In a world increasingly preoccupied with throwaway materialistic things; where people are constantly busy earning money to pay for those things, or so their children can have those things;
This is the story of my dreams of travelling the world by bicycle. Because it's there. And because I dont want to die without experiencing the truly important things in life .

A sense of wonder and a sense of adventure.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Shortest Day 2014.

The weather has  been pretty good the last couple of weeks as we approach the shortest day. But I wasn't born yesterday and realise that the worst weather is undoutably still to come. This time last year I was readying myself for my cycle ride across Canada. This year  financial restraints ( being tight due to spending too much on eBay and in Canada last year), has led to the regrettable decision to suspend all plans of cycling overseas this year. In some ways its lucky that we put the brakes on this year as, if we had gone away, I could well have wasted money cycling in Aussie instead of saving the money for something a bit more challenging. The down side is that it is hard to motivate myself to go out and do the decent miles required on my bike to burn off the chocolate consumed each day. I'm still however managing to do over 200kms on my bike each week which I'm happy with. It will get me through until September when I will ramp it up so that I can attempt some Randonneuring rides.

Winter aye, its tough. I wake up in the morning like a 'Kate Middleton' , to someone opening my curtains and asking me if I would like a coffee. Then its onto the couch to check out the latest philosophising on Face book. The regulars are on there posting snippets concerning things that others are doing that they applaud yet fail to attempt themselves. I grab my coffee and have too much chocolate with it while I contemplate what to do with the day. This usually amounts to housework,  garden work, or cycling. What else is there? I think if it wasn't for work at the bike shop twice a week I wouldn't have any other social interaction.
A lack of social interaction has its advantages. High among these is an ability to generally get through winter without catching those nasty flu-ey things passed on by kids and their caregivers. 'Touch wood' I haven't been taken down yet this winter. Getting bored at home has also enabled me to think more carefully about the Paris-Brest-Paris cycle event next year. This was my goal until I clicked onto the site in order  to catch up with what the Adventure Cycling community were up to. I knew that it was about to start but it hadn't sparked my interest to any extent, since the first half of the course followed a route through the Rockies that Adi and I had completed in 2010. I normally don't see the point in re covering old ground when there's so much more of the Earth to cycle. I haven't however cycled east of Denver and following the first week of the race got me interested in competing myself next year. Convincing Adi was easy. I simply showed her the TransAmerican site and suggested that she could be the first Vet 3 woman to complete it. Whereas I have no real competitive head and am happy just to challenge myself, Adi likes a bit of glory. Within a week all thoughts of the PBP were gone for her and she was working out how she would pack her bike for the TransAm and what sort of tent she would need.
And just to make the decision even harder for me the Transcontinental Race will be on in 2015 as well. The Transcontinental runs from London to Istanbul. The starts once the TransAm has finished and conceivably a contestant could do both one after the other. Adi feels this is a possibility, but I think that airline tickets could well bankrupt us.
Adi ran over a domestic pig on her way home from work in the dark last week. Apparently it was sitting on the road and she failed to see it in the beam of her light. The impact caused no damage to Adi's bike but resulted in her needing a bit of emergency medical care on her elbow. She couldn't ride her bike for a week but suggested that I get the tandem out so that she could still exercise.

I hated the idea of getting our 1980's Geoffrey Butler tandem out because quite frankly it's a death trap. The brakes are shocking and the riding positions for both captain and stoker leave a lot to be desired. But I do like a challenge in the bike shed and I do like retro gear, so 3 days later I emerged with a tandem of renewed possibilities. After a 10km test ride I was sufficiently impressed that I spent another day in the shed and came up with a tandem that not only offers captain and stoker room to move and a somewhat aerodynamic position but will also stop when all 4 brakes are applied. And most importantly for me while using all 1970's and 80's parts. The character of the bike of course being paramount over safety at all times.

After a 60km test ride and much arguing over this and that we concluded that the bike was much improved and held some possibilities, but that tandem riding still sucked. In fact Adi says that it is not peace, harmony and all goodwill at all for us.
I think that Adi just needs to understand that the Captain is the CAPTAIN.
It was still a good way to spend Anti Procreation Day  but like the khombi, we'll put it back in the bike shed and see if it ever comes out again.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Winter Fiddling.

It tis the season for staring at my bike and pondering upon what improvements can be made. Winter is a time of frustration when morning temperatures are too low for comfortable cycling. I try not to get out of bed until the sun is up and the frost has melted. The inside house temperature has still not reached 10C but if I'm lucky the cats have left me a space in the sun on the veranda and I can warm myself there for a minute. Time  sufficient enough  to contemplate cooking myself some porridge back in the house.With my  porridge consumed. and back on the veranda with my coffee and cycle mag. I'm once again thinking about cycling adventure. The thought hasn't escaped me though that although it's a balmy 16C in the sun on the deck. as soon as I step into the shade I'm back down to 4C.
I know that below 10C I would need to don full gloves, booties and my winter training jacket if I wanted to venture out for a circuit on the bike, so I do the next best thing and get the Mercian out onto the deck next to me and ponder on improvements while things continue to warm in the garden.
Nearly the Shortest Day.

It's pretty hard to make improvements to a bike that you have owned for years and have cycled all over the place on. A new piece of equipment may present at the bike shop or on-line, but to fit it I would be forced to remove something else which has served me well and has sentimental value. My friends in the cycling world don't generally understand this as they seldom have their bikes for more than a year before the next new model has been purchased. Or they're the sort that really don't give a toss about what they ride so battle on unknowingly until their bike is either stolen or disintegrates, non the wiser as to whats available out there.
On this particular morning though I was excited because I had decided a week ago to finally remove my XTR v brakes and install the Campag cyclocross canti brakes that I'd bought myself for Xmas a couple of years ago. I was sad because the v brakes had taken me faithfully across many continents and down some wicked descents in the Andes and Rockies, but had started grabbing a bit, which unfortunately for them, was enough reason for me to persevere with my plan of a full Campag hybrid bicycle.
The new Campag brakes came with some flat bar brake levers, but I didn't like them much. Low and behold, what did I spy on eBay ? Only a pair of retro Campag mtb brake levers from the 90's. They were being sold in Poland. Now Poland to me, having never been there rests alongside Romania or the Ukraine .To my mind being one of those countries where you buy $200 dollar brake levers and never see your money again. The sort of place where you go on line to find a girlfriend and she asks for a few thousand dollars so she can buy you some inter flora flowers, and then you never see her again.
My Adi wasn't home at the time, the images of the levers looked stunning with beautiful curves and the Campag logo standing out in its brilliance, so there you go. I hit the 'buy now' button, the money was gone and I was left with a warm , nervous feeling, and trying to work out how I was going to explain this little deal later to my sweetheart.
The next day at the bike shop I confided in Jacob as to what I'd been up too.  To his credit he didn't  judge me, and even felt that I might see my brake levers turn up. Younger and more trusting than I am obviously. When I finally managed to break the news to Adi she not only thought that I had lost $200 bucks, but that we would probably be fleeced of thousands more from our account. The poor dear, she doesn't deserve the additional stress of living with a Campag addict. The next day she was off to Christchurch for a bit of key hole surgery on her problem knee.

To keep myself busy while she was gone and to put on a positive front, I decided to do some of my own key hole surgery on the Mercian in anticipation of my levers arriving from Poland. With a total disregard to my $2500 hand built frame I drilled a neat hole through the upper seat tube so that the rear canti's could work without the need for an additional brake bridge. Now I would never try this on a carbon fibre frame but I've been around long enough to know that you can easily get away with it on a steel frame. In fact about 20years ago I drilled a hole in a steel Guiericotti frame to install a chain hanger and that frame is still going strongly. Much to the horror of a couple of bike mechanics where I used to work , I once drilled a hole through the middle of an alloy stem to avoid the use of a cant brake bridge on that bike as well. That stem is still going well and no matter how I tried to explain that that was the way it was done in the late 70's, my mechanic mates still looked un-impressed.
 Back in the 70's we drilled everything!
Correction. You never drilled anything with Zeus written on it. That gear couldn't even handle the companies own drilling. The Chinese only made bikes for playing on , (some things haven't changed) so you wouldn't try to lighten that stuff.

Adi arrived back from hospital a few days later, a box of bubblys being a cured woman, and just in time to see my parcel from Poland land in the letter box. The postie couldn't believe the number of stamps that it had on it , Adi couldn't believe that it had arrived at all and I couldn't believe the weight of it. I thought picking it up that it couldn't be just a pair of brake levers, they must have forgotten to take the rest of the bike off them! My next thought while ripping open the packet was that they'd sent me sCampag  motorbike levers. Solid enough to use on my Vespa if they didn't work with the Mercian.
I made all the right noises about Adi's knee op and then I was done in the bike shed for the next two hours installing my beauties. it was dark when I returned to the house  with my bike all smiles, to be informed by Adi that they where the ugliest brake levers she had ever seen. Two days later at the bike shop Mitchell my workmate for the day concurred with Adi. Stating that he had never seen such horrid levers. What would they know? Mitchell's only been around since the 80's. Mitchell though being forever helpful took a picture of them and placed it on Facebook so that others could tell me how much they appreciated the flowing lines and many features that my levers possessed.
By 11am the world usually seems a warm enough place for me to get on my bike and do 100kms. But by 4pm things are cooling off and I'm glad to be home as temps once again fall towards glove and bootie levels. This will be our lot until September and spring daylight hours and temps will allow for longer rides. We have decided not to go away overseas this winter and save our dollars for qualifying for the Paris-Brest- Paris event next year and a two month cycle tour of Scandinavia prior to that. People tell us how expensive Scandinavia is. And it probably is to most , but not anyone used to living in good old NZ. I don't think we will notice much difference in the price of things when we finally get there.
And to those who think i just eat , sleep and bike ....
I do gardening too.
This time of year it seems everywhere I ride people have got feijoas for sale at the gate for $3 a bag. We at 'Potter's-End' have got a miserable feijoa tree that never delivers any fruit what so ever. And since I have loved feijoas since my student days and am too tight to buy others fruit , I have done a bit of clearing and am in the process of planting 8 of my own trees. And they had better be better than our last tree (which I got free from the neighbouring orchard). Three chestnut trees have been removed to make space and have been thrown on the winter bonfire.

If there's one thing us rural NZers like doing on a clear, sunny winter day its having a big fire. Then once its going you can throw everything on! Clippings, logs, pallets, plastic furniture past its use by date, in fact our neighbour got so excited she threw part of her caravan on.
Enough catching up on my blog, its time to jump on the bike and cycle to Richmond for some chocolate and licorice. My chocolate consumption has exceeded my weekly allowance recently so at times I need a mercy dash to restock supplies. My problem being where to steal the money from. I'm forbidden to use the plastic cards at the moment so I'll have to rummage around in the house for some loose change.
I settle on a small pile of dosh with 'hair' written on it. Adi's hair looks great so I'm sure she wont need this and I can't see any money earmarked for 'Niel the Wheel's Incidentals'.
Before I go , have a chuckle at this;
They are blaming the abysmal Queen's Birthday road toll here on foreigner's! New Zealand the land of the most courteist and safe drivers in the world....year right.