Sunday, 31 January 2010

Well, I did it.
17 miles into Devon, down to Tavistock and back home.

I carried a pair of Yellow pages in the front panniers, and had three more YPs in Trailer's box as well as one gallon of water (10lbs) in a big bottle. This weight gave me some idea of towing and carrying.

Me and Chopper did very well indeed! I'd ridden this same route a couple of weeks ago, and had the information in my Garmin Edge 705. I could do the route again and compare the figures and my performance.

Here's a map of where I went:

And here's a profile of the route:

(Red is heart rate and the green is speed)

There was 1800ft of climbing and I consumed a couple of thousand calories. I was tired when I got back! The trouble with Devon and Cornwall for cycling, the hills are constant and regular and we don't have any flat bits at all.

Comparing the same route with before, I was six minutes behind schedule at the top of the hills near Brentor. The last time, I had no luggage and no extra weight, this time I was pulling and carrying, and by the time I made it down to Tavistock, I was six minutes ahead! I can only suggest that going downhill is far more efficient with a heavy weight than being light. Yes, I was slow up the hills, but this was more than compensated by the extra weight pushing me down.

By the time I made it home, I was four minutes ahead of my previous time.

I was tired and my thighs ached, but I was elated and confident. I'll be out again in a couple of days, and I'll try to up the distance.

Practice makes perfect.
I have a plan, and it is taking shape.

I am going to ride my Raleigh Chopper from John O'Groats to Land's End. I will be leaving JOG in the afternoon of Thursday the 13th of May and I should be arriving at LE in the afternoon of Sunday the 30th of May.

That is my mission statement, and from now until then, I have many things to arrange, although I have my start and end dates, nothing else is in place. I am flying to Wick from Exeter, and will collect Chopper and Trailer when I arrive. I am packing them onto a pallet a week before and sending them up to arrive well before me, the plan for this is in hand and I have contacted Wick Airport to see if this is possible and they were very helpful and friendly and could see no problem about disposing of the pallet and wrappings.

From Wick, I can cycle to JOG, turn round and cycle back to Wick and stay at a B+B. From there, I can make my way south.

Over the past few months, my Chopper has undergone quite some modification. The basic three-speed Sturmey Archer gears aren't enough to take me up and down the hills and the length of the country pulling and carrying my stuff and luggage, so extra gears had to be fitted. I spent a while thinking about this, and with the help of a friend was able to squeeze a double sprocket system onto the hub. This produced an increase in ratios up to six speeds, but this still wasn't enough. I fitted a double chainset too, and then the six speeds were doubled to twelve! It's not just the amount of ratios that counts, it's the range that I needed, so I ended up with a super-low gear for the hills, and a reasonable high ratio for whizzing along the flat bits - superb!

The old knobbly rear tyre was a bit sluggish, so a modern puncture-proof one was fitted in its place. I also replaced the front tyre. The whole bike, though scruffy, has been completely stripped and serviced and all the bearings re-greased.

This Chopper is an original Mk1 1971 example, and was given to me. It was on its way to the dump, and I stepped in to rescue this wonderful piece of British Engineering. It's an acquired art to ride the thing as at low speeds it's rather unstable, but strangely it seems very stable at high speeds. It also has the propensity to do "wheelies" especially now that I've got such a low gear. I needed to find some way to hold the front down, and so I fitted a set of front panniers. At this moment, they have some old Yellow Pages in the bags as ballast!

I'll return to this blog over the next few weeks to keep everyone informed of my plans and developments, but here's a basic outline of my proposed route. It is subject to change as I get accommodation arranged and booked.

I leave JOG 13th May and aim for Dornoch.
From there it'll be Inverness, then Pitlochry and Edinburgh.
Moffat and Penrith and Leyland and then Wrexham.
Ludlow, Slimbridge and Bridgwater, then Okehampton.
St Columb Major as a last stop before the push onto LE.
I have been told by my lovely wife Hilary, that I have to have some days off, so I'll have to do as I'm told taking a day off in Edinburgh, Wrexham (at my sister's) and at home - Hilary can collect me from Okehampton and bring me home - then she can take me back to Okehampton for the last couple of legs.

Later today, I'll be off on a practice run - perhaps 17 miles - and I'll be towing my Carry Freedom trailer with me.

Thanks for reading, and I'll post again to let you know I get on.

Saturday, 30 January 2010