New Bottom Bracket

I have today replaced the sealed cartridge bottom bracket on my Orbit Silver Medal.  A job I approached with a little trepidation given the problems revealed by others in forums on the internet, not least this thread:- CTC FORUM.
Which includes the following report after numerous tips having been given.

“Thank you all for the advice, I removed the bottom bracket tonight with a big hammer & supporting the frame against some thick wood. It came out after a few hits leaving the plastic ends behind, these were removed by forcing a screwdriver between the plastic & the frame. 
The thread inside the frame is now possibly damaged but I will get a bottom bracket for damaged threads”.

Well I am pleased to say I avoided such extreme action.  The correct tool however was not easy to use as keeping it pushed hard enough on to the plastic cap was nigh on impossible. To resolve this I bolted the removal tool on to the crank by using a ring spanner as a washer.  The lugs of the tool were then very securely fixed on to the plastic cap and it was just a matter of applying a strong pull/push on the wrench on the tool.

Tool bolted to crank.

Tool bolted to crank using crank bolt and ring spanner as a washer.

Push down on spanner to remove plastic cap.

Push down on spanner to remove plastic cap.

A quick road test and all is well, apart from………………….. the clicking I was so convinced was the bottom bracket is still evident.  Oh well, a new skill learnt!

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Anjou Vélo Vintage

Some thirty years ago my wife and I visited Saumur in the Anjou region of France for the first time.  We fell in love with the town and have been back many times.  Last year we spent a weekend there at the same time as the annual Anjou Vélo Vintage cycle ride was taking place (not a coincidence).  The town really took on a party atmosphere and I decided there and then that I would take part in one of the four rides on offer in 2014.
_NJH0411All I was short of was an old bike!
In September 2014 I acquired a 1980’s Bianchi from an acquaintance who, unknown to me at the time, was planning to do the same ride (as well as L’Eroica in Italy and the Eroica Britannia in Yorkshire).  The bike was surplus due to his having acquired a second “up market” model direct from Italy.  The bike as best I can determine is a Bianchi Sprint 28c manufactured, I think, in 1985 (which if correct will make the bike the same age as my daughter). It is pretty much at the lowest end of the Bianchi range of the time with Simplex, Ofmega and Weinman components.  Having said that, the front derailleur band snapped on first use and given the cost of a used genuine part and their known fragility it has been replaced with a Shimano component.
This week despite my best intention of just using it in its current state I have stripped the frame completely in order to overhaul headset and bottom bracket as well as cleaning all components.
_NJH3545I was surprised at how light the frame actually is (and in contrast how heavy the box of components is)!
My problem now – well having got this far it seems silly not to purchase new decals and have it resprayed.
To date I have ridden this bike about 200 metres (the end of our street and back twice) but  it has given me immeasurable pleasure.  I am looking forward to putting it back together and more than anything else riding the Anjou Vèlo Vintage at the end of June.

Anjou is strictly speaking not a region of France, Saumur being in the region of Centre. Anjou is the historical name for the region.

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Take Away Space From Cars to Reduce Congestion For All

Take Away Space From Cars to Reduce Congestion For All.

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The Start to my Weekend!

Yesterday a CTC B ride was planned.  Starting in Northampton I travelled to a friends home from where we would start our journey to the meeting point.  I was a little apprehensive given the ride was billed as brisk!

Fate, however, intervened.  Before even reaching the start point my front deraillier cable snapped leaving me on the small chain ring, legs spinning furiously to maintain a top speed of; wait for it, 10mph.  Decision made, I bade farewell to my friend and headed home.  Fate, however, had not quite finished with me.  For an inexplicable reason (to me anyway) my steering became somewhat stiff, not noticeable on the bike but very noticeable once off it.  Oh well, never mind.  It was an interesting afternoon.  Cable replacement, no problem.  Headset, never touched one of those before, but after a quick read discovered it isn’t as complicated as I feared and it is now the penultimate part of my bike I know well (the last being the bottom bracket).

In my cold garage, raining outside, my thoughts wandered back to a ride undertaken two weeks ago from Bruges in Belgium to Sluis in the Netherlands with my wife, here are some photos.



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Cycle 4 Cynthia 2013 – Charity Ride

What a difference a year makes.  Last years ride (click here for blog entry) was completed on a dull overcast day with my last hour of the ride undertaken in the pouring rain.  I was so cold by the time I finished I couldn’t even squeeze my helmet fastener to get my helmet off!

But not this year.  After leaving home in fog I arrived at Althorp House not only in good time but in glorious sunshine.  It was not long before I met up with others as pre-arranged and some good pre-ride banter was to be had whilst waiting in the holding pen before the start.  We were on the 50 mile route.  This however was the same as last year and with 3300 feet of climbing involved it could not be called a breeze of a ride though.  But hey thats only 1 kilometre – doesn’t sound much, does it.

We rolled slowly away.  The PA system giving encouragement – in the form of news that next years route will be flatter!

Up the gentle incline towards Great Brington, it was then around the tight plunging right hander (that is also on the return route and a bit of a nemesis for me) before screaming downhill and over the railway line and then uphill to East Haddon.  Once through the village it was another fast descent towards Ravensthorpe.  All too short lived as we all began to dance on the pedals on the climb to the village.  A right turn and we were on the roller coaster route that would see us through Teeton and up to Spratton.  Straight through Spratton and down we go again, and up, and down, before the hard pull into Brixworth.  Once through Brixworh the route turned North and across comparatively flat lands.  The legs were now well and truly warm and we glided along with 16-18 mph indicated.  We made a stop at the second feed station, some 20 miles into the ride.  I stopped here last year.  It was a case of déja vu when after a few moments someone quickly stopped, forgot unclip and hit the road – I cannot remember if it was the same person as last year!  Don’t you just hate it when that happens?  We’ve all done it – haven’t we?
Once underway again it was time for the hills to start making a reappearance.  It was uphill towards Clipston before turning left towards Naseby and then on to Haselbech.  From there it was down a fast narrow descent towards Cottesbrooke.  Its a descent to which I attach a great deal respect, a pot hole at the bottom having been responsible for a hospital stay of a week for my father a few years ago.

It is all glorious countryside around here and not unfamiliar to me as it is where I do the vast majority of my riding.  But with the effort and the conversation it all passed very quickly and before very long we were grinding up the hill in Creaton before another descent into Hollowell.  From there, it was Guilsborough.  But before that the hill out of Hollowell – last year it beat me and was the first of three points where I briefly walked.  Not this year – I beat it.  At Guilsborough we stopped at the feed station, a point where the 25 mile route joined us.  I chatted with a guy on a fixie – he was on the 25 mile route but I know I would rather do the 50 with my gears than the 25 on that!  It did look great though.

Next few miles were again a roller coaster into Cold Ashby and then towards Yelveroft.  Cold Ashby marks the highest point in Northamptonshire – must be all downhill from here.  It was comfortable riding towards Yelvertoft and I even managed a long conversation with what I believe to be the only Brompton in the event.  A pristine white 3 speed H type.  It became more strained out of Yelvertoft as legs became tired and it was a long slow climb towards West Haddon.  After this it was Long Bucky, another single track road with some serious inclines.  The last of which also beat me last year – not this year though!  From Long Buckby it really was the home straight, with the road running parallel to the railway it was pretty easy, until that is, we hit the last climb into Great Brington and what was now a very sharp left hander.  In the best traditions of taking a switchback I used all the road and went the long way round to find the easiest route.  That was the final hill that killed me last year and I had conquered them all.  Alpe d’huez in isn’t but never the less it was an achievement for me – what with being a year older too.

It was all downhill to the finish and the ceremonial receipt of a medal.  After all regrouping there was only two things left to do ……….. bikes in cars and off to the pub!

Another great day and all in a good cause.  Col, Giles, Dave, Milton and Matt – thanks for the banter.  Special mention for friend Alex – didn’t see much of him after the start but he was unmissable on his vintage Bianchi resplendent in his vintage jersey, shorts, shoes and with a spare tube over his shoulder, he even had a curly moustache!  Not sure that the klaxon was original though.

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Leicester Castle Classic – 18 August 2013

A great day out.  Not a huge crowd but only the first time the event has been held and many of those there only found out about it by chance, as did I a couple of days before.  Hopefully it will be a permanent fixture.  I will certainly be there next year and might even be evident in the “shoppers and choppers” event.

Congratulations to winner, Simon Yates.
(Click to read British Cycling report and view photos – NB the one below is mine!)
castleclassiccastle route

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Day 4 – Friday 14th June 2013

I was rudely awakened by my alarm just as the sun rose above the rooftops of Dunkerque.

Bike in Bedroom!

I had decided to try to make the ferry before the one on which I was booked, IE the 10:00 as opposed to 12:00.  After as much as I possible could at the buffet breakfast I was on my way at just gone seven.  I had no problems fitting my bike in the lift having mastered, the previous evening, the “stand on end and wedge it in” method.  Seriously the lift was a 4 person maximum and I reckon measure just 1000mm x 900mm!
I had studied the map of Dunkerque the previous evening and decided to take the most obvious route to the port regardless of the road classification.  As it turned out the majority of the route, whilst being a major route and busy, had a good cycle lane, the hinderance being the amount of tree debris that had been blown down the previous day/night.  It was just the last 2 miles approaching the port that was a bit ****


I checked in for the 10:00 crossing and joined the queue, well leapt to the front of it.  Just before boarding I was joined by another touring cyclist on a Thorn Nomad who was cutting short his travels after six weeks due to a family bereavement.  We started chatting  which led to the usual question, “where are you from”.  As it turned out we live in adjacent villages!!!
As I cross the channel I am able to reflect on the past few days.  All in all the weather could have been better but it could also have been a lot worse.  After all it did not rain on me once.
The continental cycling, and particularly Belgium and the Netherlands was fantastic and certainly worth returning to experience more – it is just so much more relaxing than on the Uk roads.  I could have done with better maps, particularly of built up areas.  A GPS would have been great, but where is the challenge in that?
Four days (two and a bit in reality) did not do the journey justice and it would have been better if more time had been available to meander a little from the route.  However I have seen and experienced a lot and it will be a perfect grounding for coming back and seeing more.
Port Route

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Day 3 – Thursday 13th June 2013

I awoke this morning after a goods nights sleep that was only punctuated by the occasional waking to the sound of torrential rain and a howling wind.  Needless to say I was wondering what sort of day I was in for.

I left the hotel at 9am (breakfast was not available until 08:30) and whilst the weather was dull it was not raining.  I did battle with the wind for one and a half hours and am now on the return “fast ferry”.  My route back to Vlissingen was different to the outgoing (shorter) but I still managed to get lost in Middelburg.  It will be interesting to see the GPS tracks on later (nick1956).
Next stage is to head into Belgium and board the tram.  Somewhat choppy out here now and proving difficult to write, whats more, I am feeling whoozy!!!
Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 10.25.25DSCN0215The ride West from Breskens where the ferry docks was an interesting ride.  I say interesting but if the wind had been calm it would have been delightful.  The route took me West, sometimes up on the dykes and sometimes behind them, either way there was no escaping the wind.  It was the only time this trip that I wished I had the SLR camera with me (a pair of aero bars would have been useful too).
Polder Dyke

Arrival in Knokke-Heist came at 13:00 and I proceeded to waste a bit of time trying to guess where the tramway might start from.  Well eventually aboard, destination De Panne in the Western corner of Belgium.  It isn’t a smooth ride but good value it is, 2 Euros for me and 2 Euros for the bike for an 80km ride taking 2.5 hours.
Polder DykeLF1a
I have reserved a room in Dunkerque centre for this evening.  By taking the tram I am effectively splitting the balance of the ride from De Panne into two parts.  The final part from Dunkerque centre to the port left for tomorrow morning.

Whilst the grey skies persisted all morning it has not rained ….. yet!  The forecast wind was 35kph (21mph).  At times I was crawling along at a mere 8mph.

The tram ride became particularly interesting as we arrived at Oostende central station.  An announcement was made and everybody rose and started to get off.  I unlashed my bike and started to follow.  Everyone piled into the tram in front bearing the destination board “De Panne”.  It was already busy but as I was last to board it was akin to getting into a rush hour London tube train – now imagine doing that but pushing a bicycle in with you and you have the scene I was creating!
As we moved into the suburbs the passengers thinned out and was able to lash my bike into the wheelchair area previously full of pushchairs and prams – I thought they folded?
We eventually arrived in De Panne under very grey skies with a veritable gale blowing.  I managed to locate the correct way to exit De Panne and was soon on a long, VERY LONG, straight road straight into the wind.  It is no exaggeration when I say that I have never cycled in anything worse.  In fact, at home, I just wouldn’t bother going out.
The road led to Bray-Dunes where I spent my first night.  At about 5km from the town I caught a young lad pushing his bike.  I thought he may have a puncture or need assistance, but no, he had simply given up fighting the wind.
I made, yet again, a few navigational errors in Bray-Dunes but was soon powering on towards Dunkerque.  Sometimes there was a little shelter and the speedometer limped into double figures.  Never was anyone as happy as I was when I passed the Dunkerque entry board.  However there was still about 4km to the centre.  This bit actually turned out to be fun.  A good cycle lane occupied the right hand side of the carriageway and the only obstructions occurred when busses stopped to collect or deposit passengers. A large modern bendy bus passed me on the outskirts and like a demented schoolboy I decided I would try and race it to the centre – we played cat and mouse all the way in.  The bus won.
Close to the centre I pulled over and retrieved the hotel address from my bar bag, I continued 200 metres and asked a pedestrian where the street in particular was.  He asked where in particular I wanted.  “Hotel Ibis” I replied. “Il est là” he said pointing to the lurid red neon sign visible above the other buildings.  I backtracked and discovered the hotel to be exactly where I had stopped to open the bar bag ….. spooky.

Well, after showering, changing, putting the phone on to charge and ……….. washing my socks, I collected a local map from reception and headed out.  The sun was now out and all was well with the world.  An advertisement on the map indicated a chinese restaurant close to the centre of town.  After more of the usual navigational fun I am getting used to I found it, about a mile from the hotel.  Oh well, the sun was out, the walk pleasant and after all I had been sitting down all day.
I ate enough for two and high tailed it back to the hotel before happy hour ended at 20:00hrs.  I just made it, 50cl of beer for the price of 33cl. Bliss.

To be continued…….
Emoji Emoji Emoji Emoji
Track to Dunkerque

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Day 2 – 12th June 2013

I arrived in Breskens 10 minutes ago and as luck would have it I was straight on to a fast ferry to Vlissingen.  It is currently 15:30 and I left Bray-Dunes at 08:35.  So far 65 miles today.

Out of Bray-Dunes I headed South which as it happened was not exactly the best way.  I soon realised this and swung East on very minor roads with a strong wind on my back.  It was all quiet lanes towards the Belgium border and Verne.  Now I am familiar with the Schengen agreement and did no expect to have to lay my hands on my passport until the homeward ferry check-in.  As I sped through a minuscule hamlet something in a wooden shed caught my eye.  I slammed on the brakes and returned, not knowing what I was supposed to do…… see pictures below 😉

Border PostBorder Guard!

Finding Verne was not at all difficult given the excellent cycle route signing and the fact that the church/cathedral was visible from far off on account of the flat lands I was traversing.  Entering he town I had a little difficulty determining what was cycle lane and what was pavement but following the lead of others soon cleared that confusion.  I was, I thought, scanning diligently for cycle route signs to Neiuwpoort.  I crossed a bridge and some 50 metres later thought “what did the sign on the bridge say”?  I backtracked to discover that it was the Dunkerque-Neiuwpoort canal and hence the direct route to follow.


It did not take long before I was out of town and bowling along in the breeze.  It was easy going.  On arrival at Neiuwpoort there was a little head scratching at the joining of several canals at what I can only describe as a canal round-a-bout.  I soon found the finger posts indicating Lefringe and Oudenberg and I was underway once more.  I passed possibly hundreds of cyclists on this section traveling between the Towns.  I think I was the only one wearing a helmet – the locals made up for this though by wearing their overcoats!

At Oudenburg the signs for Brugge appeared and it was a slight change in direction that meant I lost pretty much all of the beautiful wind advantage I had been enjoying.  On almost exactly the stoke of midday I entered the city of Brugge.  This was an experience and a half!  It started well enough with wide, quiet cycle lanes but at one point bridge works forced all cyclists to take a diversionary route with the cars who in turn had formed a long queue at the traffic lights joining the principal ring-road.  Well cyclists of Brugge were not going to sit in line and wait and streamed along both sides of the vehicles.  I followed suit but on their nearside with many others following.  I reached a point, where, given the load of my panniers decided the gap too narrow and stopped fearing I may remove a wing mirror.  As I looked behind every other cyclist simply found gaps between the vehicles to stream down their offside.  Was I going to be left behind?  Was I heck.

The next set of lights saw an absolute mass of us surging away as the lights changed.

I haven’t ridden with as many cyclists since taking part in he BHF London – Brighton in 1998 & 2000.  What fun.
A few minutes later and I was back in the tranquility of the Belgium countryside.
Out of BruggesCycle Route

I was en-route for the Dutch border and the town of Sluis.  Oh dear, I had promised myself lunch in Brugge. Never mind.
Twenty minutes further on I discovered the delightful small town of Damme.  I cycled around for a few minutes until deciding upon which of their quaint eating establishments was to be the beneficiary of my euros and my sweaty disheveled person upon their terrace.  I found one to my liking in a quiet street and installed myself.  Oily fish was my choice of dish, which came, served on a bed of ……. oily salad – perfect.  Sardines on the continent is always one of my favourites.
Cafe - Damme
Just before 2pm I was underway again, and whats more the sun put in an appearance. Oh La La.
Sluis was soon upon me and although I did not venture into the centre it did look very inviting.  This was the Netherlands and my first dutch cycle track around Sluis was all very nice BUT gravel!!!  However this was short lived and the real cycle lanes did not disappoint.  This might be a good point to mention that whilst traversing Belgium I experienced Pave on three occasions.  The first time I hit it at about 18mph, the second time I saw it coming and slowed to about 10mph.  By the time I encountered the third I had learnt the trick of riding the gutter at a snails pace.  Paris-Roubaix I will not be entering next year 😉

I came to the conclusion that if Sluis was anything to go by June is a great month to visit the Netherlands as the huge tourist car park was all but empty.
Oostburg was next up.  It was clean, bright and utterly charming. Old bikes had been sprayed all over in bright colours and were leaning against trees and various bits of street ironmongery along the streets.  Each bike was adorned with flower baskets containing flowers in keeping with the colour the bike was sprayed.
Breskens was after Oostburg and even Vlissingen was on the cycle signs despite it being at the other end of a ferry ride from Breskens.  Two ferries shuttle back and forth so I guess there is never more than a 15 minute wait for a ferry.  As “one” departs the ferry the crossings passenger statistics are displayed.  I crossed with 172 other passengers, 7 other bicycles and one moped!

On the bike deck

Breskens from the Ferry

Just the ride to the North of the island where my selected hotel, and, hopefully, a cold beer awaits.
A minor navigational error in Middelburg saw me leaving the town towards the North East which by the time I realised meant a number of unnecessary miles were covered, and worse still sometimes into the strong wind.  I arrived in Oostkapelle at 17:30 – thirty minutes after the hotel reception closed for the day.  After a little investigative work and the assistance of some cycle friendly dutch folk I had the owners mobile number and thankfully she was happy to come to the hotel and check me in.  She was not in the least put out by my later than envisaged arrival but took the time to show me bike where the “special” shed was – just for my bike.  Next stop a hot shower.  The cycle computer indicating 79.98 miles covered today.
Before I retreated to my room the hotel owner marked on a local area map the local eateries and once smelling and looking more presentable I headed off to the nearest which was actually situated right on the beach looking out across the North sea – which on this evening looked most inhospitable.

DSCN0205Whilst the rain lashed down outside I enjoyed a wholesome meal and a couple of well deserved beers.  Just the journey back to undertake now.

To be continued…………..

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Day 1 – 11th June 2013

I am aboard the DFDS ferry at Dover and waiting to get underway.  It is very much looking as if we will be behind schedule as I was first to board and it is now 13:58 and we should depart at 14:00.  The journey down to Dover in the car was uneventful, boring.  Save for a grim reminder of how fragile life is when I passed the remnants of an earlier accident on the northbound M11.  The motorway was still closed as I heard the travel updates parking in Dover.

The port of Dover is not one that makes the heart sing!  Maybe it was the grey sky or the thick haze impeding the view.  Either way the smell of vehicle fumes did nothing to enhance the experience.  It could have been worse – at least my wait sitting on a wall was in the dry.

We are now one hour into the voyage.  The “clag” has all but lifted and the coastline of France and the ville of Calais are clearly visible on the starboard side where I am sitting.  I am in an area with seating and tables for about 200 people.  looking around there is about 20 of us scattered about. Some reading, some watching the TV, some using laptops and electronic devices.  And the person closest to me?  Fast asleep snoring for England!

From what I can see, the wind, as it was in the car en-route to Dover, is from the South-West.  All indications are that it will be a pleasant ride to Bray les Dunes.

The ferry arrived on time but due to a “technical problem” we were delayed disembarking until 17:25
I set off with trepidation given that I had plotted a route not mentioned in any of the resources I had checked at home.  All was fine, the wind was on my back and I was flying.  After a couple of miles I stopped to take a photo.  I had, I thought, carefully stowed the compact camera in one of my trousers zipped pockets.  Oh no – where is it.  I was trying to decide whether to forget it or turn back in the hope of finding it when I discovered my trousers had more zipped pockets than I had realised.  Panic over. Here are some of the subsequent photos.


All went well until I reached a swing/lift bridge at L’ècluse Charles de Gaulle.  I had a 35 minute wait whilst a huge ship was tugged through.
DSCN0158Whilst waiting I phoned ahead to advise of my later than expected arrival.
Once away again it was a case of following my nose through the yachting marina and into the centre of Dunkerque and out through the suburbs to the East. Now I have to say that “just following my nose” has had me hopelessly lost on more than one occasion!  However this time it worked and I had covered almost 4 miles before verifying that I was indeed where I thought I was.
The roads were flat, the cycle lanes clear and the wind on my back.  At about 19:30 I was rolling into Bray les Dunes, a journey of 21 miles (should have been 18, but hey, I did get lost a couple of times) in 2 hours.  Now bearing in mind the hold up for the peniche thats a very reasonable average speed.
I cannot imagine what my track is going to look like – a bit like a smoke trail from an aircraft looping the loop in places I suspect!  (I am user nick1956 on Endomondo – send me a friend request to access all routes covered).
Track Day 1Finding the chamber d’hôte was not easy but once there all was fine, how many B&Bs do you know with a 1953 TR6 outside and a 1959 MGA in the garage? I just hope that my bike does not fall on it in the night!!!
Chambre d'hôteMy host Pascal was charming and his wife (once home from work at 21:00) even more so.  More importantly he is a damned good cook.  He is also pretty handy with a corkscrew – Too Bloody Handy 😉 ….

À demain.  To be continued.

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