Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The best birthday present ever!...

Some considerable events have occurred recently -  most significantly being my passage into a seventh decade of existence. I did my best to remain anonymous in the face of such a startling proposition and yet to no avail - those 'in-the-know' about such things made sure it would be an indelible and memorable occasion.

I did my best to avoid any temptation for organised celebration - much preferring to let the 'event' pass with a quiet whisper. When Gary suggested meeting up for a birthday ride at 9.00am followed by a beer at his house - at 10.00am I suspected a rat! - Beer at 10.00???

In the end though, after much cajoling in the pub on Friday with Gary and John both piling on the pressure, I caved in and agreed to the plan - then Gaz decided to change his mind and said something along the lines of "we'll leave it" - by now I'm confused? Although we did agree to an evening meet-up in June for a night out with the girls.

So, I drive back from the pub, I get home whereupon I follow my usual routine: A trip to the loo. Then ask the blonde if she'd like a drink, I walk through to the kitchen to prepare a G&T or glass of wine, or both. I switch on the light, standing in front of me, leaning against the kitchen units is the most beautiful surprise.....

Regular readers of this blog will know that our latest cycling craze centres on classic vintage steel bicycles. The cycling 'gang' here in the Midlands have been building a formidable collection these past six months - so much so that our supplier and most excellent craftsman, Mike Spratt of Vintage Cycle Sport has probably the fastest growing and most successful cycle business in the South-East. For my own part I have purchased a classic Colnago and Bianchi - Gary has a MacLean and a Sun. Last time I saw Mike I talked to him about my desire to find a Holdsworth, an English classic which, once acquired, would complete my 'holy trinity' set.

.... there it is, in front of me! - a Holdsworth Professional - 1971, lustrous orange and kingfisher blue paintwork, Campagnolo gears, brakes and hubs, beautifully restored, gleaming, luscious - I'm speechless, can't take it in, what?, how?, when?... The blonde sneaks in behind me - "Happy Birthday"

Then there's the explanation - she overheard me talking about the Holdsworth - she contacted Mike and arranged for him to sort it out - Gary picked it up a few weeks back and had it stored in his garden house. The idea to meet up for a birthday ride was a plan to get me to his house for the reveal - then because I seemed reluctant they changed it; the blonde went over to Gary's in the car and picked up the bike while we were in the pub! I'm listening to the story, still gazing at the bike trying to piece it all together - wow! - what an unbelievable surprise - the best birthday present I've ever had. The bike is magnificent - thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you - to all involved.

I wheel the bike into the lounge so that I can look at it while sitting on the sofa with my glass of wine - the blonde tells me she's organised a meal at our local gastro-pub. Blimey, another surprise I say - is it just us going I ask - yes she says - I tell her I've planned a night out with Gary and John as well - but that won't be until June, after we've been on holiday.

Next evening we drive up to Sutton Cheney to The Hercules Revisited, a nicely presented country dining-pub, we've been before so we know it to be good. We get a drink and are shown to our table - I follow the waitress, up the stairs and round the corner to an alcove table - there are people at the table - at first I don't realise - but it's Gary, Val, John and Jane - ha! - they've got me again! - didn't see it coming at all! - to round off my birthday 'surprise' a night out for the six of us - perfect!

Thanks again to a great gang of friends for their part in such a memorable and exciting weekend - and especially to my darling wife - known in these pages as 'the blonde' - whose astounding sculduggery has bowled me over, left me speechless, astounded, euphoric and overwhelmed all at the same time!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Old bikes - same old punctures!...

If spring is about looking forward and autumn about dying back, summer is surely about the present moment - a long, hot now that marks the sultry climax to the year - roughly bookended by haymaking and harvest, it is a time of fruition and plenty, of promises fulfilled. Spring's generative riotousness slows and ceases and a stillness settles over the land.

Summer seemed to arrived here - in all its warmth and glory - and the opportunity to dress up in retro clothing and ride the classic bikes is something to savour. So it was that Gary, Phil and I met up for a morning 'test'. Phil was riding his fully restored BSA Tour of Britain machine, resplendent in a colour coordinated woollen jersey parading the BSA logo and completing the 'look' with a pair of hand-made leather shoes. I opted for the Bianchi today - giving a chance to don my recent eBay purchases; retro styled Bianchi jersey and shorts - with matching socks and cap! On the way to meet up I stopped roadside to adjust the Garmin on my handlebars (absolutely not a period feature!) - two riders whizzed past as I stood there - I heard one say: "Bloody hell, have we gone back in time?"

We met at the usual cycling rendezvous and quickly set off for Market Bosworth. The sunshine was strong and bright, a slight tailwind helping us along as we reached 23mph. These bikes move fast - I can't really notice any difference compared to my carbon bike - until the road rises - uphill they're harder, but only because the gearing is much higher with a 53 chainring and the largest rear cog only 22. No matter - we managed to climb the hill to the town centre without any heart attacks.

At the cafe
We decided a coffee stop would be appropriate - opting to sit on the bench outside and enjoy the sunshine. There was quite an interest in the bikes, a couple of cyclists leaving the cafe stopped to examine, then a couple (not cycling) came over for a chat, he said he rode a Boardman hybrid, but remembered fondly his old Raleigh with Campagnolo gears. Then a man from the house adjacent to the cafe came out - he was interested in the old bikes, he had an old racer originally made in Leicester - he went to fetch it - it was probably built late 1970s or early 80s, he was interested in getting it restored - we chatted for a while and he gave us his email to pass on to Mike at Vintage Cycle Sports.

`You fix the puncture, I'll pretend to be an aeroplane'

We left for the return journey and split up at Congerstone with me taking the high road to home. At the top of the hill - Pffffshhhhh - puncture! The perennial problem with tyres and, consequentially, punctures on these old machines is two fold - 1) They are fitted with tubular tyres - no inner-tubes, so roadside repair means removing the old tyre and replacing with a new one - which has to be glued onto the steel wheel rim. 2) The tyres don't have the same level of anti-puncture protection afforded by modern clincher tyres - in other words they are more susceptible to punctures!

The immediate problem for me was that I'd forgotten to bring a spare tyre (aargh) - thankfully I wasn't far from home and I managed to slowly ride there on the flat tyre.

I've now ordered a couple of spare tyres and have just completed a repair of the punctured one - a lengthy process involving pealing off the cloth tape glued (welded?) to the underside of the tyre, undoing the stitched tyre casing to reveal the tube, repairing the tube with a patch, re-stitching the casing and supergluing the cloth tape back on - took me over an hour! - hopefully should be okay though?