Geekiness warning. Some of you may fall asleep reading this so put down any hot drinks to avoid the risk of injury.
I am sipping a pint of English Pale Ale from the Hogs Back Brewery at Tongham, sitting in the fifteenth century Crispin Inn pub in the mediaeval town of Sandwich after walking it’s walls and I am thinking that touring Britain by bike is a very very good thing to do. We are actually having a day off here and it’s proved to be the ideal place for a rest and to get some essential repairs done. We often get asked if our bodies and the bikes are standing up to the test of this trip so for those of you who are that way inclined here is the story so far.
The bodies have, so far, been very reliable. There was a period of breaking in which involved quite a bit of sunburn despite the cold weather. Ears peeled and lips cracked and we got through a fair amount of sun tan cream but now we find that we just don’t need it anymore. Gill’s back problems have diminished as the days and weeks have gone by (almost certainly helped by her Pilates classes) and we are generally hardened to spending day after day in the saddle. We have both lost weight despite a policy of eating anything and everything that comes our way including using up the previous night’s pudding cream on our cereal in the morning. We both get aching necks and knees some days but generally speaking the bodies have served us well. We have had a relatively easy ride since North Yorkshire so it will be interesting to see if we have lost fitness when we hit the hills of the South Downs, Devon and Cornwall.
I almost daren’t tell you about the bikes for fear of jinxing us but so far we have had very little trouble. I set out with a worn tyre and had to replace it early on and the replacement Michelin World Tour failed after about fifteen hundred miles. That got replaced with a bomb proof Schwalbe Marathon Plus and I expect that to last the trip. I have replaced one set of brake blocks on Gill’s bike and I have had a replacement mudguard due to a minor misunderstanding at a roundabout. I am ashamed to say that I have only washed the bikes once but the main drive chains have been lubricated regularly.
So to the BIG question; how many punctures? Well believe it or not, two! Not bad for a combined mileage of 5,800. Of course both were in back wheels and my policy of rarely cleaning the bikes came back to bite me on both occasions but I only have myself to blame for that.
We did have a problem with Gill’s saddle moving which caused two problems. It meant that Gill was always uncomfortable on the saddle and it also created a fair amount of friction between us because I didn’t believe her. I eventually made a measure and proved myself wrong and a nice chap called Emlyn at the York Hub fixed it with some Loctite.
The most serious issue has been the failure of the mounting brackets on one of Gill’s panniers. They are the Altura Arran ones and the rivets that hold them together have failed. There has been much deployment of temporary fixes with cable ties and bits of wood from the side of the road but a permanent solution has been found.
The first failure was fixed by The Bike Shed in York and the same pannier is now in the capable hands of Andy and Martin at Locks bike shop here in Sandwich after the second clip failed spectacularly yesterday depositing the pannier in the road as we came into town. The zip on one of the pockets has also failed but to be fair these panniers have seen a lot of use over the years so we aren’t really complaining.
A few days from now we have a date with Dorian at Black Bikes in Eastbourne. He is building a new back wheel for Gill as hers is seriously in need of replacement. I checked the wear groove a few days ago only to find it wasn’t there at all and the concave surface of the rim was a bit alarming. We contacted a friend in Eastbourne who put us in touch with Dorian and after a couple of e-mails and a phone call it was all sorted.
There have been other minor clothing failures. Gloves have worn out, my cap fell apart and I have just bought some new shorts because Gill refuses to ride behind me anymore because the view is obscene apparently.
On the whole I don’t think we are doing too bad. Both the bodies and most of the equipment were pretty well worn when we started out so we expected some failures. The one thing that has not failed so far is our sense of humour thank goodness. We are still smiling and thoroughly enjoying the whole experience. Warts and all. (I have two.)