Posted by: Ian | November 15, 2009

Frog blocked

My ride today was a little different from Emily’s meanderings around London. I took a day off yesterday but the crisp autumn weather drew me out this morning. Although there wasn’t a hint of rain, there was evidence of recent showers.  Before I even passed out of our gate, I had to cycle through deep muddy puddles (it accumulates there) full of large and treacherous stones.  For the next few months the Felt will be used only for the more reliable roads around Taunton. Mostly I’ll use my Tricross around here, or maybe my Van Nic, which, with its 14 speed Rohloff hub gear unit, is even more rugged.

Although Paula reported the threat of dark clouds at Merriott on her early morning walk with the dogs and her sister, I risked going out without a waterproof and, because it’s what I had to hand, wore some older bike gear. As well as the Rapha baselayer, Swift jersey, arm warmers and collar, I dug out my DHB bibs, Nike gilet and Altura shorts and gloves. I’m getting into the habit of not wearing a helmet around here, though I should, especially on the roads as they are now. I also decided to wear my Oakley sunglasses while I can before autumn ends and the sky turns a dull wintery white.

I run 32mm Armadillos on the Tri and they’re useful when the roads are coated in slimy leaves. The GP 4000S’s are made of much grippier rubber but the 50% extra width has to win for absolute traction. I headed out past Geoff and Angela’s farm at Ludney, through Dowlish Wake and Sea then up the hill to Sticklepath. The last time I’d been that way the back tyre on my Felt got shredded – coming to the same spot, I realised that I’d forgotten to bring a wedgie bag with a spare tube. But today I was luckier.

On these roads on a quiet Sunday I can count on seeing more buzzards than cars. Apart from the two times I crossed the Chard-Ilminster road I can’t recall seeing any cars at all with one exception: as I started up the hill out of Chaffcombe, Matt, our friendly taxi driver, drove past me, smiling and waving.  I smiled and waved back but I wasn’t going to stop and chat just there. The Tri’s cassette features a huge 34t sprocket at the low end so at the front I leave it in the large chainring, which is fine for all conditions apart from steep hill starts. I heard several buzzards but only saw one. It was perched on the top of a telegraph post and watched me as I approached and cycled past. I know from experience that you can ride as slowly as you like and they’ll stay just like that but if you stop to take a photograph they’re off.

I cycled just over 18 miles with about 500 metres of ascent. It was never very difficult but at times it felt harder than it should. I’m by no means ready for the Tour of Wessex yet. There are 6 months to go, but I’ve spent months already commuting over 20 miles on weekdays on a fixie and doing hill rides at the weekend, so getting much fitter than I am now won’t be a breeze. I hope the sportives in the New Year will help. Paula has decided that she may well do the 40 mile version of the Cornwall Tor. That sounds like a great first sportive for her. I’m in two minds about whether to join her on it or do the 100 mile ride. Being a fortnight before the ToW, it’s a critical time in my preparation. Paula expressed hope that others such as Stu and Emily would join in; we’ll see. Let me know if you might wish to.

When I was getting ready to set out this morning I thought I’d have to do my ride without water. We’re not on the mains and instead get fed from a spring in nearby woods that also serves the hamlet of Allowenshay. We have two filters in the boiler room that treat the water before it hits the taps. One of the filters looks for all the world like a big ball of string – and that’s essentially what it is. It cleans the mud from the water and it needs changing every couple of years when it has gone from being totally white to all sticky brown. The second filter is a UV tube that’s supposed to work on the small stuff. The system usually works well but last night the water from the spring stopped flowing. It’s maintained by Donald and Cynthia from the farm, whom we all pay in lieu of water rates. Before I left, Cynthia came round to report that the water was on again – she had removed a frog that had blocked the pipe.


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