Posted by: Ian | November 28, 2009

The Rainbow Clock

I’ve had a ride around Taunton on each of the past couple of days. I’d intended to find time this weekend to do a decent 50+ mile Tour of Taunton but with Paula away I had too many errands (not to mention work) to fit it in. Instead I managed two smaller circuits with a combined total of 50m. The weather has been variable. Yesterday there was an off and on drizzle. I went out on the Felt, which has no mudguards, and immediately got soaked around the saddle, despite wearing bike tights (Rapha) and heavy shorts (Endura). But I kept warm around the core and that’s enough.

Idiotically, I forgot how muddy the lanes around here can be, especially when shooting through puddles like the one in the photo. Since the Beast the chain has been jumping occasionally and these conditions don’t help. Even so, it was a great run. There were no major hills and I was able to bomb round pretty quickly. On the way I tried a banoffee Torq gel that had a good review in this week’s Cycling Weekly, as well as a Licorice Allsports Mule Bar. The latter has a first taste that I’m not sure that I like but after this the taste mutates into one that I enjoy; it’s weird how it changes. The taste of the Torq gel is far more straightforward – very much like banoffee pie, in fact. It’s great and the gel texture is easy to ingest but there’s a lot of packaging for a small amount of food product. On balance, taste aside, Shok Bloks are more practical for a long ride because you get a strip of bloks for every wrapper-tearing operation.

When I went out this morning the skies were patchily blue and there was even a hint of sun. No sooner was my ride underway than a rainbow appeared in front of me, spanning the landscape to the west of Taunton towards the Blackdown Hills where I was heading. Then I felt rain. Looking at the rainbow, it struck me that at that time in that exact place there was only one direction in which the crown of the rainbow could be. In effect, a rainbow is a clock.

Within minutes, a low blanket of dark cloud occluded the sky but the rain never became intense. With yesterday’s ride having been gently undulating, I was keen to find at least one proper hill today so I headed out towards the Wellington Monument. After about eight miles I was psychologically committed to going up the steep road that leads up to it from the north. Then my chain started jumping more. I pictured myself stomping on the pedals in my lowest gear with the chain clanking right over the sprocket.

I turned onto the road that took me up the hill and slipped into my smaller chain ring for the first time since the Beast. Sure enough, with more chain free the jumping got worse. I the cassette into a lower gear to add more tension to the chain and hoped for the best. It got somewhat better. After a while the road ahead of me turned much steeper, looking like a wall I had to scale: and I knew that the really steep part was after this. Cycling up, a film of rainwater completely covered the road, with braids of current twisting underneath my front wheel. As I hit the final bends of the hill I stood on the pedals, praying that the chain would keep moving the bike forward. It did. Once I reached the main road at the top the hill seemed easier than it had before. I shouldn’t over-dramatise it: it only took eight minutes to get up it.

The rest of the ride was easy, and predominantly downhill. At one point a couple of leaves lodged under the front brake pads, just visible, when I peered closely, from the back of the fork. They made a hissing noise and before I realised what was going on I feared that I had a puncture. I wonder if something similar didn’t happen to Emily when she was unable to stop: I can imagine that it could significantly reduce traction on the rims.

Later, I took my bike into King’s in Taunton and asked them to check my indexing and cables to stop the chain jumping. I also ordered some harder compound pads for the back brakes; they’re wearing down a little and when you do need them it’s better that they work.

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