Saturday, 12 October 2013

Post-trip gear report - Kate's bottom and other issues.

This time at least Kate lasted the trip... but there have been a few minor repairs to make. After the rough track down to YHA Tintagel it isn't a surprise that some of the stick-on carbon-kevlar patches that I use on Kate's delicate lower reaches needed renewing. This material often looks like it has had a hard time and is badly damaged, but, on removing it, it is often just the soft glossy surface that is damaged and the 'working' layer of carbon-kevlar is just dirty with no damage to the gelcoat below. I guess this means the stuff is doing it's job and the small cost of renewal just means that it is ready for next time.

The ongoing problem of Kate's rear wheelbox needed attention. I've reglued parts of this before but there were a couple of lose sections - the ends closest to the axle entry hole. I've both glued-and-screwed this time - both to clamp the epoxy and to provide secondary mechanical fastening. Hopefully these will stay attached this time.

It doesn't seem to be a real problem but when the wheel box join starts to separate there is a lot more vibration noise from the rear of the bike. The 8mm dome nuts aren't pretty but seem a relatively tidy and light weight solution to the problem. Looks like I forgot to clean down the greasy marks after remounting the back wheel too...

The only other gear problem I had was with the Nemo Zor sleeping mat...

On the 2nd night I woke in the morning to find the mat a bit soft. On pitching at the end of the day it wouldn't inflate and I found a hole just little towards the centreline of the mat from the dark part of the label. I'm pretty meticulous about what-goes-where in my tent so haven't had anything sharper than the zipper of my down bag against the mat. To add to the disappointment, on opening the 'repair kit' that comes with the mat, what I'd thought was a self-adhesive repair patch was just a circle of colour-matched fabric - supply your own glue. The only glue I had was from my tyre repair kit which, obviously(!), was as effective as water on this material. I used the uninflated mat as a protective layer under my bag for the rest of the trip and that's on my repair list before next time.

I've never experienced this problem with the Thermarest mats and to experience it so soon on the Zor is disappointing. I'm now torn between repairing and hoping for the best or returning to the slightly heavier but previously reliable Prolite 3. Either way I guess I need to work out the correct glue for a repair first as I'm sure that won't be covered under any guarentee.

My Garmin Edge 500 doesn't seem to have survived the trip either - it refuses to connect to a computer to upload all the 'trapped miles' I've stored in it. That seems to be the only problem as it charges just fine and still works as a speedometer. I've probed the depths of the menu system to recover the summary data recorded in this blog. I've tried all of the published 'reset' incantations without them fixing the problem - including one which seemed to achieve a 'factory reset' but despite the warnings, didn't delete the data on the device. I bought this unit in 2010 so perhaps it owes me nothing and its time to move on.

On the upside, the Aeropress coffee thing worked fine and was worth the bulk as a luxury item for that first coffee of the day.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

GAB 2013: Summary

Weymouth to Bude,
Specs: 7 days, 392 miles, 9370m/30740ft of climb with a break in the middle to reattach the 'plucked console'.

GAB 2013 Day 7: Friday September 27th - Tintagel, 30% and Bude

Planned as a 'short' day as I was meeting up with Carol in Bude for the drive home I was unsure how long to allow for the 20 mile ride. Cornwall had taught me that 20 miles could be an hour, it could be 10... Ok, so unlikely to be that long, but half of it could have been 2mph climbing...

 And that is how the day began - with the steep and rough stone path away from the Tintagel Youth Hostel...
The rough climb back up from the Youth Hostel

 YHA Tintagel - parting shot

 After regaining tarmac I headed for Boscastle. There was no sign of an open cafe for breakfast. Heading away from town on a brisk climb a local helpfully called out "We call this Mile Hill...". Hmmm... felt like more than a mile to me. But there was a reward in the form of the excellent cafe at the Boscastle Farm Shop. But don't bother looking for it on StreetView or Google maps - it is THAT new - lucky me otherwise it would have been a long time until breakfast.

The cafe has a rule that it's a minimum of £10 spend to pay by card, so after a pot of excellent Cornish Tea and a hearty breakfast I just had to finish it off with a nice, strong coffee...

Refreshed the rest of the climb up to the A39 didn't seem too bad. With time enough before the lunchtime rendezvous I took NCN3 rather than the main road dash into Bude. I mean, if they're good enough to signpost it as a cycleroute it should be nicer riding than the A-road, right?

Well it started out well enough. There was the start of the Cornish Hedged Roads that people had warned me were typical of Cornwall but that I didn't encounter until 10 miles from Bude - almost the end of Cornwall... And then there was Millbrook... I cautiously edged Kate down the 30%, stopped on the apex to perform a manual turn for fear of rolling on the inside line which seemed somewhat steeper than the claim - and almost that in the camber too. The reward for the careful descent...?

 The Vicious Descent into Millbrook (apologies for dodgy photoshop image merge - I couldn't stand far enough back to fit it in one shot!)

Yup - it goes back up at 30% on the other side!!!

Yes, it is that steep, both down and then back up...

And just in case, here's the StreetView link. My suspicion is that this is a "cycle route" because they consider it to be too steep to be a "scenic drive" route!

After that the ride up across Widemouth Bay and down into Bude was relatively easy!

Specs: 21 miles, 620m/2030ft of climb, 7.9mph average speed.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

GAB 2013 Day 6: Thursday September 26th - Perrenporth, Surfers and Tintagel.

Today started wet and miserable. The tent went away damp from the fog but I arrived in Perranporth in the rain. I scouted around for an open cafe to hide in for breakfast but the owner of the only one I found anyone in indicated he didn't open for another hour. I did find the Co-op and a cashpoint before heading off in the drizzle.

The weather improved as I picked up the main road into Newquay. After a couple of attempts to navigate the somewhat odd one-way system (arriving at the same roundabout twice - via different routes) I found the main shopping street and Tea and a Hot Breakfast.

Onwards and it was a bit of a dive downhill into Watergate Bay - it wasn't entirely clear which road was the way out. It took a three-point turn in the car park to point in the right direction for the tight corner but gentler climb away from the beach. At Mawganporth I treated myself to both an ice cream and a new map - my road atlas now being so wet the pages were beginning to disintegrate as I tried to turn them.

On the outskirts of Padstow the route turned south and was actually flat for some time! The flattest road I'd encountered for several days. To cut around the estuary the shortest route was to join the A39 for a while. A pretty busy road but I only needed a short stretch before picking up the next section of coastal B-road. It did make quite a change to be able to let rip on the downhill towards the bridge over the River Camel but I paid for that on the drag up to the roundabout and my turn north away from Wadebridge.

This section was initially quite busy but as seems to be the way with these rural B-roads everybody else gradually turned off leaving me to more quiet riding. At St Endellion I pulled into the Trevathan Farm Tea Room. It was time for a much needed (and very generous - I must have looked like I needed it!) slice of chocolate cake and several cups of tea. That was enough fuel to get to the target destination of the day.

For a treat on the last night of this leg of the trip I decided I'd earnt the reward of sleeping indoors. Rolling towards Tintagel I was pleased to find the Youth Hostel to be well signed. Taking the turn the road reduced in size. Then in quality. The final stretch down to the hostel being little more than a stone track. On the final bend rather than risk rolling I got out and made a manual turn... Kate grounded several times on this section - but then the warden reported so had his car...!

 Kate at YHA Tintagel

 Looking SouthWest from the hostel

 Tintagel is one of the possible claimed locations for the legendary Camelot and certainly walking over the rise from the Youth Hostel to the pub it is rather magical when the 'island' where the castle once was rather spectacularly pops into into view.

Camelot or not?

 The modern 'drawbridge'

 Onwards to the village and the pub

Dinner and a beer at Ye Olde Malthouse Inn (14th century) was very welcome and felt well deserved. No sooner had I ordered than the staff began bringing in the food signs from outside - I was assured I'd not eaten the last food they had, they were just short of staff so the kitchen was closing for the night - a close shave and nearly plain pasta for tea!

Also closing was the castle, so no opportunity for a visit this time. So time to head back to a warm, dry bed for the night.

 Heading 'home' for bed - the village church with a rather oddly shaped tower.

Specs: 54 miles, 1348m/4376ft of climb, 8.8mph average speed.

GAB 2013 Day 5: Wednesday September 25th - Land's End and the scenic route North

 A damp, foggy morning... Tent away wet again. Packed up and the mile or two down to Land's End for around 9am. Everything was still shut though apparently it is no problem just to wander on in...

Can you tell where I am yet?

Finding the route through the closed theme park and heading for the actual end of the land I found The Land's End Hotel. Parking up outside and asking at reception I was escorted to the bar where I bought a coffee and sat contemplating what the view would look like on a clear day. The waitress assured me she could make out the lighthouse in the fog but I didn't even have a clue which way I was supposed to be looking to find it... For any of you heading that way, rolling up as a damp cyclist didn't phase them one jot and the hotel certainly looked very classy and an excellent spot to blow the budget and stay the night at the end of a John O'Groats to Land's End ride. Surprisingly checking the prices they don't look too bad either...

Hunting around outside there was no sign of the famous signpost, just a notice saying that when it wasn't "in operation" to the other one at the other end of the patio - which wasn't there either. Ok, so I guess I saved myself the cost. And in the fog it would just have looked like it could have been anywhere. Another time...

I'd already made the decision, rather than take the fast LeJOG route along the A30 (potentially dangerous - ie. too many not-careful-enough drivers on what would be a rural A-road elsewhere in the country) to follow the coastal B-road north. This would mean more challenging riding but a better cycling experience and seeing more of the 'real' Cornwall.

Mid morning coffee and cake was at the Geevor Tin Mine cafe where the staff pronouced Kate as 'the unusual vehicle of the day'...

Travelling onwards the height increased, the surroundings becoming moorland. Picturesque dilapidated tin workings were all around... As the weather improved this whole section of coast kept revealing promising hints of pretty detours down to small villages. It would have been good to have the time to explore them all but I have miles to cover... I feel I need more words for this section - with improving weather and blue skies is was good, enjoyable riding that needs to be experienced rather than described.

The B-road remained quiet up to St Ives which is where everybody seemed to going to and from. With little choice on route I joined the busier route down into Hayle and a lunchtime cafe stop. Onwards, via Portreath. Taking the lesser road towards Porthowen the long drag was rewarded with a sudden and unexpected Tea Garden with the most wonderful Apple Crumble that was made with apples from the tree right next to the tables.

Clipping the edge of St Agnes and heading north the weather began to close in again and I was feeling the miles in my legs. Usually Day 3 is the challenging one so it seemed a little odd to be suffering today, but the turning weather wasn't helping. My GPS showed Cross Coombe Farm at Trevellas but arriving at the gate a sign indicated I was in the right place but there was no sign of any life or facilities. My first camp site failure. With a small 'public' touring site right next door I didn't bother poking around I went there instead.

Pitched, a good hot showered, coffee and caked, I took a gentle walk down the somewhat steep road to the beach...

Specs: 47 miles, 1018m/3340ft of climb, 9mph average speed.

GAB 2013 Day 4: Tuesday September 24th - Veryan to Land's End

The weather... Late September is heading towards Autumn. Cornwall is the at extreme South and West of the UK. The week before this trip had been wet and windy but fortunately for this week the forecast was clear, bright and warm. They forgot humid. Temperatures were around 18C but each morning started foggy. This morning the after breakfast the tent went away damp. The road atlas I was using for navigation was damp around the edges. No real problem as I had a Garmin Edge 800 with me with all of my campsites programmed in. The daily plan was to navigate from memory or using the road atlas as far as I felt like travelling and then use the GPS to find the nearest site and guide me in. Some of the Camping & Caravan sites are members-only so aren't always that easy to find. The reason for not using the GPS all the time was to conserve battery power as when camping I can't be sure when I can next get access to mains electricity to recharge.

Kate was covered in condensation. Riding in the day just added to that condensation - I'm not sure if that was the tent drying or me sweating, but everything not in dry bags was starting to get a little dank.

Last night I'd steadily dropped from the main road for a couple of miles down to the campsite. It wasn't a long or hard hill but looking at the map it was a couple of miles of climb back up to the road to then double back south. Or a small 1 mile road to pick it up further south nearer the coast. 4 miles or 1 mile. The answer seemed easy. Heading down into Veryan village confirmed that it had been too far to walk for dinner. Taking the right turn on the 25% climb was a little tough but the road then headed down to the mill. One quarter mile to the main road. Upwards. 25% is tough but climbable in Kate. Right hairpin turn into woodland. Wet road. Muddy wet road. Back wheel spinning. Pedals spinning. Going backwards. The 26in Durano is making no impact. So, for the first time ever riding a velomobile there is only one answer. I got out and tried to stand. With cleated shoes that was only working as long as I hung onto the side of the bike... So after a shoe change I pushed Kate 100m up though the woods and back out into clear air and drier, cleaner tarmac.

That '3 miles' that I saved would have been easier than that quarter mile. Oh well.

I have developed a theory that councils in Cornwall only buy 3 road signs. There is the '3 miles to ...' which clearly means it is a long way yet, there is the '1 mile to...' which is a tease and means you are nearly there and it might be just around the next corner or there might be a 25% climb and it is still 20 minutes to go. The third class of sign is the '2 miles to...' which comes with a variety of fractions - initially just 2-and-a-half, but then they sneak in 2-and-three-quarters and 2-and-one-quarter. I was waiting for the next step and distances in eighths of a mile. These signs are doubly frustrating when there are signs opposite each other for the two side roads at a crossroads as the two rarely are in agreement and might be as much as a mile different (see the Newquay signs each side of the main road here). This is not helped by riding another 10 minutes to find the next distance sign reads more than the previous two...

Heading down towards St Mawes I picked up the King Harry Ferry signs and, due to the pretty tiny roads, it became apparent my 'short cut' had missed the main road to the ferry. Oh well, more adventure.

'King Harry Floating Bridge' approaching the Western Coast

 There was a fair bit of climb and height gain before joining the main road to Falmouth. I didn't take a photo but here is a link on StreetView of the exit from the ferry. The gradient wasn't an issue, but that corner was rather tight for the limited steering lock that Kate has...

The main road was heaving. Initially rolling which at least meant fast miles. It was a drag up to the Helston turning but at least there was a tea van here for a refuel. The Helston road, whist still an A-road was quieter, with plenty of passing space and the run into Helston and on to The Lizard was possible the fastest section of the whole week.

Kate parked at Lizard Point - the most southerly part of the British mainland.

Whilst the roads were good - the last stretch was troublesome with drivers who didn't want to use the car parks but rather insisted on going down the single track lane and then fight it out for the 10 or so available spaces. With pedestrians and cyclists here too this seemed rather a crazy arrangement.

Also rather crazy was The Polpeor Cafe at Lizard Point - with a big sign saying 'Table Service' I grabbed a window table so I could keep and eye on Kate and waited. After five minutes I wandered over to the counter but with staff wandering back and forth I couldn't grab anybody's attention. I returned to the table, waited another few minutes before giving up. In my experience service can be slow in some cafes but a complete fail in this way is unusual!
 Lizard Point Lighthouse and car park of the crazies...

I returned to Lizard village and the rather excellent Coast Coffee Bar & Bistro - service was prompt, friendly and fast. And the coffee refreshed tired legs.

With The Lizard being a peninsula the way out was to retrace the route up to Helston past Goonhilly satellite ground station. There didn't seem to be much of it to be seen from the Helston road and I didn't have the time for a diversion for a better view.

Into Helston and on to Penzance. Fast roads making up for the earlier drags. Until reaching the A30 where the volume of traffic just brought things to a halt. Again if I'd had more time I'd have taken the B-road to the south and out to Land's End but wanting to press on I continued on the A30 around Penzance and westward. The thing I couldn't work out is where everybody was going - there is nothing of any consequence beyond Penzance - just small villages and holiday homes - but the traffic here was busier than anywhere else on the trip.

Things were finally getting quieter as I reached Sennen Cove for the now almost expected Camping&Caravan Club official warm welcome. Again as the only tent camper I had the 'lightweight' field to myself overlooking Land's End airport until the mist enveloped it. Not quite at the 'official' Land's End - I was too lazy to ride down this evening, but hey, pretty much there!

Specs: 70 miles, 1354m/4420ft of climb, 10.8mph average speed.

GAB 2013 Day 3: Monday September 23rd - Plymouth, into Cornwall and to Veryan

A little bit of a lazy start giving the Plymouth rush hour traffic time to subside. A breakfast of porridge and coffee - water boiled using meths in the Backcountry Boiler, porridge made by putting the pre-bagged (ziplock bags packed at home) porridge and sugar into a lock-n-lock box, add boiling water, sealing the box and leaving in a radiator foil packet to 'cook'. Coffee made from ground and an Aeropress filter. This is the first trip I've take the filter on - it is a little bulky for my minimalist camping bit it was taken as a treat and it has worked perfectly - my only worry being my being paranoid about keeping the filter papers dry. There is a reusable stainless steel filter available - perhaps a good camping option? Making the porridge first then the coffee - by the time the coffee is done the porridge is ready to go. This isn't the worlds most exciting breakfast but it is enough to get me going for the first hour or two before buying '2nd breakfast' from the first cafe I spot.

Loaded up and rolling the convenience of the Pilgrims' Rest campsite became clear... The first sign I found told me it was only 5 miles into Plymouth City Centre! Joining the slow motor traffic over an unavoidable river crossing the amount of red bus lane paint distracted me and I shot past the ferry turning and the easiest way back was a magical mystery tour through back streets.

Picking up the route again the large roads were suspiciously quiet... 0915... Perhaps those going to work have gone, those going elsewhere haven't moved yet? Cresting a hill a black hatchback pulled past leaving maybe 5 metres clearance, was maybe another 10 metres ahead when, with a loud bang, his wing mirror furthest from me detonated and left the parts in the roadway. No obvious pothole or anything. Just the strangeness of Plymouth.

The ride down to the Torpoint ferry was reasonably straight forward and uneventful. There was a short wait for the ferry to arrive and it was HUGE. I thought I'd taken a photo but there's nothing on the camera, oh well. It was like a normal flatbed 6-car ferries I've used on the smaller rivers but with 8 lanes. The double decker bus just disappeared into the crowd of cars and trucks! As the only cyclist I was last on and even had my own lane.

On landing in Cornwall (only a short crossing over the river Tamar) felt like arriving in another country. Picking up the main road out of town it was reasonably flat. A change from the previous few days! The change in country was obvious from the curious placenames now appearing on the signpost:

However welcome the flat riding was, it was shortlived. Taking the A-road turn towards Looe I was soon climbing again. One long drag. A narrow road - not as wide as many B-roads used elsewhere on the trip. With crazy drivers. The Tredinnick Farm Shop was a very welcome stopping off point. From the couple of small signs advertising a tea shop I wasn't expecting much in this rural location but the cafe was excellent and a well worthwhile stopping off point for refreshments before diving down into Looe. This shop wins the prize for the largest Cornish Pasty of the entire trip - a very healthy 30cm end-to-end! And still change from £5 after the pasty, tea and a couple of glasses of squash.

Back on the road the descent began down into Looe. The first real test of Kate's twin 90mm drum brakes... Rolling into the harbour the best spot was to grab a parking space opposite a cafe. As I got out a shop owner wearing a smart tweed jacket came dashing across the road, asked to put his arm over my shoulder as his colleague took our photo - erm, ok... I'm not used to this kind of welcome!!!

I got a coffee and sat to watch the world pass for a while. The lady sharing the table offered to take my photo so here is the only one of the trip that I'm in! She was waiting for her husband to return from Exeter getting their hire car wing mirror replaced - lost to the same crazy drivers on the road into Looe that had been worrying me!

The coffee did its job and the haul out of Looe didn't seem as vicious as the descent. The ride out of Looe was nothing special, but turning onto the Bodinnick road was a complete change - wonderful rolling country, the weather picked up, no traffic - if you're out this way then this road really must be included!

Sat on the Brodinnick-Fowey ferry waiting for departure.

Fowey and on to the outer reaches of St Austell had me rejoining the world of traffic - with motorists whizzing around randomly, making crazy manoeuvers to overtake just to get to the red traffic light first. The drag out of town was unforgiving and in a motorway stylee. Not pleasant but at least with plenty of passing room. Finally some open road and faster pace. Time was getting on and my legs feeling the earlier hills. A left turn away from the traffic and dropping towards to coast and the Camping&Caravan Club site at Veryan was just too tempting.

As usual - the only tent camper on site...

Great washrooms, a warm welcome from the owners and plenty of choice for a dry pitch. The only problem was that it looked to be too far to be bothered to walk to the pub for dinner so it was a self-catering night - coffee and cake. I was more interested in rest anyway! A couple of ladies were having similar problems looking for the path to the beach - a mile and a half each way seemed to be more than they fancied.

Specs: 60 miles, 1403m/4600ft of climb, 9.7mph average speed.