OK, I’m now back in Elland after my ride up and then down (kind of – I caught the train from Hebden Bridge to Halifax and then cycled back along the Hebble Trail and then the canal) the Calder Valley. Apart from the simple joy of getting out on the bike after such a long break (see The Return Of The Cyclist, Part I for my excuses), I did need to check a few things out.
Firstly the bike. It’s been serviced with new wheels, chain, brake pads and probably a few other bits and pieces that I’ve forgotten about. Before setting off to Hebden Bridge I had to do a little bit of reassembling and adjusting. I also removed the stand which looks as though it needs replacing. I purposefully didn’t refit any of the appendages of cycle touring (phone mount, home-made map platform etc…) in order to check the fundamentals of the bike and I am pleased to say everything was working extremely well indeed. There were no annoying noises and the mechanism slipped from gear to gear seamlessly. Good start.
Now the rider. Well physically he also fared very well. The ride was no marathon but the steep hill from Sowerby Bridge to Sowerby village was ticked off without hesitation or indeed too much perspiration. Two months off the bike doesn’t seem to have affected my ability to take on a challenging, albeit relatively short, climb. Some other, younger cyclists had given up and were pushing their bikes; I just chose a low gear and plodded on remaining seated all the way to the top. That’s the positive. The not-so-positive was how I coped with the cold. When I set off the sky was blue and the sun shining and although it never rained it did cloud over somewhat and with only two layers covering my body, I began to get rather cold to say the very least. Sitting outside the cafe in Hebden Bridge to write the previous post wasn’t perhaps the best of ideas but having failed to find the key to my bike lock (one of the joys of moving home!), I left the lock at home and remained outside whilst sipping my coffee in order to keep an eye out for thieves. I started to shiver a little and circulation in my hands and feet started to cease. This has been a useful lesson in being prepared for the elements and I must make sure over the course of the next two weeks I prepare to cycle in Spain in April and Norway in July. It is unlikely that the temperature will drop to the low level that I experienced today in Yorkshire but I will be cycling for much longer periods and in Norway I could be a significant distance away from a hot tap. The secret seems to be keeping the core body warm and this is not what I did today. The brain was prioritising keeping my vital organs warm at the expense of my extremities and it wasn’t simply a case of wearing warmer gloves or socks (although where I would find warmer gloves than the Seal Skinz level 5 ones I was wearing I’m not quite sure!). I need to get down to an outdoor shop and invest in some serious thermal body insulation. Advice welcome!
On the plus side however, I did something today that I do intend doing in Spain and Norway later in the year; I cycled with long trousers. The trousers in question are a pair of Marmot walking trousers. I bought them back in 2013 prior to a holiday in the Tatra mountains of Slovakia and they were expensive (about £70) but extremely comfortable. I have long suspected that they might be a good cool weather cycling trouser as well but until today had never tried them out. They were perfect and my concern over the slight baggyness near the ankle causing a problem with the chain didn’t materialise at all. I just need to make sure that I have some cushioned cycling shorts underneath and a pair of waterproof overtrousers available and below the waist I will be sorted.
Yesterday I purchased my ticket to fly to Malaga; I leave on Wednesday 25th February so I have just over two weeks to get prepared for the long cycle from Tarifa to Nordkapp that will kick off in early April after my month of Spanish language learning in Cadiz in March.