follow Quarry Road across Caton Moor. See that entry for an explanation of its significance to me. Today I followed the other route across the Moor, Roeburndale Road.
I used to use the western side more-or-less daily, from Brookhouse to my PhD research catchment at the top of the Moor, and I've followed the northern end of the road from Wray to Middlewood at least a dozen times, but I've only linked the two once or twice in 12 years, and never by bike.
I'm certainly aware it's a very hilly route (50m asl at Wray to 311m on the Moor and back to 40m at Brookhouse, with numerous undulations and 1-in-5 sections), so I kept the ride simple: from Lancaster to Wray along the Lune Cycleway (aka Millennium Park) and A683 main road, over the Moor back to Brookhouse and Caton, then home along the Cycleway again.
That worked out as 42.3 km (26.3 miles) in just over three hours (2½ moving, plus a few leisurely stops for photos), at an average of 16.5 km/h ‐ considering I usually ride to Wray at 28-35 km/h and reached 44 km/h on the descent to Brookhouse, that gives some indication of my speed on the steeper uphill sections!
15 April, 2006
Random queries no. 42
One of a series of genuine search engine enquiries which successfully brought visitors to the Ministry. Can I help?
cycling maps of lancaster
I don't have a copy available online (mine's paper), but Lancaster City Council published a pretty good 'Lancaster & Morecambe Walking & Cycling' map recently. See the LCC website to order a paper copy, or to download the individual maps (district overview, Lancaster & Morecambe, and city centre) as .pdfs.
14 April, 2006
Cycle ride: Windermere-Kirkstone Pass-Grasmere-Langdale-Windermere
I was rather surprised to realise that it's been over a year since my last trip to the Lake District. Maybe it's because I'm reluctant to commit to a whole day in the National Park in winter, as I'd be trapped a long way from home (too far to cycle back, and I don't have a car, so I'm restricted by the rail timetable) if the weather broke, and I don't fancy the idea of sharing the space with hordes during spring, summer and autumn weekends. Whatever; those are flawed reasons, and I ought to make the effort.
I didn't have a fixed plan for the day. I'd catch the train to Windermere and wanted to ride to the head of the Kirkstone Pass, as I'd seen the profile of the adjoining peaks from a distance recently, and I needed to be back in Windermere by 15:45 for the return train, but otherwise I was open to exploring opportunities.
The lead-in ride to Ambleside was okay, but is never exactly fun: the road isn't great (narrow, with heavy traffic even in mid-April), and the cycle lane provision is derisory – it'd literally be better if the Council hadn't bothered. I always just ignore it.
Annoyingly, I could have avoided that road altogether if I'd read the map correctly. Rather than turn off the lakeside road immediately outside Windermere and follow the A592 main road past Troutbeck to the pass, I went on into Ambleside then struggled to find a tiny lane out of the village. That's apt since, as a sign at the other end of that road stated, I'd accidentally found the old, extremely steep road to the pass, known locally as 'The Struggle'. It's a good thing I wasn't hurrying, as 410 m of ascent within 4 km, with four sections between 1-in-7 & 1-in-5 and one (the very end) steeper than 1-in-5, took a while. I managed it non-stop, though.
I considered continuing over the pass to Patterdale, Glenridding and Ullswater, but that'd mean either extending the ride tremendously, to Penrith railway station or back to Windermere via Keswick, or climbing straight back over the Kirkstone Pass. 'The Struggle' had somewhat driven out the appeal of that option, so after a break to admire the view, I returned to Ambleside – rather quickly; I presume this was when my bike computer logged today's peak speed, of 55.85 km/h (34.7 mph).
I hadn't visited Grasmere before, so that was an easy choice as my next destination, and as easy a ride along the valley floor. I had a quick look at the village and (fruitlessly, or even daffodil-lessly) hunted for daffodils around Wordsworths' Dove Cottage, but in hindsight didn't stay as long as I might have; for some reason I moved on quite soon, and I'll have to go back some time to take more photos. I think I'd decided that there'd be a good view of the village and lake from the pass north of Grasmere, so followed that road immediately. In a sense I was mistaken, as the light looking south from the head of the pass at Dunmail Raise was unsuitable for photography, but the view north towards Helvellyn and Thirlmere was an unanticipated bonus.
Again, continuing north offered limited options (the most obvious was to return to Windermere via Keswick and, er, the Kirkstone Pass), so I dropped back to Grasmere and linked to the route of last year's ride. On that occasion I'd climbed from Skelwith Bridge to High Close, mistakenly hoping for a view of Grasmere through denser-than-expected woodland. This time, I approached High Close from the other side, cycling around the western side of the lake and up the steep and just-as-densely-wooded lane. It's only as I write this, with the assistance of a better map than I'd carried, that I realise I'd missed an opportunity to leave the bike and walk ~500 m to the viewpoint I'd been hoping for – twice.
Reaching High Close by 13:45 gave my just enough time to repeat much of last year's entire ride – good thing I'm fitter now – though in the reverse direction and with fewer, more targeted photo stops. I descended to Elterwater then went straight on to Little Langdale, Blea Tarn and the head of yet another pass, looking into Great Langdale from Side Pike. That undulating route had been tougher than I'd expected, not least because I had limited energy reserves after the foregoing sections of today's ride, but the view of Bow Fell, the Langdale Pikes and the near-perfect valley of Mickleden is always worthwhile.
I had time to appreciate that sight (and insufficient energy to go straight on without pausing to take in the view), but I was slightly concerned that I was tiring and needed to be on a train in a little over an hour, so apart from a quick diversion to the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel, I headed back along the familiar Great Langdale road to Skelwith Bridge, Ambleside and Windermere with just enough time to buy a slice of cake before catching the train.
Overall, I'd covered 72.4 km (45 miles) in ~4½ hours, at a pitiful average speed of 18 km/h (11 mph), but remember that included a couple of noteworthy ascents, and as always my objective was sight-seeing, not merely exercise itself.
11 April, 2006
The thought counts, but...
Mother: whilst your gift of thermal waterproof trousers was appreciated, I'm afraid it was a rather misguided idea – they're not at all "ideal for the bike".
Firstly, they don't fit the bike. I think I'm supposed to wear them. (Sorry.)
Secondly, the last thing an energetic cyclist needs is a heat-retaining covering for the legs. I'm burning up!
Thirdly, Aldi may be cheap, but the quality of their goods is abysmal. My legs are soaked from the knees down. Why do you still shop there?
Anyway, thanks, but I wouldn't recommend the concept or Aldi's expression of it to other cyclists.
10 April, 2006
Tan-through bike gloves
Helen tells me that it's possible to buy UV-neutral swimsuits, which avoid tan lines. I'm not sure why she cares, as her favoured complexion is rather more 'alabaster' than 'mahogany', and she's not exactly the outdoors type!
Whatever; I'm fed-up of developing cyclist's arms each summer: brown to the wrists but with white hands and eye-catching brown spots where the straps of my bike gloves leave small gaps. If someone was to make tan-through cycling gloves (not golf gloves!), I'd be interested.
1 April, 2006
Walk/Cycle ride: Lancaster-Ingleton Waterfalls-Lancaster
As I mentioned at the time, I was slightly disappointed by my last visit to the Ingleton Waterfalls, as the harsh light limited my photos technically whilst the confined valleys limited the angles from which I could take photos at all, and being with a group limited my time to experiment. The results were clichéd and bland, only saved by the attractive subject matter.
Today, I went back alone, deliberately in uncertain weather after a week of particularly heavy sustained rainfall, expecting the rivers to be full and hence the waterfalls to be spectacular. And I was right.
Though I'd normally take the train, I travelled to Ingleton by bike, as I also wanted to take photographs of the Rivers Lune and Wenning at high flows. As the results show, that was a good decision: upstream of Caton, the Lune had spilled out onto its floodplain whilst the Wenning at Wennington was as vigorous as a mountain stream.
Just before Ingleton, I was caught in a heavy shower, but I was wearing full waterproofs so welcomed the last-minute top-up of the waterfalls.
The results were as good as expected; I'll simply let you look at the (annotated) photos for yourself. I've interlinked them with the previous set, allowing comparison of the rivers' normal state and today's.
A highlight of the trip was following the ledge behind and hence beneath the main cascade of Thornton Force, sitting quietly in a remarkably dry space whilst water thundered past a couple of metres away. As I said in the photo caption, when I emerged a couple of other walkers expressed envy that I'd done something their wives wouldn't have permitted.
Having completed the usual walk in a few hours – I certainly didn't rush – I cycled back to Lancaster, with another stop at Halton to photograph the weir as deeply submerged as I've ever seen it.
19 March, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Halton Green-Lancaster
I don't think I need to go into great detail about this one: I simply rode out to the ridge above Daisy Bank, on the north-eastern outskirts of Lancaster, for a slightly different view of the snow-covered Lakeland fells on the horizon. From there, I went on to Caton, crossed the river at the Crook O'Lune, then returned via Halton Green.
Breaks in the cloud lit individual peaks attractively, but otherwise the sky was bright but overcast; the accompanying photos look distinctly wintery.
4 March, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Crook O'Lune-Kirkby Lonsdale-Farleton Knott-Lancaster
I remember a time when the start of March was damp, windy but fairly warm. Things change. Today was bitterly cold (by UK standards) but brilliantly sunny, so I took my camera for a bike ride in the snow.
The first destination was the Crook O'Lune, near Caton. I recently discovered there's one point on the riverbank where one can see both arms of the tight meander at once, so left the bike for a while to take a photograph, plus a few more of the frozen river.
From there, I cycled straight to Kirkby Lonsdale (okay, with a couple more photo stops, using a polarising filter to cut through the slight haze) and Devil's Bridge. That's a familiar location, but the weather and ice revealed new details.
The next stage was slightly less familiar: I think I've only been through Whittington once before, returning to Lancaster along the higher northern side of the Lune Valley, and I'd never explored the lanes around Hutton Roof (village) and Newbiggin. They were... an experience, as I was riding on near-virgin snow; less slippery than one might expect, except where dog walkers had compacted the cover to footprint-shaped ice patches.
That route took me around the eastern side of Farleton Fell (aka Farleton Knott), though I resisted the temptation to park the bike again and climb the hill for my first time. I'll save that for another trip.
I'd already covered quite a long distance, so decided to head home after a quick look at the frozen (disused) canal. I reached Lancaster at 16:40, as the light was failing, having been out for 5½ hours, 3½ moving. I'd ridden 67½ km (42 miles) at an average speed of 19.6 km/h (12.2 mph) and a maximum of 43.5 km/h (27 mph) – I have no idea at what point I managed that, considering the icy conditions.
18 February, 2006
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Crook o'Lune-Lancaster
The section of the River Lune between Lancaster and the Crook O'Lune near Caton is extremely familiar, not least because I have to pass it on the way to/from pretty much anywhere east or north-east of Lancaster. Recently, however, I was startled to see a photo of the Crook from an angle I hadn't encountered, and realised that I seem to follow permutations of the same two routes every time. Hence, today I planned my trip in advance, targeting viewpoints of which I've always been aware, but had never visited.
For example, I routinely travel east-west along the Lune Cycleway passing the southern side of the Lune Aqueduct, and I've frequently ridden north-south along the towpath over the aqueduct, but I've never followed the path to the foot of the northern side. Now I have. ;)
I also visited the northern side of Forge Weir and investigated a tiny footpath immediately downstream of the Crook, and took a couple of photos, but unfortunately that was the point when daylight failed, and though I went on to locate the viewpoint of the photo which had inspired this ride in the first place, there was insufficient light to take my own version. Maybe next time.
28 January, 2006
Cycle ride: Arnside-Silverdale-Lancaster
Today's ride partly repeated one I did last August, but since this is January and one can't rely on long afternoons, I decided to eliminate the long 'lead-in' by catching the train to Arnside before cycling home via Arnside Knott, Silverdale and Carnforth.
As I've described the route in full before, I don't think I need to explain it again in great detail (there are additional notes with the photographs, anyway), but in summary it was:
- From the station to Arnside Chippy (the best I know).
- Back to the station to eat overlooking the Kent Estuary.
- From the station, again, to Arnside Knott car park.
- On foot to the viewpoint (not the summit itself, this time), for photos which didn't really succeed in the haze; I've only published a few.
- Back to the car park, then on foot, with the bike, through the woods to the far side of Arnside Knott, opposite Arnside Tower. The path is actually a bridleway, so I could have ridden, but I preferred to walk and besides, it's good PR for a cyclist to walk on what most pedestrians think is solely a footpath.
- On to, and through, Silverdale, admiring the prismatic fire station, past Wolf House Gallery to the end of the road at Jenny Brown's Point. I stopped there for a few minutes to explore the shingle beach and a curious gravel bar/jetty. I haven't been able to discover anything about its origin, unfortunately.
- Across the saltmarsh, following the footpaths of the Leighton Moss RSPB reserve, to the Warton road.
- To Carnforth, then home along the A6.
17 December, 2005
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Casterton Fell - Lancaster
Filling in a gap, today.
I know the valley between Ingleton and Ribblehead fairly well (though not its name, surprisingly), and I know Barbondale, which links Kirkby Lonsdale and Dent. There are two smaller routes onto the hills between the two. I'll investigate Kingsdale when I have more time and daylight, as it'll be a very long ride, even if I catch trains to and back from Bentham. The remaining road is a dead end, climbing between Barbon Fell and Casterton Fell, to Bullpot Farm and the headwaters of Leck Beck. I'd been there once before, caving in Bullpot Of The Witches, but that visit was by car, in poor light, and years ago. I fancied seeing it properly for the first time.
It was still a long way, and I suppose it would have made sense to cycle from and back to Wennington station, letting the train cut 20 miles off the trip. However, I knew it to be manageable (if ambitious), so cycled the entire route. It turned out to be 45.27 miles (72.86 km), and took 3:41 hours; slow, but that included a killer ascent, a 1 km walk over rough, frozen ground, and a diversion to Sainsbury's for groceries. To finish off the statistics: my maximum speed was 27.4 mph (44 km/hr) and average speed was 12.1 mph (19.5 km/hr).
The plan was to follow the main road to Kirkby Lonsdale, then a tiny, steep road to Bullpot Farm. The map indicated that a bridleway linked that point with Blindbeck Bridge, in Barbondale, from where I could head straight home.
The first part was straightforward: a mindless slog up the Lune Valley. I don't particularly like the stretch between Tunstall and Kirkby Lonsdale, as it seems endless: there are no particular landmarks and it's imperceptably uphill. A car passenger might think it's perfectly flat, but the road actually rises 30 m over 5 km, which is just enough to make the distance feel much further. The result is that one has a flawed perception of the distance covered, and thinks that Kirkby Lonsdale simply must be 'just around the next corner' when there's still a couple of kilometres still to go. At least this time I was prepared for it.
The next section was more of a surprise: steeper than I'd anticipated, for longer. Considering I'd already cycled 18-20 miles, I wasn't pleased, and thought I might need to turn back; I wasn't even halfway round the route, but was tiring. Thankfully, after climbing 212 m in 2 km (696' in 1.2 miles), the worst was passed.
As I approached Bullpot Farm, something curious happened: the temperature dropped. A lot. Maybe it was just the altitude (around 300 m), but even wearing thermal gloves, my hands became painfully cold and I began shivering despite wearing a shirt and two fleeces. I had a quick look at the entrance to Bullpot OTW (and noticed plaques commemorating those who'd died in that cave system...), but otherwise moved on rather quickly.
As I'd expected, the bridlepath to Barbondale wasn't rideable, especially on my road-configured bike, so I walked, shivering. Though still at ~170 m asl, that valley was much warmer, so I lingered to take a couple of photos (including one I missed last year) before heading back. The light was begining to fail, but I got as far as Claughton before proper sunset, and reached home (via Sainsbury's) a little after dark, at 17:15.
10 December, 2005
Protect your noggin
Wouldn't be seen dead in a bicycle helmet? I'd rather not be seen dead, so I do wear a helmet.
Rather stretching the point: though I found these helmet covers (noggin sox - good name!) amusing, I think the joke would wear thin rather quickly (for an adult – it might be a good way to persuade a child to use a helmet), and I wouldn't be seen dead in one myself.
However, I'd definitely wear this jacket.
[Via the University's internal cycling forum.]
27 November, 2005
Cycling: Lancaster-Caton Moor-Lancaster
When I left the house today, I had no idea where I was going.
I wanted to see the snow which has fallen on high ground in recent days. I checked the view from my garden, Williamson Park (which the rest of the world persists in regarding as public), but wasn't sure where to go from there. In late November, 14:30 is too late (at least for photography) to start a long bike ride to high ground, as the light fades by 16:00, so I couldn't head north as far as Warton/Arnside or east as far as the moors above Wray; I needed something more local. Not Jubilee Tower, as the idea was to get a little closer to the Lake District or Yorkshire Dales, not further away. I wouldn't be able to see Yorkshire from there, either.
That left Caton Moor, the site of considerable unhappiness during my abortive (indeed, aborted) PhD, but that bothers me less nowadays. Caton it was. The route was very familiar, and not worth mentioning, though I was pleased to notice that the section from Brookhouse to the wind farm took precisely half the time it used to – I'm markedly better-fed and fitter at 34 than when I was 24.
The views from the top were indeed good, but I'm afraid the photographs seemed to capture more haze than I'd appreciated with the naked eye; I've done what I could with these images.
If anyone cares (and it seems some do), the trip of 18.8 miles (30 km) took exactly two hours (1:54 moving), at an average of 10mph. That's anomalously slow, but explained by the fact that I cycled to the wind farm, then followed the relatively new track a mile across the moor to Roeburndale Road on foot, before following that back to Caton and Lancaster by bike. The footpath is surfaced with coarse gravel and fragments of ceramic, so cycling would have been impossible (with road tyres) even if it had been permitted.
18 November, 2005
My daily commute takes me past Burrow Beck, a small (except after rain) stream flowing through Hala, the southernmost area of Lancaster. Recent night temperatures of -3°C or less have generated freezing fog above the open water, coating everything within 2m of the ground in thick frost. Click the image for a larger view of the result.
16 November, 2005
Think I got away with it, pt.1
Yesterday afternoon was sunny and I had the office to myself (my boss is on leave, and J. had rung in 'ill' (hung over)), so on the spur of the moment, I left early and went for a bike ride. Each time I do that (go for fairly long impromptu rides, I mean, not leave the office early), I'm mildly concerned about not carrying a bike pump or puncture kit, just in case something happens.
Well, it did. Twenty-seven miles (43 km) into a 46-mile ride, at the highest point of the Bentham-Slaidburn pass, I suddenly had a totally flat rear tyre*.
Nineteen miles (31 km) from home. I couldn't realistically walk; at 3½-4 mph it'd take about five hours. The alternative was to ride on, the flat tyre hopefully cushioning the wheel rim itself. That way, I could sustain a steady 10-12 mph – 3-4 times walking pace – whilst acknowledging that I'd probably do terminal damage to the tyre and maybe the wheel.
I'm not entirely proud to say that's what I did. It wasn't a pleasant ride, especially in traffic after dark, and I was continuously, if mildly, concerned that the tyre might rip and slide off at any moment. The base of the tyre valve seemed to project beyond the rim, so every rotation of the wheel jarred; I'm still in a bit of pain ~18 hours later.
Here's the miraculous bit: both the tyre and wheel survived perfectly, without even any marks. I wouldn't exactly recommend it, but if this posting has a point, it's to say that it is possible to ride a long distance on a flat tyre.
The moment I discovered the problem was doubly unlucky: my camera's primary memory card failed, so I only had one image to show.
I'm hoping that just one image on the main card is corrupted, and that if I find a different reader which doesn't insist on trying to access that image (as the camera does), I might be able to retrieve the rest. We'll see. Or not.
[Update 17/11/05: Managed it. I managed to copy the entire contents of the card, directory structure and all, to my hard disk, and have the images. The card itself seems dead, though: still unreadable, and even if I find out how to reformat it, I'm not sure I'd trust it again.]
*: I was going to say that was my third puncture in a week, but it was actually the same puncture, and the repair failed twice. I've now thrown that inner tube away. Plainly latex cement goes off, and becomes inadequate for sealing patches to tubes at 65 psi.
12 November, 2005
Though we've had a lot of rain recently, today seemed clear and dry, so I went for a bike ride along the Lune, hoping the river flow would be photogenically high.
I got as far as Caton in pleasant sunshine, but clouds were approaching. For some reason, I really didn't fancy heading back so soon or returning the same way as I'd just come (I suppose I've followed the Lune Cycleway rather a lot this year), so continued up the valley, even though I wasn't wearing anything rainproof.
I made it as far as Loyn Bridge, Hornby, the furthest I'd planned to go, before the weather caught me. Ten miles (16 km) from home, with dark shadows of poor visibility blocking both potential escape routes.
It wasn't so bad, in fact, and only two brief showers dampened me as I returned to Lancaster via Gressingham and Halton. I cycled fairly quickly, but had made a few photo stops on the outward trip, so the 21.8 miles (35 km) took 1hr 51 (moving), at an average speed of 11.8 mph (19 km/h) and max of 24.9 mph (40 km/h).
6 November, 2005
Nothing too ambitious this afternoon: just a gentle ride with my camera along the right bank of the Lune Estuary from Lancaster to Sunderland (aka, inaccurately, 'Sunderland Point').
1 November, 2005
Ah, the pleasures of cycling to work on a crisp, sunny Autumn morning:
- Can't breathe – cold wind and 20-30mph of windchill searing throat.
- Can't see – eyes streaming due to the same wind & chill.
28 October, 2005
Cycle ride: Lancaster University-Quernmore-Lancaster
This was a beautiful evening, clear and sunny, so I cycled home from work the long way, via the the back lanes to Quernmore then over the ridge back into Lancaster.
Luckily, I had my camera with me, so there are a few rather attractive photos.
16 October, 2005
Risk assessment paradox
In summer, cycling in shorts and a T-shirt, I think nothing of riding at 18-32 mph (29-52 km/h) with exposed knees and elbows*.
Now the weather is a little less predictable, I tend to wear my sleeveless 'puffa' jacket which, though it amusingly resembles a war correspondent's flak jacket, obviously leaves my arms bare. This somehow makes me feel vulnerable, more so than if I was wearing less. I wonder why.
*: Put like that, it is a bit foolhardy.
15 October, 2005
Cycling: Lancaster-Crook O'Lune-Lancaster
Today's cycle ride, to the Crook O'Lune near Caton (five miles or so from Lancaster), was mainly for the exercise, but as usual I had the camera with me, so I might as well publish a few photos.
13 October, 2005
The University's 'Travel Plan Co-ordinator' circulated an e-mail this morning promoting a potential scheme whereby, as I initially understood it, staff could buy bikes at a rate subsidised by the University and Inland Revenue (ie. the employer and tax authority). That'd be a great idea, and an encouragement to those considering cycle commuting. I began drafting a reply saying that I'm not currently looking to replace my bike, but that I'd like to express my support for the concept, and might use it at a later date.
However, before sending that, I happened to read another response, from someone who'd already studied the small print at the scheme's website.
Contrary to the initial announcement, and the <title> of that web page ("Buy bikes tax free with Cyclescheme and the Government Green Transport Plan. Save up to 50%"), this doesn't involve buying outright – it's a leasing scheme, with an option to buy at the end. Throughout the period of the lease, the bike remains the property of the employer.
I found the initial presentation of the plan to be extremely misleading, and having discovered its true nature, I react with hostility, but more objectively, I have major doubts about whether this really is the best option for the typical user.
One further drawback is that though the scheme doesn't specify particular bike manufacturers or types, the employee is obliged to buy (sorry, 'acquire') his/her bike from a limited number of shops – there's only one within the Lancaster area – which might well be agents for a narrow range of manufacturers. I've experienced that before: my bike was stolen a few years ago, and the insurer obliged me to obtain a replacement from one specific shop, which only had one model of a comparible type and cost. I was riding a crappy Raleigh (they make awful bikes!) for at least a year before I could afford to replace it with something truly of my own selection, my current bike.
Another disadvantage is that though the University would retain full ownership of a leased bike, if it was stolen, the employee would have to keep paying for it. I suppose that's rational, but it's not something I'd accept.
Applying that logic to the whole proposition, I do acknowledge that it might suit some people, but I certainly won't be giving it further consideration.
So, a market opportunity remains: if anyone wants to formulate a subsidised 'buy outright' scheme, you have my support. In principle, that is – I'd need to see the small print!
11 September, 2005
Cycling: Lancaster-Knott End-Lancaster
For a change, I turned away from the hills for this weekend's bike ride and visited North Lancashire's coastal plain, the Fylde.
Apart from one crossing in the middle of the night last year, I've only been there once before, with Andy. I retraced part of that route today: straight down the A6 to Forton, then across the width of the Fylde, passing Winmarleigh and Pilling, to the eastern side of the Wyre estuary at Stalmine, then a couple of miles north to Knott End-On-Sea and back along the coast road. In total, that was 36.9 miles (59.4km) in 3½ hours (2¾ moving). If it matters, my top speed was 27mph (downhill, in Lancaster; once on the flat I couldn't exceed 24.4mph) and my average was 14.3mph (over 17mph on the A6, but less on narrow lanes with photo stops).
See those photographs for a few more details about the local attractions. Unfortunately, when I stopped in Knott End for a drink, I found that the camera batteries were dead. I made a point of remembering photogenic sights for a future ride and, well, there weren't any. It was pleasant to ride on straight, flat roads, but somehow I find the Bowland Fells, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District rather more picturesque.
27 August, 2005
Cycle ride: Clapham-Ribblesdale-Ribblehead-Lancaster
Today's bike ride was probably my longest yet: from Clapham railway station to the village, across to Ribblesdale via Austwick, up the valley to Ribblehead, back down Chapel-le-Dale to Ingleton, then home; 72 km (48 miles) in 3hr56', though I made frequent stops and was out for 6h15'.
One reason for that time was that I made a poor choice of route at Clapham.
The obvious option would have been to follow the old road (B6480) from the village towards Austwick, but that involved following a short section of the A65, perhaps even a section of dual carriageway. I wasn't sure whether cyclists were permitted to do that (we are; it's not a motorway!) and I didn't fancy riding in heavy or speeding traffic, so decided to follow Thwaite Lane, the unsurfaced track from behind Clapham church to above Austwick. It was a pretty enough route and I discovered tunnels I hadn't realised even existed, but it was rough going, and very slow. Not a shortcut, and I doubt I'd bother to repeat the experience by bike.
Impatience meant I rather rushed the next section, so I'll have to return to explore Austwick and Helwith Bridge some other time. Similarly, I only made a couple of photo stops around Horton in Ribblesdale, though I have every intention of visiting again soon to climb Pen-y-ghent [and did].
I did make a proper stop at Ribblehead, leaving the road to study the famous railway viaduct, and another further down the valley near Chapel-le-Dale church: I'd seen a pothole indicated on the map, so investigated. As the accompanying photos show, the entrance of Hurtle Pot is a substantial surface feature (which isn't always the case in the Dales), worth visiting even by non-cavers, though I suppose it was slightly foolhardy to enter a muddy, steep-sided bowl alone, when no-one even knew I was out, never mind where.
Having survived, all that remained was the ~35 km (~22 miles) ride home, arriving at 20:00. If anyone cares, my average speed was 19.5 km/h (12.1 mph), reaching 48.8 km/h (30.3 mph) at least once.
20 August, 2005
Cycle ride: Kents Bank-Humphrey Head-Cartmel-Lancaster
I left my usual range today, catching the train to Kents Bank on the north side of the Kent Estuary, 'properly' into Cumbria, though still slightly outside the Lake District National Park. The plan was to explore Humphrey Head, which projects out into Morecambe Bay and overlooks the areas of North Lancashire I already know well. From there, I planned to visit the village of Cartmel and its priory before returning to the coast at Grange-over-Sands and catching the train home.
The first slight setback was reaching Kents Bank to find I'd left my map at home – I'd memorised the layout of the district, but not the specific roads. I considered hunting for a shop likely to sell maps, but decided to just follow road signs. It meant I took a few wrong turns on minor roads, but basically worked.
Humphrey Head is (locally) famous as the place where the last wolf in England was killed, in the 14th Century. Wolfhouse Gallery in Silverdale takes its name from the fact that it has a view of the headland. It's an attractive site, and surprisingly overlooked by visitors (Alfred Wainwright mentioned it in one of his guidebooks). Not that I'm complaining – I doubt I'd have seen a Peregrine Falcon close-up if this had been a busy tourist magnet.
I locked my bike to a fence and walked to the top to take quite a few photos, so stayed longer than I'd expected; I could have made up some time by following minor roads if I'd had a map, but instead stuck to the main, signposted roads and reached Cartmel via Flookburgh and Cark. I took the opportunity to check return train times at the station, as I'd also forgotten to do that beforehand.
Cartmel was smaller and less 'touristy' than I'd expected, especially considering it has a famous mediaeval priory church and racecourse. I stopped at the latter for a drink, but for some reason didn't think to lock up the bike again and have a proper look round the Priory or even its churchyard. I took a few photos of it and the village, anyway.
I was surprised how close Cartmel is to Grange-over-Sands; merely 2 km over Hampsfield Fell. I don't know whether completing the intended route sooner than expected led me to make a rather rash decision, or whether I'd subconsciously known from the start that I was going to do it (remember, I hadn't checked return train times in advance): I decided to cycle home from Grange. It's a familiar route (by car...), and I've frequently cycled the 14-mile (22½ km) section from Milnthorpe to Lancaster, but Grange isn't that close to Milnthorpe; I suppose I added 30 miles (48 km) to the planned ride.
An additional slight complication was that I chose to avoid the A590 (T) dual carriageway, so stuck to less-direct (very) minor roads as far as Levens, before joining the familiar A6 and slogging my way home – not fun, as I was tiring rapidly, it's not exactly a thrilling route, and for some reason my right arm was really painful. Just short of Carnforth, I had to stop for a few minutes, as my right hand could no longer grip the handlebar. I'm accustomed to that cramping occasionally on long rides (maybe a consequence of surgery to pin a broken finger in 2003), but this was the whole arm, from the shoulder. I hope that doesn't recur.
So; overall, that was 36.65 miles (59 km) in 2:20 hours, though that's only counting time on the bike, moving, and omits the walk up Humphrey Head and various drink, photo and rest stops. In case anyone's interested, my maximum speed was 28.9 mph (46.5 km/h) and average speed was 12.9 mph (20.7 km/h).
Incidentally, I've published over 40 photos with this entry, so each of the 'photos' links in the foregoing text goes to a different index of thumbnails (Humphrey Head, Cartmel and the ride home; visit all three or start here and go through all the images.
19 August, 2005
Cycling: Lancaster University-Home!
Looking south and west from my office, the weather looked pretty good, so I decided to go home the long way – very long, in fact, as I was considering cycling to Scorton. However, as soon as I turned onto the campus perimeter road and glanced east, I changed my mind, as the sky was near-black. I was lucky to make it home by the direct route, having only paused to take three photos, before the rain started.
14 August, 2005
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Warton-Silverdale-Arnside-Lancaster
Back in May, I abbreviated a trip to Arnside, having been distracted by 'shortcuts', so decided to repeat and complete it today.
Again, I followed the A6 to Carnforth at full speed, but this time avoided the cycle route bypassing Warton. Instead, I went into the village and up Crag Road for views southwards from Warton Crag. That route rejoined the low route at Leighton Moss, but I kept to the road again, straight through Silverdale to the steep southern side of Arnside Knott. This was the one point where an off-road shortcut made sense, as a 1 km walk through the woods saved 3-4 by road. I've since discovered it's a bridleway, so I could have ridden and saved even more time, but I disapprove of cycling on footpaths so when in doubt, I walk. Besides, I wasn't in a hurry.
That took me to the Arnside Knott car park, where I locked my bike to a sign and climbed the hill on foot (to the trig. pillar at the top, not the false summit at the viewpoint). The light wasn't great, but I took a few photos. Apologies if the colours appear slightly odd in a couple; that's a byproduct of post-production to minimise haze.
I'd achieved what I'd intended, but wasn't sure how to get home. After consulting the map, the most logical route seemed to be that I often followed whilst working in Milnthorpe in 2000: along the coast road from Arnside to Milnthorpe (which was further than I remembered – I'd somehow forgotten that it's fully 5 km) then down the A6 at full speed, straight home. As in May, that included a section of dual-carriageway frequented by articulated lorries and traffic leaving the M6 motorway (and hence moving at motorway speeds), but I was a little too weary to care, and did it anyway.
1 August, 2005
Note to male cyclists
That mention of Marks & Spencer reminds me of something I've wanted to mention for a while:
Daily cycle commuters in the UK ought to be aware that M&S produce compatible male underwear. Tesco don't – the seams are in precisely the wrong places for 25-30 mins per day on a bike saddle.
I don't think I need to elaborate on that.
30 July, 2005
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Abbeystead-Lancaster
Processing a few photos last week, I realised that I didn't have any half-decent images of Abbeystead. It's a quaint little village – well, just a hamlet, really – in Wyresdale, so I decided to correct the oversight today. It wouldn't be a particularly long ride, but the steep first ~10km are always challenging, and once I'd visited Abbeystead I could extend the route as much as I wanted. Having seen the approaching weather from Jubilee Tower, that was unlikely; 'straight out, straight back' seemed sensible.
'Abbeystead' means 'abbey-place', as a Cistercian abbey, an offshoot of Furness Abbey, was built there in about 1170. However, the monks left a mere eighteen years later, for a more glamourous location in Ireland. I'm not aware of there being any remaining ruins, probably not least because any usable stone was probably salvaged and incorporated into dry stone walls.
'Modern' Abbeystead was built at the end of the nineteenth century, as grouse shooting became popular on the Bowland Fells. That's still it's primary purpose, at the hub of the Duke of Westminster's estate (yes, 'Westminster' as in 'City of...'; the Duke owns much of central London and is the third richest person in the UK. 'The Field' magazine admiringly calls him "quite simply the very best close-quarter killer around".).
Having taken the photos I wanted, and not really ready to head back, I noticed that the dam of Abbeystead Reservoir is accessible via a footpath, so I locked the bike to a fence and explored. The dam was far more elaborate than I'd expected; certainly worth seeing.
I decided to head home after that, but rather than slog back over Abbeystead Fell, I followed Wyresdale to Dolphinholme, then to Galgate and to Lancaster along the A6. The first section was easy, as it's almost all downhill from Abbeystead to Galgate, and I don't think I dropped below 22mph, apart from at junctions; my bike computer logged an average of 17mph overall. However, though I'd expected to travel even faster along the A6, I was riding straight into a light but insistent wind, and I was exhausted trying to maintain even 13mph.
I'm afraid I can't provide distance and speed data for the whole trip (I didn't think anyone cared anyway, but I've been told people have considered following my routes, so apparently it does matter!), as I was using my new, upgraded bike computer. It logs average speeds, as I mentioned, but it also has a less foolproof design; when I left the bike for my walk to the dam, I dropped the computer into my pocket, and the annoyingly prominent 'reset' button was accidentally pressed.
24 July, 2005
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Sambo's Grave-Morecambe-Lancaster
I've frequently been to Sunderland (the tiny village at the mouth of the River Lune near Lancaster, not the large city near Newcastle-upon-Tyne), but hadn't found its most notable landmark, Sambo's Grave. *
As the name suggests, this is the grave of an 18th Century slave put ashore from a ship heading to Lancaster, who died either of disease or a broken heart, depending on one's favoured story. The burial site is some distance from the settlement, in the corner of a field on the other side of the headland.
After the short walk to the grave and a few photos, I cycled back across the saltmarsh to 'the mainland' at Overton, on to Morecambe via Heysham, then home to Lancaster.
Incidentally, the grave is definitely near Sunderland Point, within a few miles of Lancaster, not on the Wirral, the peninsula between Liverpool and Wales. At least two people have already visited this entry via a seach for "sambo slave buried wirral" or similar, but that's incorrect.
* In performing web searches for 'Sambo's Grave', you may find that one person has posted comments to a number of sites, suggesting that 'Samboo's Grave' is the correct name. That's possible, but there is no evidence to support this one person's assertion, which contradicts decades, even centuries, of actual usage, and one can easily propose a counter-argument. Widespread repetition doesn't prove anything!
18 July, 2005
On aggregate, leave it alone
The short section of cycle track linking Collingham Drive and Bailrigg Lane, Lancaster was resurfaced a couple of weeks ago. The grass verge had been encroaching onto the tarmac, so that needed cutting back, but otherwise I was surprised that the Council considered there was a need to do more. I've always thought the surface was very good (not that I'm a tarmac connoisseur) – no potholes, puddles or even trivial irregularities.
The job took three days, and hence was in three sections marked by dividing ridges. Not a problem; after the tar layer had been laid and a smooth coating of sharp gravel smoothly applied, a heavy roller would press the stone into the tar, simultaneously removing the ridges.
Yet that never arrived. Day after day, as I had to decelerate to a slow walking pace to negotiate tight turns on loose gravel, I gave the workmen the benefit of doubt – perhaps they couldn't return to finish the job in ambient temperatures of over 25°C, and would do so when the weather moderated. In the mean time, the surface was degrading, particularly where bike tyres were carving narrow ruts in the gravel. Car tyres might do the roller's job, and force stone into the tar, but narrow bike tyres preferentially push it aside. If the roller ever turned up, it'd also be less than ideal to press horse sh*t into the finished surface.
Complaints via the University's online staff newsletter have drawn a response from the Uni's Travel Plan Co-ordinator: The University wasn't involved in the planning, but he's checked with the City Council and... it's finished. That's it. One of the better cyclepaths in Lancaster has been effectively downgraded to a roughly-surfaced semi-rural track. And to state the obvious, I've paid for this deliberate degradation via my taxes.
The stated aim of the City Council was "to provide a safer surface in icy conditions". Firstly, that's irrelevant for at least nine months of each year, and secondly, the reasoning makes little sense. Coarser aggregate within a fixed, otherwise 'finished' tarmac surface would be great, but loose gravel probably won't even last until winter, and is currently a skidding hazard.
Our Travel Plan Co-ordinator reports that "they [the City Council] are not proposing this treatment for any more routes this year, but it is (at the moment) part of the County Council's standard specification for cycleways." I struggle to believe this is based on engineering principles, and can't help wondering whether it's just cost-cutting, though if that's the case, why not just have left it as it was?
That's my primary objection: it was already absolutely fine.
9 July, 2005
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Conder Green-Lancaster
Quite a short ride today. I followed Ashton Road out of Lancaster to Conder Green, but somehow lost interest in going much further, so, after taking a few photos, came straight back!
24 June, 2005
Gallery of improbable bikes (and trikes, and quads).
23 June, 2005
Sorry; this is another entry probably only of casual interest to me, but my bike computer tells me I've cycled 5002 miles (8,050 km) since 01/02/03. That's 1,000 miles since 27/01/05; the daily commute is a round trip of seven miles, and I often go for a recreational ride of ~30 miles at the weekend.
The figures (if only for my future reference): 5002 miles in 873 days is 5.7 miles per day. At the 3,000 and 4,000-mile points, my average was 5.5 miles/day. The first 2,000 miles took 384 days (call it 192 days per 1000 miles), the third thousand took 161 days, the fourth 185 (longer because it included the winter months) and this last thousand took 143 days – I'm accelerating.
I'm not absolutely sure what I've had done to the bike in that time, but it's included:
- New front fork.
- New bottom bracket.
- New crank. I was hit by a taxi, but luckily that was the only damage.
- New inner tubes, front and rear.
- New tyres. I think I'm on my third rear tyre, but still on the original front one. The rear tread gets a lot of wear, but seemingly not the front tyre.
- New rear wheel. The original one was really flimsy – I buckled it twice descending low kerbs, and it finally died when the brakes wore right through the rim.
- Numerous brake blocks. They only seem to last two, maybe three months.
- New front brake cable. That was only a couple of weeks ago – the cable had corroded and simply snapped, thankfully as I was travelling uphill.
- The saddle is starting to wear through, but doesn't need urgent replacement.
- I think I'm still using the original gear wheels and chain, but they have been slipping for a few weeks, so I think I need to visit the bike shop.
30 May, 2005
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Silverdale-Lancaster
The sky was absolutely clear today, so I felt obliged to make the most of the weather and compulsory day off work and go for a bike ride, even though I'd already done 45 miles (73 km) yesterday. For a while, I've intended to visit Arnside with the camera, but that would be best suited to catching the train there and cycling back. As maintenance/upgrading work has denied Lancaster any rail connections at all each weekend from January to June, the Arnside trip has been delayed. However, recent cycle rides have proved that I could comfortably manage that sort of distance as a round trip by bike alone, so long as I avoided too circuitous a route.
Hence, I blasted up the A6 main road to Carnforth within half an hour. Considering it takes me almost a third of that time just to cross the city centre and the river, twenty minutes for the remaining six miles, in traffic, isn't bad, even though I couldn't sustain 22mph as I had yesterday.
Leaving Carnforth, I discovered a new (to me) cycle track following the River Keer. It cut off a corner, but that's the sort of shortcut I should have avoided, as a short distance on a poorly-maintained lane, with a footbridge over the river, took longer than a greater distance would have on a 'proper' road into and back out of Warton. However, I wasn't that concerned about optimising the route, and having covered the boring 'lead-in' to the ride as quickly as possible, I was happy to wander and explore, stopping for photographs.
That's exactly what I did; I'd planned to follow the road round to Jenny Brown's Point, Silverdale (at 12-15mph), but passing the RSPB nature reserve at Leighton Moss, I realised I could cut off another corner, crossing the saltmarsh itself (at ~3mph...), passing a young family just finishing a barbeque in the nature reserve. I'm sure they knew what they were doing, and they had left no sign that there had been a fire!
Continuing into Silverdale, I was again struck how odd it seems, half-lost in dense woodland and somewhere around 1960.
I'd planned to go on to Arnside, but leaving Silverdale, I suddenly realised I simply couldn't be bothered – perhaps yesterday's long ride had caught up on me. I decided to save that part of the trip for another time, and instead just completed the circuit of Warton Crag, passing Leighton Moss, the Yealands (Yealand Stoors, -Redmayne and -Conyers), back to Warton. From there, I took a wrong turning, missing a photo opportunity at the ancestral home of George Washington's family and dumping me amongst the articulated lorries on a dual carriageway section of the A6. I'd intended to avoid that and follow minor roads back to Lancaster via Over Kellet, but: too late. I stuck with the traffic instead, rather nervously – legally, I was entitled to be there, but in my own judgement I don't think that section of road, by the motorway junction, is an appropriate place for cyclists.
Just past Carnforth, the road and canal run alongside one another, so to get out of the traffic, I followed the towpath back to Lancaster.
If anyone's remotely interested, I cycled 31.6 miles (50.9 km) in 3:41 hours (2:54 moving), with a maximum speed of 26mph (42 km/h).
29 May, 2005
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Garstang-Chipping-Dunsop Bridge-Lancaster
This was my first 'long' bike ride of the year; indeed, probably my longest planned bike ride to date.
It began with a quick 21 mph blast down the A6 to Garstang, then followed minor roads around the southern boundary of the Forest of Bowland AONB to Chipping, then even smaller lanes across to the Hodder Valley. That was quite a long way in itself, but it was also the easy part. From Dunsop Bridge I still had to climb the Trough of Bowland, follow Wyresdale to Abbeystead, then climb again to pass Jubilee Tower and return to Lancaster. In total, I rode 45.47 miles (73.18 km, or the equivalent of Manchester to Leeds) in 5:22 hours (3:57 moving), at a maximum speed of 29.8 mph.
The weather was good, so I took a few (dozen...) photos.
22 May, 2005
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Over Kellet-Borwick-Halton-Lancaster
Many visitors to the Ministry arrive via Google searches. A fairly frequent one is for 'Borwick Hall', which is a little embarrassing, as a single, rather poor quality photo I took of the Elizabethan manor house (now a council-run outdoor activities centre) last year seems to rank highly in search results. That's a poor advert for the site, so I went back today to take a few better photos.
For most of the outward trip, via Nether and Over Kellets, the weather was good, but as I approached Borwick, I happened to glance back. Ahead and to the sides was full sunlight. Directly behind me, and approaching rapidly, was the purplish blackness of a thunderstorm – I'd thought it was traffic noise from the nearby motorway.
In a way, the well-lit foreground and dark background improved my photos of the Hall, but I had to hurry before escaping down the canal towpath to shelter beneath the nearest bridge for 10-15 minutes.
Whilst there, watching the intense rain bouncing off bedraggled sheep, I happened to notice the corpse of a Mallard in the canal. Somehow I failed to make the connection at the time, so didn't take a photograph, but one of my mother's favourite expressions, denoting lethargy, is 'like a dead duck in a thunderstorm'. Well, this was the real thing.
I hadn't intended to go further, so headed back to Lancaster. However, after the heavy rain, all the spring vegetation looked fresh and attractive, so I cycled via Halton and back along the River Lune, taking a few (uncharacteristically?) 'pretty' photos.
There was a time when I considered 22 miles in 2:22 hours (not counting time spent stationary), at a maximum speed of 22.7 mph, to be a substantial ride; now it's routine!
20 May, 2005
Why is it that a road surface during/after light rain feels 'greasy' underfoot and is drastically more slippery than during/after heavy rainfall? Further rain onto this 'waxy' surface somehow improves traction, which isn't intuitive.
18 May, 2005
Damn pesky kids
Sometimes paranoia can be useful.
The final section of dedicated cycle track before joining the road at Hala passes through a gap in a high hedge. There's a bollard in the middle of the gap, preventing access by car.
On my way home this evening, I noticed that one side of the gap was totally blocked by a pile of branches and fence posts, and that a group of children ran away into the bushes as soon as I appeared. Why were they hiding, and why was I being forced onto one side of the path? I stopped.
The 'open' side of the gap had been strung with fishing line – invisible until a couple of metres away. I'm not entirely sure what would have happened if I'd hit it, but stretched from the bollard to a tree and back at least six times, I doubt it would have just snapped.
Needless to say, the barricade is now scattered over a wide area, and the fishing line went in a bin a couple of miles away.
14 May, 2005
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Crook O'Lune (nearly)-Lancaster
Today's ride was simply to the Crook O'Lune, one of my more frequent destinations, but I started with a slightly different route and the photos of the spring vegetation aren't bad, so it's worth mentioning.
I left Lancaster as if to take the hilly inland route to Caton, but changed my mind almost immediately and followed the valley floor along Grab Lane to the disused Moor Hospital. A few photos I took a while ago, from a distance, have been mildly popular in web searches, so I took the time to explore the perimeter a little better and to capture a couple of closer views. For much the same reason, after going through the cemetery to photograph the bluebells around the graves, I went on to HM YOI Lancaster Farms to obtain a clearer version of a murky photo which, slightly embarrassingly, attracts several visitors via Google. That has now been removed from the site!
The (very) rough track from the prison to Denny Beck is the shortest route to the Lune, but I know from my earlier attempt that it isn't really rideable on a road-configured bike, and it's quicker to go the long way at ~15 mph than the short one at ~3 mph. Hence, I followed a new (to me) route into town through the Ridge council estate then back out along the riverside cycle path.
Spring had definitely sprung along the southern bank of the River Lune; the only parts not a vibrant green were in flower. I left the surfaced cycle track at Halton weir to follow a secluded footpath though the woods. Beautiful. A bonus was seeing a woodpecker, and being able to find its nest and take an unhurried photo.
The span of the Crook O'Lune Viaduct nearer Lancaster has been closed for repair/renovation since March 2004, so I couldn't cross the Lune. Instead, I went for another short walk through the woods, following the riverbank. Unfortunately, too many tiny streams terminated in an area frequented by cattle, so it was difficult to find a dry path. After 5-10 minutes, the Viaduct was still only 20-30 m away, so I gave up and returned to the main track, then back to Lancaster.
28 April, 2005
Sometimes I really like cycling to work. This morning I passed seven squirrels, four rabbits and a startled stoat - startled because, as with all the others, it didn't hear the bike until I was 3-4 metres away (not that I was trying - I'd probably have been more obtrusive if furtive).
You don't get that in a city as large as Manchester, nor even in rural areas if travelling by car.
26 March, 2005
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Glasson Dock-Cockersands-Lancaster
Today's bike ride was quite straightforward, and stayed within the Lancaster area. I've mislaid the note I made of the mileage, but it must have been about 20 miles (~32 km).
From home, I simply followed Ashton Road out to Conder Green, then on to Glasson Dock. After stopping to take a few photos, I crossed the northern part of the Lancashire coastal plain to Cockersand and the remains of its abbey. Despite the best efforts of a passer-by to direct me across open fields and a potentially submerged area of saltmarsh, the end of the road at Cockersand 'beach' was as far as I wanted to go by bike, so I followed the dry, non-muddy roads to Thurnham and hence back to Conder Green. From there, I returned home via the cycle track along the long-disused Glasson-Lancaster railway line.
Incidentally, I can't work whether it should be 'Cockersand' or 'Cockersands'. One previously unreliable source suggests it's the former for the abbey and the latter for the locality i.e. that Cockersand Abbey is in Cockersands. Still doubting, I've gone with the former throughout, but I don't know whether that's correct.
24 March, 2005
Every weekend from January until March (now extended to June), the railway line through Lancaster has been closed for maintenance/upgrading. This has meant that all my weekend bike rides have been restricted to the local area, within a radius if 15-20 miles. One benefit of the University being closed for easter is that I wasn't at work today, so could try something a little more ambitious.
I took my bike to Windermere by train; fairly straightforward on the direct local service, though I think it'd have been more awkward if I'd had to catch the Intercity to Kendal first. From Windermere, I followed the main road to Ambleside. If there was an alternative, I'd recommend it, as this wasn't a pleasant ride, in heavy traffic. The first couple of miles were consistently downhill, too, which was a slight concern – returning, I might be both tired and rushing to catch the Lancaster train, so the final section mightn't be fun.
Once past Ambleside, onto the Langdale road, it was much better, and I felt able to decelerate and take photos. My plan was to follow the very familiar route to the Old Dungeon Ghyll, as far along Great Langdale as the road goes, then return via Little Langdale. It's one of my favourite walking areas, but I'd never visited by bike.
Having said that, I digressed onto an unfamiliar route almost immediately. On the map, it looked as if the steep road from Skelwith Bridge to Grasmere (village) would offer good views of Langdale and Grasmere (lake/valley), despite the hazy weather. It wasn't a complete success, as the northern side of the pass was heavily wooded, so I couldn't see Grasmere without actually going there, which wasn't exactly the point.
The rest of the ride into Langdale was more familiar; if you've ever been there, you know the route I took, as there's only the one road!
Climbing Side Pike to cross into Little Langdale was as tough as expected; this was a surprisingly hot, humid day, so I have to confess I walked the toughest section (124m ascent in under 1 km) and was very glad to freewheel most of the way down the valley on the other side.
I'd completed my main objectives, but thought I had a bit more time before needing to head back, so I investigated Colwith Force, a waterfall marked on the map, at the mouth of Little Langdale. There was no cycle access, but a short (~200m) walk was worthwhile – it's a pity more people don't know about the impressive waterfall, but also good, as I had it to myself.
Returning to the bike, I began to worry about the time, so abandoned any plans to look around the slate quarries or Elterwater (lake), and headed straight back to Windermere at full speed, arriving, er, about half an hour too early. I went into the town (village?) centre, and straight out again (I've never liked it; it's a poor amalgamation of tourism and 1950s-style market town), heading for the lake and viewpoints noted on the map, but there wasn't really time, and I returned to the station, having travelled 29.5 miles (47.4km) in 2½ hours (not counting stops), at a maximum speed of 28mph (45kmh).
19 March, 2005
Just a short cycle ride today, to the floodplain of the River Lune just upstream of Caton. I took a few photographs before leaving Lancaster, then followed the north side of the Lune for a change, passing Halton and the Crook Of Lune. My plan was to walk along the riverbank from there, but there was nowhere safe to leave my bike, so I went on to the end of the cyclepath, locked the bike to a fence then just walked for a kilometre or so. I returned via Brookhouse and the inland 'back' route to Lancaster, arriving just on sunset.
For once, I'm reasonably pleased with a couple of these images, as a bit more than just a record of where I've been.
13 March, 2005
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Kirkby Lonsdale-Lancaster
To Kirkby Lonsdale this morning; a small market town on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales but just over the Lancashire border into Cumbria, which surprises some.
The ride up the Lune Valley isn't my favourite, especially the section between Tunstall and Kirkby Lonsdale, which seems flat and boringly featureless, but is actually slightly uphill, and feels much further than 4-5 miles. It's always a relief to reach Devil's Bridge and cross the River Lune. Many passers-by only stop to admire the bridge but the town itself is very attractive, and I'd specifically visited to take a few photographs.
Mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) and retaining a mediaeval streetplan of narrow lanes and courtyards, the central area was largely rebuilt in the 17th-18th Centuries. It is rather tourist-orientated – the population of ~2,000 doesn't require ~60 shops – but many shopfronts are Listed and care has been taken to retain the heritage and beautiful surrounding area acclaimed by Constable, Turner and Ruskin.
Unfortunately, the early Spring sunlight and long shadows were rather harsh, and only a few photos are worth showing. Next time....
I didn't want to return home via exactly the same route, so I followed the more hilly 'B' roads along the northern rim of the Lune Valley, passing Whittington, Arkholme and Halton.
Overall, the round trip was 56 km (35 miles) and took four hours – rather slow, but that includes time spent on foot in Kirkby Lonsdale; the bike was parked for over an hour and some of the 2:50 hours logged by the bike computer as 'moving' was at walking pace.
9 March, 2005
Cycling home from work yesterday, I noticed that whenever I braked to turn a corner, the steering became very heavy and pulled to one side. Rationalising this held my attention all the way home, but I rejected all my theories &ndash misaligned brake pads, buckled rims, and elaborate, improbable physics (Coriolis force?).
This morning, I found a drawing pin in the front tyre. I suppose it might be involved.
I absolutely had to be in work on time today, as I needed to activate a webcast, so I left the drawing pin in and rode carefully. It held ;)
27 February, 2005
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Calder Vale-Abbeystead-Lancaster
I went to the southern limit of my usual cycling range today, exploring a new area near Scorton then into Wyresdale as far as Abbeystead and back home via Jubilee Tower.
Normally, I'd start by following the A6 main road straight to the outskirts of Scorton, as I can get the slightly boring preamble to the 'real' ride out of the way at a steady 21 mph. However, I also wanted to explore the non-motorway access to Forton Services, so turned off the A6 early and followed tiny lanes.
After leaving Scorton, more tiny lanes took me to Calder Vale, a seemingly-remote 19th Century (and barely changed since then) mill village. It's a slightly strange place, worth visiting.
The path to the village church (well outside the village itself – Calder Vale was founded by Quakers, presumably a little hostile to the established Church of England) led onwards to Harrisend Fell and a familiar route into Wyresdale. I followed that as far as Abbeystead, slightly aimlessly, before realising I didn't have a particular destination in mind, the valley is a dead end unless I planned to cross the pass to Dunsop Bridge and seriously extend the ride, and even if I turned back immediately, I had a very hilly ride to Lancaster via Jubilee Tower, and wouldn't reach home before dark. Oops. At least the sunset was photogenic.
I was out for 4:20 hours, 2:53 of which were spent moving. I covered 33.65 miles (54 km), at a 'personal best' top speed of 35.1 mph (56.5 km/h). Actually, I'm uncomfortable about cycling that quickly – if I fell off at speed whilst wearing ordinary cycling clothes I could be hurt.
19 February, 2005
Cycling: Hest Bank-Morecambe-Heysham-Sunderland
Last Sunday, I woke early, so went for a two-hour bike ride before the majority of Lancastrians had even woken. Since this was another sunny morning, I planned to do the same again, but various tasks prevented me leaving until 12:30.
I'm in the slightly awkward position of having already cycled most of the obvious routes in the immediate vicinity – to explore somewhere new, I'd need to repeat 10-15 miles of familiar routes first. I may need to start taking the bike on the train soon; in fact, I planned to do that today, before realising that the current closure of the West Coast main line in the Lancaster area, every weekend Jan-March 2005, affected local services too, and that cycling to and back from the nearest (open) station would add 12 miles to any planned trip. This means I'm tethered for another month.
I finally decided to combine and repeat a couple of earlier rides, but generally in the opposite direction to the previous occasions. I hoped this would provide a different view.
I headed straight out of Lancaster along the main road (A6), towards Hest Bank. On previous occasions, I've followed the canal towpath; pretty in spring/summer, but slow and no doubt muddy in winter. I also wanted to reach my 'starting point', the coast at Hest Bank, as soon as possible. The clear morning sky now had broken cloud, and I hoped to take a few photos of the view before it got too bad. Cycling directly into a fairly strong northeasterly wind wasn't too pleasant, either, not least because I'd misjudged the temperature and chill, and dressed less warmly than I could. I just wanted to get that section of the ride over with, as most of the remainder of the planned route was with the wind and hence less of a struggle.
The rest of the route was more-or-less as straightforward, following the coast road from Hest Bank to Morecambe, along the promenade to the Midland Hotel and Stone Quay, then on via Sandylands Promenade to Heysham. I stopped at Heysham Head for a can of Coke (I wasn't so cold by then!), then followed minor lanes across the headland to Overton, on the River Lune side. I made a slight detour to Sunderland, then back to Overton and on to Lancaster, pausing at Sainsbury's for my weekly shopping. I suppose I could describe this all as a trip to the supermarket – the long way.
Reversed, it's a ride I'd planned to do almost exactly a year ago, but on that occasion, my first ever visit to Sunderland, I was surprised how far it actually is from Lancaster (~10 miles), so I only did the round trip from the city to Sunderland and back.
I covered 27.56 miles (44.35 km) in total, reaching a rather low maximum speed of 24 mph (39 km/h), probably because of the wind and lack of fast downhill sections.
I was out for three hours and twenty minutes, though at least twenty minutes were spent in Sainsburys, and I stopped several times to take photos. The bike was actually moving for 2¼ hours.
31 January, 2005
Still cycling along...
On Saturday, three days short of the second anniversary of my fitting a bike computer, I passed the 4,000 miles (6,437 km) mark; at the time of writing, these legs have done 4,038 miles.
Updating the rather pointless statistics noted last July, when I passed 3,000 miles, it works out as 1022 miles in the 185 days since then, or 5.5 miles per day, 38.7 per week. That's markedly less than Feb-July 2004 (merely to and from work would be 35 miles per week) but it does include a particularly wet autumn/winter and hence few extra rides at weekends, and fits the long-term average of 5.5 miles per day, Feb '03-Feb '05.
30 January, 2005
It seems bicycles have to be licenced in the city of Milwaukee, USA. I'd fully support a similar scheme in the UK.
Or rather, I wouldn't. On closer examination, the Milwaukee licence is a means of identifying an individual bike, not proof of the rider's competence, which is what's really needed.
29 January, 2005
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Caton Moor-Hornby-Lancaster
One of my more frequent weekend bike rides is to Hornby along the Lune Cycleway (aka Millennium Park) and A683 main road, then across the Lune Valley floor to Gressingham and back along the top of the valley side to Halton and Lancaster. It's a decent 20-mile ride, fairly photogenic and with a few moderate hills. Today's varient added a more strenuous ~250m ascent over Caton Moor.
Two roads cross the Moor west-east: Roeburndale Road on the southern side and Quarry Road on the north. My PhD research catchment was between the two, so both roads became very familiar. However, though both are through routes from Brookhouse to Roeburndale (and on to Wray) and Brookhouse to Claughton respectively, I've only followed the full length of Roeburndale Road once or twice and, before today, had never explored Quarry Road beyond its highest point.
Frankly, I hadn't missed much; 1-2 km of steep gravel track wasn't much fun on a bike more suited to surfaced roads. At least I know now. It did pass Claughton Hall and the quarry supplying Claughton Manor Brickworks with clay, so I might go back to investigate further, but I think I'll ascend the unsurfaced track next time, perhaps on foot, and return to Brookhouse along the proper road.
Once back on the valley floor, I followed the usual route, as described above, though I locked the bike to a signpost in Hornby and walked a short distance along the River Wenning for a different view of Hornby Castle from the east. I also stopped at Castle Stede and Loyn Bridge to obtain replacements for a couple of inadequate photos I published here last year. Today's photos are here.
And that seemed to be that – the January light was failing rapidly, so I headed straight home. However, the sky was beautiful immediately after the sun dropped below the horizon, as was cloud which was forming around Clougha Pike, so I obtained a few more worthwhile photos.
17 January, 2005
Just as I start wearing a high-visibility jacket for cycling*, Jon Ronson suggests in the Guardian that dayglo garments have become ubiquitous in urban areas so are barely noticed.
To become practically invisible, wear a workman's safety jacket.
I'd agree, to an extent. It's not that one doesn't see the jacket, it's that the mind can readily categorise the wearer and switch attention to something else. However, that same argument weakens Ronson's closing presumption:
Throughout the early 1990s, cyclist and motorcycle deaths fell year on year. Then, from 1995, they began to rise. It isn't that cyclists have stopped wearing high-visibility jackets. The problem, perhaps, is that the opposite is true.
That's fitting a credible hypothesis to observed data, but it isn't necessarily causal. That is, the number of fatalities have increased, but there's no evidence of a link to jacket usage.
I'd suggest that a pedestrian sees and ignores a workman in a high-visibility jacket because he (or she, obviously) isn't directly relevant, whereas a driver sees a cyclist and pays more attention to a potential hazard - the cyclist is
*: I was a little dismissive of such garments when I first mentioned (sixth paragraph) the possibility of my getting one, but:
a) I don't (knowingly) let idealism interfere with pragmatism - cyclists shouldn't have to make an extra effort to assist car drivers, but I'd rather do so than visit Intensive Care.
b) I chose a sleeved jacket rather than a waistcoat, so I now have an extremely lightweight, supposedly showerproof jacket to carry in a pocket or daypack on summer cycle rides, 'just in case', when I wouldn't want to take a heavier jacket.
18 December, 2004
There was a covering of snow on the distant hills today, so I went for a bike ride as far as Claughton, between Caton and Hornby in the Lune Valley, hoping for a few reasonable photos. However, though the air was clear(-ish), the December light was rather 'thin', so I've only bothered to process four images.
14 December, 2004
Put it away
That's the second time I've nearly been sideswiped by a cyclist using a mobile phone.
Using a handheld phone whilst driving a car is rightfully illegal in the UK, but at least it's possible to control a car (most of the time) whilst holding a phone. Someone cycling one-handed whilst composing a text message simply isn't controlling the vehicle adequately, nor paying attention to his/her surroundings.
He/she is also a bad ambassador for other cyclists. If he/she wobbled under a truck, I'd be less concerned about the death or serious injury of that idiot than the poor driver who hit him/her, and the effect on my reputation as a cyclist. It's this sort of minority, who probably also rides on pavements and without lights, which gives drivers and pedestrians the totally wrong impression that all cyclists behave that way.
18 September, 2004
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Galgate-Conder Green-Galgate-Lancaster
The three miles (5 km) of the Glasson Branch, opened in 1826, link the main Lancaster Canal to the sea at Glasson Dock. I've cycled the route before, but years ago, without a camera (nor a permit to ride on the towpath - naughty), so I repeated the trip this afternoon; here are the photographs.
12 September, 2004
Abortive trip to Morecambe
According to the local papers, a reenactment of the D-Day landings was scheduled for this weekend, with Morecambe beach representing Normandy. Though the weather was rather windy and threatened rain, I decided to have a look.
I took a few photos along the cycle path to Morecambe, but when I arrived, I couldn't find a hint of anything related to the 1940s. There were more people around than I'd expect on a blustery Sunday, but there seemed to be no focus to the crowd, so after wandering along the promenade as far as Bare (part of Morecambe - I don't know the source of the name) and back via depressing council estates (it was too windy to return along the prom, against the wind), I, er, went home.
7 September, 2004
Bikey is in for repairs and servicing at present, so I'm gratefully borrowing A's bike for the daily commute to work.
Whilst it's otherwise fine and particularly robust, the knobbly off-road tyres (max. pressure: 40psi) have a massively greater rolling resistance than Bikey's 65psi near-slicks, so this morning's workout was rather more strenuous than usual!
If anyone reading this cycle-commutes on a mountain bike with knobblies, as I used to before buying a hybrid (mountain bike profile, but optimised for road use), you mightn't realise the difference proper road tyres make. I'd strongly recommend trying them.
21 August, 2004
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Galgate-Trough of Bowland-Jubilee Tower-Lancaster
Last night, my mother rang to tell me that Galgate, the village just south of Lancaster where I lived 1994-96, was on the TV news: the River Conder had breached its flood barriers after sustained (though not especially heavy, to my knowledge) rainfall. This morning I took my new camera for its first outing, to Galgate.
Oddly, there were few signs that there had been flooding at all. A few houses had sandbags across their doorsteps and part of the flood barrier (a low concrete wall lining the bank) was demolished, but there were no indications that the river itself had been particularly high (flattened vegetation, silt deposits, etc.).
Glad that there hadn't been more damage, but secretly disappointed at the lack of a photo opportunity (!), I decided to cycle out to Dolphinholme to see if the River Wyre was particularly high. Foolishly, I forgot the layout of the village and took a wrong turn along a road parallel with river but out of line of sight. I'd already decided to go on to the picturesque hamlet of Abbeystead, also on the Wyre, so didn't bother to retrace my steps. It was further to Abbeystead than I remembered, and some sort of fete prevented me from wandering around with the camera, so I decided to go on yet again - it couldn't be much further to the Trough of Bowland. Thus, the ~4 mile trip to Galgate reached its furthest point, after 18 miles....
Since I'd already gone to that effort, it seemed to make sense to return to Lancaster via the viewpoint of Clougha, Jubilee Tower. However, I'd only had a cup of tea and a bowl of corn flakes since waking, and hadn't brought a drink, so I began to tire on the long climb from Abbeystead (130m asl) to Jubilee Tower (287m), into the wind, having already been to 300m at the head of the Trough (that's 130m to 300m, back to 130m then on to 287m, if it's unclear). If I'd planned this in advance, I doubt I'd have chosen it!
Though cool, thankfully, the weather was still humid and hence a little hazy, but the new camera managed to take better photos than I expected. These are reduced to a publishable size, but the originals have a better resolution than the naked eye - very impressive.
A stop at the viewpoint gave me something of a rest, so the final few miles back to Lancaster wasn't too bad, considering it's a tough ride at the best of times: 287m-53m in 4km, then 53m-111m in ~750m (three hairpin bends), on to 134m in ~500m, down to 63m in 1.5km, then a final 20m climb in ~200m.
In total, that was 28.41miles (45.72km) in about three hours, of which 2hrs 21mins were spent in motion. Only 20 miles more than expected!
15 August, 2004
Cycle ride: Sunderland Point after work
The weather was too good this afternoon to just go home after work, so I merely collected my camera and continued with a brief bike ride to Sunderland Point (yes, the headland beyond Sunderland village). Not that I took many photos; I was there for the experience rather than to record it.
7 August, 2004
Cycling: Lancaster-Lower Bentham-Hornby-Lancaster
Another hot, humid Saturday, so I obviously went for a long cycle ride. Erm....
Having passed through Hornby last weekend, I decided to go back to the same area, via Caton and Brookhouse to avoid some of the traffic on the main A683. I haven't mentioned in the blog that one of the bridges at the Crook O'Lune is closed for major repairs, so the quiet cycle route to Caton is currently unavailable.
This meant that the trip began with an uphill section I ordinarily avoid. Unsurprisingly, I regretted wearing a black T-shirt by the time I reached the top, so took it off. I didn't think to put it back on until I returned to Lancaster, after 3½ hours in direct sunlight - it's lucky I didn't burn.
After taking a couple of photos of Brookhouse Church, I followed a road I'd never encountered before, other than on the map. The main road from Caton to Brookhouse is extremely familiar, as I travelled that way literally hundreds of times to reach my PhD research site on the Moor, and the A683 is equally familiar as pretty much the only route east from Lancaster, yet I'd never followed the road linking the two. There's an entire hamlet I didn't know existed, Caton Green.
Just before Hornby, the road splits. The A683 goes on to Hornby, but I did that last week, so on a whim I turned onto the Wray road, to turn back towards Hornby by a different route. That idea was abandoned, and I went on to Wray. I consulted my map there and spotted the word 'waterfall', so went on, along a back route towards Lower Bentham which I've only used once in a decade. The waterfall wasn't accessible, but it didn't seem much further to Lower Bentham. Though a pleasantly isolated, peaceful ride, nothing caught my eye as a good photograph.
Lower Bentham was much further from home than I'd intended to travel (in an entirely different county, for one thing!), and there was still a very long way back - if I rejoined my planned route, I wasn't even halfway. The plan had been to ride through Hornby, cross the River Lune at Loyn Bridge, then return to Lancaster along the northern side of the Lune Valley, via Gressingham and Halton. Examining my map in Wennington, my options were to go straight home along the A683 from Hornby (as I did last week in ~45 mins of intensive riding), or continue as planned along a very hilly and slightly longer route, which would have been more recreational if I wasn't tired already. I was, but did that anyway. I stopped on Loyn Bridge to drink a can of Coke, which seemed to restore a bit of energy.
I was glad I went that way, as the altered viewpoint over a familiar landscape was worth seeing. This is one to try again, perhaps later in the year when haze might be reduced and photography improved. I took the uphill sections slowly, but there was a long, fast hill down into Halton - great today, but less conducive to heading out that way in future, up a long, fairly steep hill.
I popped into Sainsburys as I returned to Lancaster, which wasn't out of my way but added ten minutes to the overall travel time of 3 hours 23 mins, 2:32 hrs spent moving, covering 32.97 miles (53 km). That's probably my longest single bike trip of the year, and the peak speed of 31.7mph (51 km/h) is one of the highest, too.
1 August, 2004
As mentioned 'yesterday' (I'm posting this retrospectively, a few days late, as it took a while to process the accompanying images), Jonnie's extended birthday celebration included a camping trip, to Dent, in the Yorkshire Dales.
The camping itself was wonderful. That's not entirely an overstatement, as I enjoyed myself to a disproportionate extent. It's been a while since I last camped, and I'd almost forgotten how much I enjoy spending time with friends, not really doing anything. I rarely make time to just sit, and relished the novelty.
However, this posting is primarily a link to photos of the trip to and back from Dent. When it was first mentioned at the Water Witch, alcohol and the plans of others prompted my decision to cycle to Dent. I routinely cycle ~30 miles (50 km) each weekend, so the distance (guessed to be 30 miles) was no problem, Alizon and Kerry were kind enough to take my tent, sleeping bag and big rucksack by car, and there was no rush.
Ten miles out of Lancaster, I was having second thoughts - it was a hot, humid day and the road surface was unexpectedly rough, holding me below 20 mph 'flat out'. Then it suddenly became much easier, and the rest of the ride, even the steep ascents, wasn't particularly tiring. Even if it hadn't been a beautiful route, this would at least have reassured me that I could readily complete much longer cycle rides. Then again, if it hadn't been a beautiful route, the distance might have been just a mindless slog, and no fun. I've mentioned that before, and had a hint of it this time, too. My mental image of the Lune Valley had somehow omitted the 10-12 km between Melling and Kirkby Lonsdale, so that section seemed endless and a little boring. The trip proved that I'm capable of cycling to the Lake District, for example, but I'm still more likely to take a train at least as far as Windermere - I could cycle it, but why?
I reached the Barbon Inn (incidentally, I designed that website in 2000 - I've improved since then!) at 18:15, precisely 1½ hours after leaving home, but Barbon is at 80 m above sea level (asl) and the road over the Barbondale pass reaches 310 m asl, so it took almost a further hour to reach the camp site at Dent. In total, I took 2 hours 23 minutes (2 hours and 2 seconds in motion) to travel 27.75 miles (44.6 km), according to my bike computer.
Not bad, but the return trip was much faster. I'm very grateful to Harriet & Diggory for a lift back up the extreme hill from Dent (~140 m asl) to the head of Barbondale (310 m asl), which removed the bulk of the effort and cut ~3 miles off the trip. From there, I cycled almost non-stop for the 24.58 miles back to Lancaster, taking 1 hour 28 mins, of which only 18 seconds were spent stationary, according to the bike computer's spurious accuracy. Somehow it was easy to maintain speeds of over 20 mph (~30 km/h) for most of the ride. I suppose that discounting minor undulations, the Lune Valley is downhill all the way!
See the images for further comments. Apologies for the slightly lower image quality than usual. Anticipating that I might want to fit numerous images onto the camera's memory card, I dropped the resolution of each.
30 July, 2004
On 20 February, I wrote that according to my bike computer, I'd cycled 1,970 miles (3,283 km) since 1 Feb. 2003. This morning, I noticed that I've just passed 3,000 miles: 3,016 miles, or 5,027 km.
A few more mildly interesting but ultimately pointless observations:
- 1,970 miles in 384 days, (Feb.-Feb.), averages 5.1 miles per day. A round trip to work is approximately 7 miles, so that allows for days off at weekends.
- 3,016 miles in 545 days, (Feb. '03-July '04) averages 5.5 miles per day.
- However, 1,046 miles in 161 days (Feb.-July '04) averages 6.5 miles per day, 45.5 miles (75.8 km) per week.
And that's an average - some weeks I go straight to/from work and barely leave the house at weekends, so the weeks when I take extended routes to/from work and go for longer rides at the weekends must exceed 60 miles (100 km).
That's a lot for someone who regards himself as merely a cycle commuter.
NP: Explosions In The Sky, 06/06/03
29 July, 2004
Long way to work
I woke early on a sunny morning, so why not go for a bike ride on the way to work instead of on the way home, as I usually tend to do?
I'm glad I did, as a couple of the accompanying photos aren't bad. Unfortunately, the morning heat haze meant that there were few other photo opportunities.
29 July, 2004
I've just been challenged for cycling past someone a couple of weeks ago without acknowledging him.
Sorry Jim. I'd never knowingly blank someone, but it's certainly true that when I'm on the bike, I'm genuinely unaware of other road users as individuals, they're simply obstacles. I see a car but not the driver, or a bike but not the cyclist. A face is only relevant in judging the focus of a road user's attention and whether he/she is a hazard; I don't see the person. I doubt I could even comment on the colour of the car or bike as soon as it passes out of my field of view.
The psychological implications are... unflattering, but I'm just focused, honest!
24 July, 2004
Cycle ride: University-Quernmore-Lancaster
An advantage of living alone is that there's nothing preventing me from taking a scenic route home from work, on the spur of the moment (so long as I'm home by 19:00 to ring Helen!).
As I left the office yesterday, I thought I was going straight home; it wasn't until 10-20m from the roundabout that I suddenly decided to turn left (south) rather than right, and extended the usual 3.5 mile (6 km) trip to at least seven.
I headed round the southern boundary of the University, under the motorway then back north to the Hazelrigg research station; in the time I'd usually take to reach Lancaster, I was in line with the starting point and under a few hundred metres from the office. Dropping down into the Conder Valley, I followed it past Quernmore 'village' (more a loose association of separate farms), then over the ridge back into Lancaster from the east.
Not a bad ride, worth mentioning because I had a camera with me.
NP: Ozric Tentacles, 'Swirly Termination'
18 July, 2004
Cycling: Lancaster-Scorton-Conder Green-Lancaster
For once, I didn't cycle alone today; J. was foolish enough to accept my invitation. I planned a relatively easy route, leaving opportunities to extend it as time and energy allowed. We followed the A6 to Galgate, then lanes past Dolphinholme to Grizedale Fell, then round the back of Nicky Nook to Scorton. At that point, I'd considered heading back up the Wyre Valley, perhaps to Jubilee Tower, but J. very sensibly preferred to follow a flatter route to the coast and follow the Lune back to Lancaster.
Admittedly, I think I could have completed the same route in about ¾ of the time (i.e. an hour less) at my normal pace, but that's an unfair comparison, as I'm used to riding such distances on a weekly basis. Though he visits a gym a couple of times each week, and can benchpress considerably more than my weight, J. has relatively little experience of riding on hilly roads on a hot, humid day. We made a few rest stops, which I wouldn't ordinarily have done, but that was partly because of the challenging pace J. set. Whenever I paused to take a photograph, he soon vanished in the distance, and I struggled to catch up. I estimated that he was riding at an average of 14-15 mph (if I stopped for a minute, he'd be ¼ mile away before I restarted), so at my usual 17-18 mph average pace it took a while to catch him. My bike computer records time spent in motion, as opposed to total time; I can't find the exact figures, but I'm pretty sure that if the periods spent stationary (i.e. breaks) were discounted, the trip time would be about normal for my riding.
Not that it was a problem; it was a good ride.
27 June, 2004
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Over Kellet-Tewitfield-Lancaster
This week's cycle ride was a little longer than usual; I'd anticipated two hours for the destination and route I'd chosen, but it took a full three hours (to within 15 seconds, according to my bike computer), of which I was stationary for only 28 minutes. It was slightly disappointing that I 'only' covered 28 miles (47 km) in that time, but well over half was off-road, so I travelled slowly.
I had a vague plan to cycle to Over Kellet, a small village in the less-visited area immediately north of Lancaster, between the coast and the Lune valley. I've probably passed through the village no more than twice in a decade. Looking at the map, it seemed appropriate to return along the canal towpath, in which case it made sense go a little further north, to the point in Capernwray where the road adjoins the canal.
I noticed recently that there's an alternative route to Halton, heading almost directly north from Moorlands and avoiding the need to head west into town just to double back out along the river; on the map, it looks as if over a mile is saved. I'd been that way once before, with Harriet, but had forgotten. In hindsight, I'm not sure it was worthwhile, as it involved following a metalled road disused for decades, and hence severely potholed, then a steep gravel track on which I had to decelerate to walking pace. If I'd followed the Lune Cycleway, I could have travelled at least five times as fast.
Skirting Nether Kellet, I approached Over Kellet past two quarries; there are several in the area, which I think extract carboniferous limestone, probably crushed for aggregate. Incidentally, I noticed a signpost advertising a caravan park adjacent to the quarries. A week or so in a thin-walled, single-glazed (with poor sound insulation, I mean) metal cuboid within tens of metres of the noise and dust of loading huge lorries with stone, not to mention blasting, seems a strange holiday. I wonder if the owners warn clients when they book.
Over Kellet was quaint, if not actually picturesque, but the village green seemed to attract lost drivers, so I couldn't casually wander around. This was the case along the road to Capernwray too, which became extremely annoying. Approaching Jackdaw Quarry and the diving centre, I noticed a low-flying buzzard very nearby, and would have liked to stop, but there was a car following me closely and no passing places I could pull into, so I had to keep going, even when I realised the profile and colour of the buzzard were odd, and even when I realised it was a red kite - my first sighting of one since ~1993 and my first ever in England. A few hundred metres further on, I pulled off the road, let the car pass, then went back, but the opportunity had passed.
This was where I'd intended to join the canal and head back, but as usual I changed the plan, going on to Tewitfield, the northernmost navigable point on the Lancaster Canal. A number of private gardens in Borwick and Priest Hutton were participating in an open day, so the villages were unexpectedly crowded by pensioners, who seemed unable to comprehend that a country lane is still a road, not a footpath.
Tewitfield was somehow depressing: an 'A' road passes over the M6 motorway, the bridge embankment truncating the canal, which unceremoniously just stops in a field behind a pub, a few metres from continuous traffic.
I'd travelled 15 miles (25 km), so presumably faced the same again to go home. The entire return trip was along the canal towpath, a direct route in I just had to follow it, but the Lancaster Canal is unique in having no locks in the full navigable reach from Tewitfield 42 miles (70 km) south to Preston, so follows a rather circuitous path avoiding hills and valleys. Within minutes I thought I'd chosen badly, as projecting tree roots and stones made for slow, uncomfortable riding. By Carnforth, my shoulders were aching and my right hand was cramping (I don't know why, but that often happens on fairly long rides), so was thankful that from there on to Lancaster, the towpath has recently been levelled and I was able to accelerate to ~15mph, half as much again as I'd achieved on the rough track.
I'd summarise the ride back from Tewitfield as just a slog, the discomfort and even boredom outweighing the minor achievement of having been to the end of the navigable part of the canal. This mirrors my attitude to some styles of hill walking. I certainly enjoy walking, but for the views and either solitude if I'm walking alone or shared time with friends if I'm not. I don't walk for the sake of walking; I have little interest in walking from A to B merely for the achievement of having walked from A to B, especially if a road or railway links them anyway!
There was one final highlight as I entered Lancaster: a sudden flash of electric blue feathers revealed a kingfisher, only the second I remember seeing, which I was able to follow for ~500m.
A few digital photographs are here. I'm afraid there are none of the red kite, nor of the kingfisher, so you'll have to take my word about them.
18 June, 2004
East Lancaster Road
I happened to have the digital camera with me yesterday, so took a slightly different route home from work, following the eastern margin of the city between the edge of the built-up area and the motorway. I even took a few photos.
2 June, 2004
Cycle ride: Lancaster University-Conder Green-Lancaster
I cycled home the long way today; heading south from the University (home is north!), to Galgate then along Conder Green Lane to, surprisingly, Conder Green. From there, I followed the disused railway line, now a cycle path, along the river north back into the city. The last part was the main reason for the alternative route, as I wanted to take a couple of photographs of the semi-derelict linoleum mill buildings, for a CD cover, but I took a few photos of the rest of the trip, too.
30 May, 2004
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Halton-Lancaster
Barely five miles into today's ride, I hit an unexpectedly steep hill outside Halton (barely five miles from home), which seemed to strip me of motivation to go on. I dropped back down to the Crook O'Lune at Caton and returned to Lancaster, where I took a a few photos in the city itself.
27 May, 2004
Bikey's bearings broken
And other 'b' words (maybe not 'beluga'), some of them even publishable.
One minute I was hurtling up the A6 (I do like a good hurtle), overtaking all other cyclists, the next there was a grinding clunk (really) and the cranks were no longer moving properly. I'm pretty sure it's the bottom bracket bearings, so I'll have to visit the bike shop this evening.
At least everything still rotates, and I didn't hear the distinctive sound of a broken bearing cup etching the frame, so was able to proceed to work, albeit being overtaken by all other cyclists, even the one on the unnervingly wobbly folding bike.
23 May, 2004
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Heysham-Hest Bank-Halton-Lancaster
In February, I cycled to Sunderland (Lancs.!), with the vague intention of returning via Heysham. The trip to the former took longer than expected, so I abandoned the latter for a later date. Due to other commitments and plans, that didn't happen until today.
The cycle track to Morecambe is familiar, but this was the first time I'd ever turned south from there, along the coast road past the West End and Sandylands. Not the nicest of areas, but that's more of a comment on their reputation than anything specific I saw for myself; parts of Lancaster look worse. Sandylands merged seamlessly into Heysham, which was initially disappointing; the 'historical village' appeared no older nor inspiring than any estate built in the 1950s-60s. It was only when I turned off the main road towards the church and Heysham Head that I found the original village, which was far more as I'd expected. The contradiction actually confused me, and I cycled past it, out towards Half Moon Bay and the nuclear power station. I'd planned to look at that area anyway, then returned to the village to sit on the cliffs.
Beyond that, I didn't have any plans, which is the way I prefer to cycle. From Heysham Head, I saw that there was a promenade all the way from Heysham to Morecambe, and I knew that it continued north almost to Hest Bank. A previous cycle ride had also shown that the the canal towpath is a shortcut back to Lancaster, so that's the route I chose.
The southern parts of Morecambe looked rather better from the promenade than from the main coast road (which is really set one street back from the shore). The decline from the resort's heyday was obvious, but these guest houses and small hotels seemed to have aged gracefully, in contrast to the tacky and ultimately counterproductive 'amusements' of the northern area. I have to say that part did look better than usual, too, on a sunny day and seen from the modern promenade.
I got up to 20mph on the quiet part of the promenade, so was in Hest Bank sooner than anticipated. Consequently I idly turned left along the canal, towards Carnforth rather than back towards home. I think my objective was to follow the recently resurfaced section of towpath to its end, but luckily my mental map reasserted itself within a few minutes and I realised I could be cycling a further ten miles in the wrong direction. For speed, I returned to the main road at Bolton-le-Sands and back to Hest Bank. Somehow I missed the canal turning, and found myself on the Halton road. Not a problem; I crossed the river there and followed the Lune Cycleway back to Lancaster.
I wasn't obsessively watching the clock and speedometer, but since my bike computer logs these parameters, I might as well mention that I travelled 28.52 miles in 2 hours, 38 mins (and 33 seconds), not counting stops; call it a further twenty minutes. Maximum speed was 27.5 mph (44.3 km/h), probably downhill into Halton.
Oh; the accompanying photos are here, with several more comments about the trip.
20 May, 2004
I cycled home from work the long way this evening, for a change, following the towpath of Lancaster canal rather than the usual roads. I'm glad I happened to be carrying the digital camera, as strong sunlight through the trees made this a colourful (well, green) trip.
16 April, 2004
Consider yourself disowned
The BBC reports that a man has been sentenced to 16 months in prison for slashing nearly 2,000 vehicle tyres in 10 days after being soaked by an inconsiderate motorist while cycling. The BBC's characterisation of the offender as 'a cyclist' is a bit misleading, as he certainly doesn't represent cyclists, and I have no sympathy for him; the BBC seems to suggest he was a campaigner, but 'lone nut' is more accurate. The offender's vandalism does nothing to help any alleged 'cause' of cyclists - if one inconsiderate driver made him angry, what is the relevance of 'punishing' 548 entirely different parked cars, lorries and vans? Because all drivers act identically? Untrue. This division of people into homogenous mobs of 'cyclists' and 'drivers' is not only needlessly and unproductively adversarial, it's also inaccurate - many cyclists drive too.
A fact that makes this action even more stupid is that if he wanted to act against that one driver, he could have stayed within the law. As the AA says in a supplementary BBC report, drivers who drench cyclists or other road users by driving through puddles or cause them to fall off their bikes can face a £2,500 fine and up to nine penalty points on their licences for driving without due care and attention.
Yes, there are inconsiderate drivers and inconsiderate cyclists - mutual consideration is the way forward; confrontation and demonisation are pointless. And dangerous.
24 March, 2004
Building a better bicycle
This is a nice idea: a self-inflating bicycle tyre. Rotation of the wheels power air pumps in the hubs, continuously topping-up tyre pressure whenever the bike is moving. Excess air is automatically released to prevent the tyre from bursting, whilst an early problem of filling tyres with water in wet weather has been solved.
Currently 'only in Japan', I can imagine this sort of thing gaining global popularity.
NP: The Flower Kings, Würzburg, 1996
7 March, 2004
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Cockerham-Glasson Dock-Lancaster
I was expecting to say that today's bike ride was shorter than usual, but 17.84 miles (29.73 km) is a little above average. I can say it took less time than usual, at 1½ hours (80 mins moving), as I'd planned a specific destination and route in advance, and didn't amble.
Having taken this image three weeks ago, I wanted to capture the reverse angle: Sunderland from Crook Farm, near Cockerham. The route was straightforward, and didn't look very far, following the main road from Lancaster to Thurnham then one long lane across the coastal plain to the mouth of the Lune. Some of the views were good, but largely replicated images I've already presented here, so I didn't stop. From Crook Farm, Sunderland looked tiny, the sight line was dominated by Heysham power station, and I could see rain approaching from Lancaster, so I didn't hang around after taking a couple of images.
As planned, I headed back via Glasson Dock, a tiny village which was Lancaster's main port for the relatively brief period between silting of the riverbed making Lancaster itself unsuitable as a port, and industrial changes removing the need for Lancaster to have a sea port at all. There's still a yacht marina and a couple of cafés, and the Glasson Branch of the Lancaster Canal allows access from the sea to the main canal, so the village must have something of a tourist trade, but it's pretty quiet at the start of March. It wasn't particularly photogenic in the rain, so I didn't pause there, either, heading straight home.
Nearly 18 miles in 80 minutes isn't exactly impressive, an average of a little over 13 mph (21 km/h), but the light wind that hadn't even been noticeable on my outward journey was surprisingly steady all the way back, and it was a real struggle to stay above 10 mph.
28 February, 2004
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Jubilee Tower-Lancaster
This evening's bike ride was challenging (very hilly) but straightforward, so doesn't really require much comment. I simply rode out to Jubilee Tower, above Quernmore, to take a couple of photos and watch the sunset, then came back via the same route.
21 February, 2004
Cycling again: Lancaster-Morecambe-Hest Bank-Halton-Lancaster
This has been the third consecutive weekend with good weather, so I went for my third consecutive weekend bike ride, taking the digital camera. Again, I only had a rough idea of where I was going: Hest Bank, where the Chinese cocklers died three weeks ago.
After crossing the River Lune at Sainsbury's, I followed the cycle track to Morecambe. No photos there, as the view across Morecambe Bay was hazy, and who'd want images of Morecambe itself? It really is a shabby shadow of a seaside resort; rather squalid and depressing, so I didn't stop, following the promenade straight to Hest Bank. This is a pleasant little village, with some rather unexpected upmarket houses. I suppose it's a prime location for retirement, on the coast and close to the amenities of Morecambe, but not too close.
The sea front car park at Hest Bank is the usual starting point of guided walks across the Bay, and I think it's the place where the cocklers went onto the sands for the last time. Considering that significance, it's rather nondescript: a pleasant viewpoint on a clear day, but exposed and bleak in bad weather.
This was the furthest extent of my planned ride, so I consulted the map and decided to follow minor country lanes back to the Lune at Halton. Within a minute of leaving the coast road, the whole environment had changed, and there was no sign that the pretty village with the ugly name, Slyne, is only a short walk from the sea; this could have been rural Bedfordshire.
One of the reasons I'd taken this route was that I'd spotted a local landmark on a nearby hill: two communications masts crudely disguised as trees. I've noticed them for several years, and this was an opportunity for a closer look; see the photos.
The route onwards to Halton was unexpected slow, as I hadn't realised the road was so minor as to be an unsurfaced track, too muddy to ride my bike. Once on a real road again, the trip into Halton was picturesque, as was the ride along the cycle track back to Lancaster and Sainsbury's.
The whole ride took about two hours, with 26 minutes of stops, and covered 17.5 miles. That's rather slow, but includes over a mile of pushing the bike on rough ground.
Since I ended at Sainsbury's, I did my weekly shopping, so this might be seen as a trip to the supermarket, the long way!
20 February, 2004
A bit nippy
I don't mean it was cold this morning, though there was a frost. I mean that I cycled to work astonishingly quickly: 3.36 miles took 14 mins, which is 2-3 mins faster than usual over a distance 0.14 miles shorter than usual. The distance is easily explained as taking an abnormally tighter line, but it was the absolute speed that was surprising. I typically reach 27mph on one particular downhill section; I can't 'go for it' as it's also a curve, with a relatively major junction at the axis, so I need to take care. However, for once I accelerated after the hill, holding 30mph for a few hundred metres. Trivial for a car, of course, or even for a racing bike, but about as fast as I've ever done on this one (a hybrid mountain/road bike). It wasn't an effort, either - I stayed above 25 mph for the next couple of hundred metres, too (usually 20mph, max; 12-15 in a headwind).
I'll have to try that again, when I'm not watching for ice on the road!
Incidentally, I forgot to make a note of it on the anniversary, but I've been riding with a bike computer for over a year, and the current total is 1970 miles (3283 km) since 1 Feb. 2003, the vast majority of which was just commuting to work.
15 February, 2004
Cycling again: Lancaster-Sunderland-Lancaster
Another cycle ride today, this time exploring the north/west bank of the River Lune downstream of Lancaster, somewhere I'd never been before in over a decade of being a Lancaster resident. I've been to Morecambe a few times, and to White Lund Industrial Estate midway between Lancaster and Morecambe, but the rest of the 'peninsula' was entirely unfamiliar, partly because it's not on the way to anywhere, and partly because the land around White Lund is unattractive - sight lines are dominated by industrial units, and for some reason any remaining land is used to graze horses; since the local water table is at (or above) the ground surface, grazed land is invariably a dispiriting mass of mud. Combined with wind-blown litter and smell from the adjacent Salt Ayre landfill site, the result is very off-putting.
However, only about a mile along a tiny riverside road, things began to improve. The road is covered by high tides (to the depth of a car roof, as indicated by a line on the wall of the pub car park at 'The Golden Ball', which seems to offer a ferry service for customers trapped by the tide!), so littered with driftwood and silt, but the views across the estuary were pretty good, of a very familiar landscape from an unseen angle (photos here).
Further on (surprisingly further - I hadn't appreciated the distances involved), there was little indication that the green hills and village of Overton were even coastal, never mind in a pocket between a city, a run-down seaside resort and a nuclear power station. Back on the estuary road, again silt-covered and clearly tidal, the sense of remoteness was even greater, as the unusually flat (for N.Lancashire) land seemed absolutely empty in every direction, and the sky seemed bigger than usual. I'm not entirely sure I liked it.
At the end of the road is the hamlet of Sunderland, at the mouth of the Lune. This is where trading ships stopped to collect river pilots, who would guide them up the estuary to the port of Lancaster. The river ceased to be navigable long ago, so I'm not sure who lives there now; I can imagine the nearby fields would support a farmer, artists might like to stay/visit, and I saw a couple of fishing boats, but otherwise I'd guess the cottages are rented by seasonal holiday makers.
The last kilometre of the road is unsurfaced, and one section is only passable at low tide, so I had to walk with the bike; eventually the road ran out completely and I would have had to cross the beach to the very end, Sunderland Point. However, there was nowhere to leave my bike, and nothing at the end anyway, not even the prospect of an especially good view, so I turned back a couple of hundred metres short of the objective.
My original plan had been to visit Sunderland Point, then return to Lancaster via Heysham (specifically the nuclear power station) and the West End of Morecambe, two other places I've never been, but it had taken much longer than expected to get this far. If I returned the way I'd come, Sunderland would obviously have been the halfway point. To return the long way would have put Sunderland only about a third of the way along a total route of around 30 miles (50 km), so I went straight home! I'll visit Heysham and Morecambe another time. Today's ride took about two hours (actually moving for 105 mins, according to the bike computer) to cover 19.05 miles (31.75 km), peaking at 26.6 mph (44.3 km/h).
7 February, 2004
Cycle ride: Lancaster-Caton Moor-Lancaster
Not a bad ride today, climbing ~200m to the base of my PhD fieldwork site on Caton Moor, then back along the Lune Cycleway. However, the weather was very changeable, with threatening skies (though it didn't actually rain), and neither of the associated photos are noteworthy.
21 January, 2004
Drivers want road test for cyclists
As a cyclist, I agree with many of the points made in this Guardian article. For a cyclist to ride without lights, or on the pavement (US: sidewalk), or ignore traffic lights, is simply illegal, never mind damn stupid and needlessly antagonistic to motorists and pedestrians.
Cyclists are road users, with most of the same rights and obligations as car or truck drivers. Mysteriously, that sometimes gets forgotten, by car drivers thinking bikes shouldn't be on the roads and should defer to other vehicles (wrong - I daily assert as much right to be there as an articulated lorry), and by some cyclists (to be fair, a tiny minority in my personal experience) thinking they have a pedestrian's right to use the pavements.
We have enough trouble from inconsiderate drivers without giving drivers a reason to think we deserve it; so long as both parties act responsibly, it shouldn't be a matter of opposing sides, just different users sharing the same road.
- If you don't have lights: get some, and either don't take your bike out after dark until you have lights, or get off and walk. An unlit bicycle is a hazard.
- If you don't feel sufficiently confident to cycle in traffic, simply don't cycle at all - the pavement is not a valid alternative. Practice on designated cycle paths or minor roads at quiet times, then main roads when you're ready.
- Traffic lights are not optional for cyclists.
I'm not sure how I feel about the titular premise of the article. On the one hand, it might deter cycle use if everyone needed a licence first. On the other hand, that might be a good idea - inexperienced cyclists can be dangerous, and are as much an annoyance to regular cycle-commuters as to any other road users. That's possibly not entirely their fault, since if they have no training whatsoever, they can't be expected to be fully competent immediately, but to use busy roads as a training ground is a bit too Darwinian!
Hence, I'd entirely support basic training for cyclists, so long as it is basic and not so onerous as to deter casual cyclists. Secondly, I feel it would be appropriate for such a scheme to be funded centrally, as a recognised budget item of transport policy, not a fee payable by cyclists.
I'd also support enforcement of existing rules - why are bad cyclists permitted to continue as they do, unchallenged by the police?
Bottom line: don't ride in a manner which damages the reputation of other cyclists, specifically me.
Oh, and try not to get yourself killed, as bad riding could so easily achieve.
11 January, 2004
I crashed my bike last night. Swerving to avoid a small dog in the road, I skidded on the wet surface. I stayed upright, but recovery left me heading directly towards a wall, travelling fairly quickly. I only had time to straighten the handlebars before hitting, head on. I don't remember the following couple of seconds, but I wasn't hurt; I have a bruise on my right thigh that I didn't notice at the time, and the sides of my left knee were tender this morning from being squeezed between the frame and forks. There was lime dust on my left foot and knee, and bizarrely the back of my right shoulder, from hitting the wall, but the bike took vitually all of the impact. I lost my hat, then found it perched on top of the 2m wall.
The bike is absolutely fine - almost. The chain came off, but everything is aligned correctly and it went straight back on. The wheels are fine, without even a bent spoke. The curved bar ends of the handlebars obviously hit the wall (lime dust and scuffs), but their shape seems to have allowed them to flex.
A similar curve, in the front forks, is also what seems to have accepted the full force of the crash - the front forks are bent back, so severely that the paint has split. This puts the front wheel almost in contact with the frame (the mudguard held it away slightly), and the wheel fouls the pedals when the handlebars are turned; the bike is unrideable, as it's severely unstable and can't turn corners.
I was stunningly lucky; I was unhurt, and the bike merely needs new forks. I could so easily have hit my head. I always wear a helmet for commuting to work in traffic, but heading across town to watch a DVD with J & Fi, I hadn't bothered. Something of a wake-up call.
5 January, 2004
Bike okay - luckily
For various reasons, my bike (bicycle) is currently stored in my living room, and until today hadn't been used since 23 December. I must have passed it a dozen times in the three full days since I returned to Lancaster, ample opportunities to check it over and ensure it was roadworthy for the first trip to work this year, yet I left it until 08:25 this morning, minutes before leaving. The tyres were a bit soft, and once I was on the road I found that the gears had stiffened (okay, jammed), but it was basically okay. If there had been something more serious, I'd have been very late for work, avoidably. Why did I leave it until the last minute? What does that say about my mind set?
It could be interpreted as laziness, but it's not that I prevaricated, it simply hadn't occurred to me before. Perhaps it says more about an obsessive streak; I was thinking of other things, to the exclusion of all else.
It's never exactly fun to return to an empty house and self-sufficiency after time spent living with loved ones, but I'm not usually that impractical.
29 October, 2003
It's only 16:15, but it's been a long day, starting with a puncture, my first for at least three months. Note to the military: kevlar, as used in bullet-proof vests and 'thorn-proof' bike tyres, doesn't stop drawing pins.
The repair made me late for a meeting, leaving just enough time to reach campus, buy milk and make a cup of tea but not drink it before having to leave for another, two-hour meeting, then a further hour-long debriefing/discussion session. Only then did I have an opportunity for my first drink in 12 hours or so, followed by my first food in at least 16 hours. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the day has been a bit of a struggle.
NP:Staind, '14 Shades Of Grey'. S'okay; nothing special.
6 October, 2003
Back to school
Ten minutes after waking this morning, I opened the curtains. Dull, drizzly. Ugh. By the time I'd had a drink and checked my e-mail, the rain had stopped. Yay! If I'd left the house then, I'd still be dry. Not dressed, but dry.
As I was about to leave the house, the drizzle returned. By the end of the street, it was heavy. By the top of the hill (0.3 miles/0.5km), it was extraordinarily heavy; the sort that saturates everything, instantly. Lancaster rarely receives rain that heavy, and I should know, having (automatically) logged rainfall every 15 mins for five years during my PhD research, supported by a further 40 years of daily rainfall records. It's not that the drains couldn't cope, but the water wasn't running off the surface fast enough, so the whole thing was submerged.
Did I mention that I cycle to work? About 90% of a typical month's travel is either within cycling distance (~5 miles/8km) or within walking distance of a railway station, so I don't have my own car. I have a licence, of course, so could hire a van or car if I really needed.
Needless to say, the 3.5 mile/5.8km ride wasn't fun.