Monday, 27 October 2014

#Coffeeneuring 2014: Ride 3

Destination: Harpers, Half Moon Lane, Pepperstock, Nr. Slip End, Bedfordshire LU1 4LL
Date:  Sunday, 26 October 2014
Hot drink of choice:  Cappuccino
Total mileage:  11.5km
Bicycle:  Lorelei the Puch Princess

Almost exactly a year ago, I used a new-bike-shake-down ride for coffeeneuring.... or a coffeeneuring ride as a shake-down. Here I am, doing that again. 

This past Sunday, I wanted to check out the new Harpers Food Hall and Cafe the other side of Slip End. Harpers are a family run business going back to just after WWII. They started out basically as butchers, gradually expanding into a range of premium meats and even meat-based ready meals. For decades, they were in Studham, not too far to the west of us, but last year they refurbished an abandoned and delapidated old pub as a spacious "show room" for their wares, with a meat counter, cafe and function rooms. 

In any case, this was a perfect excuse to get away from the books (finally finishing my law degree) and see how the recent re-build has changed Lorelei. 

Yes, I still have a thing for tree tunnels. 

I love the autumnal change in the air. 

Arriving at Harpers, I was pleased to see that one car parking space had been made over for bicycle parking. The stands are not at all secure -- in reality, they simply serve as kickstands that are fixed to the ground rather than mounted to your bike. As token security, I put a D-lock through the stand and the front wheel. 

However, in most instances, cyclists stopping here will plan on enjoying their food and drink at the tables outdoors, within sight of their bikes. Also, we find on group rides there's always someone who for one reason or another doesn't plan to go inside the premises and acts as 'guard' for everyone's bikes outside, whether they are properly parked up or not. Another variation is people taking turns to watch over everyone's bikes. 

On that criteria, I was prepared to give Harpers a thumbs up as a potential mid-ride coffee stop when planning future group rides.

The building design is quite rustic. It's obviously new though. I like the dark wooden cladding, but am not too sure about the large bare beams -- the wood looks exposed and dry and every beam has lots of cracks!  

All that aside, the real question is.... is the coffee any good

I am pleased to say "Yes"! 

Since the coffee had passed my tests and as it was already nearly 2pm (oops, 1pm as the clocks had changed that morning) and given the fact that Harpers' reputation rests on the quality of its food, I decided to stay for lunch. I ordered "vegetable soup", expecting something of a medley, and got what appeared to be a squash puree. Not bad -- it was hot and creamy -- but it was not seasoned or spiced in any way and was, well, frankly, a bit bland. The wholegrain roll likewise was not anything out of the ordinary -- particularly not on the same day as seeing Fixie Pixie's Hill of Tara photos on Facebook this morning and spending the rest of the day salivating over my own memories of the most incredible soda bread served in the Tara Tearooms!)

Nonetheless, the portions were generous and good value. Upon finishing, I carried my cup and plates inside to spare the waitress another trip out into what (she was convinced) was the dead of winter. I was the only patron eating outdoors so it seemed only fair. 

I then enjoyed a leisurely trip around the Food Hall, featuring an amazing variety of meats and cheeses, sauces and delicatessen items. (No fruit and veg, and that seems right for a place like this.)  I had checked out Harpers' website before leaving home and so had a list of items in mind to look for. The varieties of sausage available were different from those on the website but I am looking forward to trying each of the ones I bought in due course:  pork and leak, venison.. and a third one that escapes me just now. Likewise with the three cheeses -- only Cashel Blue sticks in my mind!  Adam and I have slices or chunks of cheeses in our lunches every day so these new ones will add some variety. 

My bag of goods dropped neatly into my Carradice Barley, which is always satisfying!

And the bike?  I think this build has unleashed qualities I've always sensed might be lying beneath the surface. The jury is still out, but this may be the fastest bike in my stable. We simply flew up the hills! And that's not wholly down to me just now!

There are a few more details to complete (wrapping the handlebars being one, swapping out the Brooks for a saddle better suited to my undercarriage for another). I'll post full build details and photos soon. But for now, I am very pleased with the results. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

#Coffeeneuring 2014: Ride 2

Happiness is a rich smooth cappuccino
(with soy milk for my friend Grace)

Destination:  Look Mum No Hands!, Old Street, London
Date:  Saturday, 18 October 2014
Hot drink of choice:  Cappuccino
Total mileage: 56.4km
Bicycle:  Lucy the Brompton

This was our friend Andy's 40th Birthday Ride. 

Some of you may know Andy: he rode London-Edinburgh-London in 2009 and out of that came an amazing little book called Barring Mechanicals. Andy is a lovely guy: gentle and unassuming and terrifically funny. He's also something of an IT whiz. This past year his job has meant he's basically been living in a hotel in New York, writing and fixing code 22 hours a day. So his wife knew exactly what he'd want when he came home: a pootle on his bike with a bunch of friends, ending with CAKE at London's iconic bicycle cafe/bar/workshop, Look Mum No Hands!

So that's what he got. 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

#Coffeeneuring 2014: Ride 1

Destination:  Jake's Cafe, Woodside Animal Farm, Woodside Road, LU1 4DG
Date:  Sunday, 5 October 2014
Hot drink of choice:  Cappuccino
Total mileage:  7km
Bicycle:  Riley the Enigma

Today was all about easing back into cycling, three weeks after my medial glute muscles staged a mutiny, causing all sorts of havoc for my knees -- as if they aren't Grumpy enough all on their own! And then I had a 24-hour vomitting bug on Thursday/Friday. So all in all, I have felt a little fragile but determined to get on my bike for no good reason other than 'just because', not because I had to get to anywhere. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

What Determines "Ride Quality"?

Bicycle frame as architecture

I started writing this post nearly 18 months ago, trying to make sense of what makes a bicycle comfortable to ride. At the time, the particulars of geometry fascinated me. Later that year, my drive to find a bike that would let me ride longer and further without pain led me to having a custom titanium touring frame designed and built, and then a complete bespoke bicycle built up around that. 

After a year with the custom titanium bicycle, I have found myself wondering how much of my satisfaction with this bike is the result of the geometry (and size/shape/proportion) and how much is down to frame material (and tubeset). Would a steel frame made to exactly the same plan have done the job just as well as titanium has? 

Monday, 29 September 2014

Dreaming (Cycle Show 2014 at the NEC, Birmingham)

It doesn't happen at every cycling show that I see something I really want, but it did at this one. 

Stainless steel. 
By Mark Reilly. 

(C) Adam Bell.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Cycling For Everyone (Cycle Show 2014 at the NEC, Birmingham)

Adam and I travelled to Birmingham on Thursday to attend the first day of the Cycle Show, held this year in Birmingham at the NEC Exhibition Halls. We left home at 7.15 to cycle 12 miles to Leighton Buzzard to catch the train to Birmingham. (My knees were in nearly unbearable agony all day -- walking and standing didn't help -- so we got a taxi when we disembarked from Leighton Buzzard on our journey home.)

I have had mobility issues on my mind all week as I seek treatment for the current knee crisis and find myself looking to the medium and long term changes that may come. I don't want to do "less" but I may need to do things "differently". Whether that means different ways of doing the same things, or doing entirely different things, I don't know. But I am trying to keep an open mind and pay attention to what comes my way, so that when the time comes that I am no longer able to cycle (a) the bikes I do now, (b) the distances I do now, at (c) the frequency I do now, I won't face a dead end and feel bereft and deprived from the activities I have grown to love and indeed rely upon. I want to know there are options, even if I can't at this point predict how my mobility will change or know what options may work for me.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Mystery Bike

There is a "new" bike in my future. The build has started and I hope will be finished this weekend. 

It is an interesting concept combining certain features I love from very different schools of thought on what a bike "should be". No doubt a few readers will be amazed while others will be horrified! 

I can't wait to unveil this new "brain child" of mine but what I can show you, for now, is a rather unremarkable collection of parts that will be fitted. 

There is one component there that may hint at what's going on. Care to post a guess? :)

Thursday, 25 September 2014

A Change Of Season... And Back (#ScotTour Day 7)

Cresting the 'backbone' of the island

This day was a replay of the previous, in a minor chord. 

We re-traced our 'steps', this time on our bikes rather than on a bus. So we saw almost exactly the same sights... but at a slower pace. 

But the crucial difference today was the weather. Whatever and wherever we had yesterday, today it was the opposite. And while we enjoyed some sunshine and warmth while on the move, the mist and chill rolled in from the sea just exactly when we got off our bikes for a little sightseeing. Its timing could not have been worse. While I had taken arm and knee warmers and wore a somewhat-weather-resistant gillet, Adam (who to be fair does not feel weather fluctuations as I do) was in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey and opted to leave his jacket in our room. So in a reverse of fortunes, he suffered while I... not so much. Unfortunately, his discomfort forced us to cut short our visit to the Skye Museum of Island Life and we opted not to walk up the hill to the Kilmuir Cemetary (and Flora Macdonald's grave) at all. 

So here are some photos from our day. It was wonderful to fly along quiet roads unencumbered by loaded panniers! And except for that badly-timed hour at the Museum, it was very nearly a perfect day to be out on a bike. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Amiiee's 40 Mile Smile #determined #icandothis

Ready to Ride
(C) Ryan Browne.

This is a ride report on this year's 100 Mile Smile Ride

No, it's not, not really.

This is the story of Amiiee (pronounced the same as "Amy", no connection with the French "Aimee").

The story of a girl who Does.Not.Cycle. The story of an impulsive, stubborn teenager who announced one day a few weeks ago that she wanted to ride 40 miles of the 100 Mile Smile Ride on Sunday, 14 September 2014. The story of a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve but always "has her Game Face on". A girl who chose her own challenge, sought no counsel, did nothing to prepare for it and then chronicled it on the day on social media under the hashtags: 


Me? I just wanted a day out and since the weather was looking good, I fancied a ride on Lorelei. But basically, I was along for the ride, keeping Amiiee company, ready to shore up energy levels and flagging spirits as needed, wayfinding and generally just making sure we didn't get lost.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

On the Tourist Trail: Portree and the North End (#ScotTour Day 6)

Midway through our cycling holiday in Scotland, we took a second day off the bike to get to know Portree and the area a little better...

To be honest, my knees were complaining quite a lot, which posed a bit of a dilemma for me. Taking a day off cycling makes little difference, and walking instead of cycling is in fact worse. But I did feel in need of a rest, or at least a break, even though the town I chose to take that break in is a hilly one. Either way, my knees were not going to have an easy time of it.

Nonetheless, the harbour drew us like a lure.

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