“The West Surrey Cyclist” - April - June 2007
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Inner front cover - West Surrey CTC District Association 2007 - as in previous issue except for resignation of Geoff Smith from the Committee
Editorial front matter - very similar to previous issue
Ian McGregor - obituary
Riding Around - with Editor Geoff Smith
To Wax or Not To Wax - by Peter Clint
Reliability Ride - 22 April 2007 - by Phil Hamilton
Black Mark from the Back Marker - letter to the editor from Phil Hamilton
The Sunny 50 - Part Two - by Harold Coleman
Organised Cycle Rides April - June 2007 - the Rides List
Volcans d’Auvergne - by Derek Tanner
Café Temporarily Closed (Canal Centre, Mytchett)
A Virgin Flies Ryanair - by Paul Gillingham
Looking Good in Our DA Shirts
Have the magazine delivered for £3 a year
Publicise your event or tour in the magazine
Dates for Your Diary - (just the changes from the previous issue)
Pastures New for Peter and Gill
DA Personalities - Twelve - Geoff Smith (Jnr)
IT IS with the deepest regret that the West Surrey District Association records the death on March 3rd of Ian McGregor, aged 70.
On the previous morning, Ian, of Ennismore Avenue, Guildford, was cycling on the northern cyclepath adjoining the A3 between Burpham and Send. He had been due to meet the DA President Rico Signore at Ripley.
At the point where he was found he would not have been visible from the road. He was unconscious and it appeared he had been thrown from his bicycle. The mudguard appeared to have been separated from the front wheel and there was evidence of loose twigs and debris in the area.
Ian had ridden with the DA for about seven years and in recent times had become a rides leader of the Midweek and Sunday Wayfarers.
At its meeting on March 7th, the Committee made the following tribute to Ian: “News of Ian’s death has come as a huge shock to everyone who knew him. It is difficult to imagine how the West Surrey DA group with which he rode will come to terms with the loss of one of its brightest lights. The affection and respect shown towards Ian by many of his cycling colleagues since his death has also been manifest among his extensive circle of friends in his various social pursuits and among the several police forces with which he worked.
“Whatever experiences befall us in the CTC many of us will bless the day when Ian McGregor first pedalled into our midst. His memory lives on.
“We extend our sincere condolences and sympathy to his wife Frances and son Fraser.”
WE LIVE in a consumerist society, and cyclists are a part of it even if we try to spurn it. I personally agonised over ditching my perfectly working 17-year-old TV for a new flat-panel job (but I did it anyway) and now I am wondering about just how in thrall to consumerism I am with regard to cycling.
Just ask yourself this question: do you really need to buy that new titanium/carbon/aluminium-framed tourer or should you keep on pedalling your old one, repairing and replacing parts only when genuinely knackered? That’s the parts, not you.
If you have just the one steed and no spare cash then the answer is obvious. But we are talking a serious hobby here, if not a way of life, so after feeding, clothing and housing have been taken care of, what better to spend your money on than a new bike as part of cycling in all its manifestations?
And yet... what if there is nothing really wrong with the old faithful bike the new one is destined to replace? I know of some in the West Surrey who are riding decades-old steeds. Both rider and ridden are sprightly souls who apparently want for nothing. Then there are others who seemingly change bikes with the changing seasons. Nothing wrong with either course. But which way should you go?
Let me know your thoughts on this, particularly on the really big issue of life: precisely when should you take the plunge and buy a new bike? Just what is the real trigger? And what do you do with the one it is set to replace - keep it for spares, sentimental reasons, scrap it, carry on using it as a hack bike?
Or do you do what many of us try to do, often with increasing desperation - try to find it another home? I always try for the latter whether or not money changes hands. I make no bones about it; it eases my conscience. I did it with the old TV too.
I SUGGESTED in the previous issue that perhaps the CTC should do away with the “seniors” subscription concessions on the basis of older members generally being the lucky ones who are riding the posh bikes and possessing higher disposable income than the young. Quite a few of you actually agreed with this but the point of returning to the subject now is to report that it generated more reaction over something in the mag than anything else for some time.
Should we now take this further? If anyone would like to write a proposal for the committee to consider it could possibly go forward formally to the CTC’s council. I am presuming such a proposal would come from a younger member on the basis that extra revenue received could be used to further subsidise membership dues for juniors and the needy unwaged. What’s the chance of this happening?
FOLLOWING the gratifyingly continued debates on tube removal, punctures, patches and chain lubrication, here’s another technical point on which I would appreciate views - should pedals be fixed to cranks so tightly that they need a state-of-the art wrench to remove, preferably one that has a rubber pad at one end to protect the user’s dainty hand?
Or should the pedals be screwed in barely more than finger tight so that removal with an ordinary spanner is a doddle?
When preparing our bikes for travel to Lanzarote in February I had the usual sweating and straining trying to get the pedals off one bike whereas those on the other came off smoothly and easily. Why the trouble with the other one? Well, of course, the cranks had recently being replaced on Debbie’s bike and the pedals fixed on rock-hard by the shop’s mechanic.
Why, oh why, do they do this?
CAN waxing improve things?
Some girls think so.
But can it make a difference to cycling?
Will it make us go faster? Less drag perhaps!
The alternative is oil.
Are you with me now?
Yes, I’m comparing wax versus oil, in caring for your chain, chain-set and cassette. Sorry if you had other ideas.
Personally I favour wax over oil. The fact is that a drop of wax administered regularly to each link of the chain will build up protection against the ravages of the elements. I don’t doubt oil will do the same, so why do I favour wax?
When returning from a dirty ride, all I have to do is to wait for the chain to dry, then wipe with a dry cloth. Because wax tends to repel dirt and grit, any residual grit literally falls off. I then administer a further application of wax. Oil, on the other hand, attracts dirt and grit, and therefore after a dirty ride one has to clean the chain, a messy business, before administering yet more oil.
If manufacturers’ claims are to be believed, because wax tends to shed grit, the wear on the chain, chain-set and cassette is reduced by up to 30%. Since wax does not spread itself around quite like oil, it is recommended that one periodically applies a squirt of WD40 to the cassette. The only disadvantage of wax that I have found is that it is a must to apply wax to the chain at virtually every outing. Still, since this is less work than cleaning the chain, and I am saving money by reducing wear, you will appreciate why I favour wax.
I have recently met and spoken to two of our more mature DA members who both claim to be too slow to ride with any of our groups. So I asked why they did not frequent our Paragon pubs. To my surprise they both said that is exactly what they occasionally did, but nobody else ever turned up. This statement disturbed me and made me think. So far, when compiling the runs list, I continued to include the Paragon pubs as I reasoned that, as we all get older and slower, many of us might in future well be grateful to have a social lunch get-together within easy riding distance. Little did I realise that we had actually let down some of our friends by never frequenting the designated venues ourselves. With the next runs list I propose to highlight one outing per month, when all groups should make an effort to have lunch at the Paragon pub - the faster, fitter riders can always find ways to increase the ride by adding loops and hills. Newer members will have a chance to get to know some faces which up to now were only names.
A disturbing aspect is the number of accidents and crashes our section has experienced lately. I am not trying to preach to the converted but, with a good number of new members, it might not be a bad idea to spell out a few dangers:
Constant attention and vigilance are essential when riding in a group - it is therefore vital to communicate verbally or by signals. When travelling at speed, a sudden slowing by any rider without warning is a recipe for disaster.
Particularly in wet weather: avoid manholes, white lines, leaves, kerbs - slippery hazards all.
Potholes filled with water - avoid them at all costs as one cannot see how deep is the cavity beneath.
Ice and snow - best stay at home and postpone your outing for more clement conditions!
ONCE again the time has come to think about the DA’s 50-mile Reliability Ride. As in previous years the routes will start at Pyrford Common Car Park and Godalming, but now from the Meadrow Car Park (SU979447), where parking is free and toilets are adjacent.
In previous years there has been much debate as to the relative severity of each route. The marvels of modern technology reveal that the Pyrford route climbs 2898 feet and descends 2501 feet, whilst the Godalming route climbs 3484 feet and descends 3047 feet. No doubt there will now be debate as to whether it is the length or gradient of a climb that tires one - but I shall not offer an opinion on that topic (and so leave the way open for others to air their thoughts over coffee/lunch and in “Letters to the Editor”).
Nominal start times of 0800, 0830 and 0900 allow for ride times of 5, 4 to 4.5, and 3.5 hours respectively. All participants and helpers should therefore be gathered at the King’s Head, Holmbury St Mary, finish by 1pm to enjoy a social luncheon, and a leisurely ride home.
Hopefully all our active members will wish to support this event and it would be appreciated if those not wishing to ride could assist with the marshalling duties. To volunteer, please call me, Phil Hamilton, on 01483 772008, and I will give you details.
Without entrants it isn’t worth organising an event, but without helpers I cannot run the event.
As a regular “back marker” on Sundays and Wednesdays, I have plenty of opportunity to view the group’s riding ethic - and regret that I have little wonder that many motorists are impatient with cyclists’ behaviour. Two years ago letters and articles in “The West Surrey Cyclist”, and extensive discussion over coffee/lunch, advocated that we should ride in a “car friendly” manner, leaving gaps between groups of 4-6 riders into which overtaking cars could safely manoeuvre. Unfortunately, this sensible idea, which was adopted for a while, seems to have been forgotten.
I believe that all groups should consider re-adopting this riding technique - not least for their own safety. Concurrently, it is essential that the backrider in each “group” ensure that the following “group” of riders are aware of any deviation from the straight route, so that all arrive at the destination!
Happy cycling, Phil Hamilton.
In a previous issue of our fine magazine my old ‘sparring partner’, Chris Jeggo, attempted to throw some doubt upon my claim that the West Surrey DA 50-mile Reliability Ride had enjoyed dry weather from 1972. As proof of his doubts, he quoted from committee minutes of 1980 written by my wife, the then DA Secretary. Straight away I must state that I can in no way accept responsibility for what Kath wrote as she was then not my wife! Having said that, I must quickly add, if Kath wrote it, it was right. Kath makes a habit of getting things right, in fact I can only think of one mistake that she has made - which reminds me, I mustn’t forget our wedding anniversary this year. Actually Mr Jeggo was good enough to suggest that the weather leading up to the event was the cause of the unusually low number of participants and not the weather on the day.
I have ridden every ‘50’ from 1972 onward except one, when I was in hospital on the day of the ride, waiting for a hernia operation and gazing out of the windows at the glorious sunshine. Some ten years ago we had about ten minutes of very light rain just after the start. Three or four years ago I encountered some fifteen minutes of drizzle about half-way round. Neither time did I cape up. In both years other riders, who had started at different times, declared that they had got round in the dry. So there you are; a remarkable record - and we do not know for how many years it was run in the dry before 1972. I have little doubt that if Chris Jeggo had just left things alone and not put his doubts into print, 2006 would have been dry as usual. But no; he blew it and we all got soaked - if he hadn’t bought me a beer afterwards, I don’t think that I would have ever forgiven him!
How did I ever come to ride the West Surrey ‘50’? Well one summer evening in 1971 I was in the Queen’s Head at East Clandon with an old school pal, who I had persuaded to take up cycling. In came a group of mature cyclists - the West Surrey ‘Thursday Nighters’. We got talking, as cyclists do, and before leaving, they told us that the following week they would be at the Black Swan at Ockham - the Mucky Duck to you, though I understand that it has now been groomed into a very high class bird! A week later we met up again, as per instructions, and from then on continued to do so. Soon I had joined the CTC and in 1972 rode my first ‘50’ Reliability. Later that year I came away from the DA AGM trying to understand how it was that I was, apparently, the new DA Secretary! (They knew a sucker when they saw one.) In due course, at a committee meeting, the subject of the ‘50’ came up and I asked why so few people rode it? I was told that they were all fed up with the route. ‘Well, why don’t we have a new route’, I asked. ‘That’s easier said than done’, was the reply. I returned home, full of enthusiasm (I was much younger then) and, with the aid of a map and a measurer, devised a new route. In my innocence, I didn’t ride it, which I undoubtedly should have done. I did though, consult old minute books and found that when the event was first suggested, it was meant to be a test; not just 50 flat miles. The new route was agreed by the committee and used in 1973. Except for one or two little tweaks, we are still using it. On that first ride in 1973, I was agreeably surprised (and relieved) to see how scenic the route was. Over thirty years later it is, amazingly, virtually unspoilt and as popular as ever! Though I have noticed that the hills are a little steeper! I can take no credit for the route being liked - I just traced it off a map and was lucky.
Imagine sitting in your favourite armchair, a cycle guide and the ever so devoted wife alongside. There is a second route in the Lonely Planet cycling guide to France graded as “hard”. It’s only 171km and 3 days long but by adding a few extra days to get there and back and to see the sights, the makings of a four-week tour to the Massif Central are born.
The Bike Bus drops at Valence at 0430 in the morning and the restaurant in the youth hostel and camp site just up the road serves breakfast at 0700. Seen through bleary eyes, the banks of the Rhône Valley rise vertically into the brightening sky. It is also dawning that the 150km to our starting point at St-Flour may take a little longer than the budgeted three days and that the devoted wife is beginning to look a little less devoted to the ride.
The problem with camp sites on river banks is that every morning we start by going up. It was August Bank Holiday Monday. We stocked up with food at a supermarket at the foot of the climb, after 12km we had a short descent, and another 30km found a café in Lamastre and a campsite beside the river. Next morning the farmer woke us with his chainsaw at 0815.
We were awake after 20km by the time we had climbed to 1000m and arrived at St Agrève. We ordered one of everything from the menu, the rain stopped, and the girl in the TI assured us that we were now up on the plateau and there was no more climbing on the remaining 33km to St-Julien. We soon found a short, helpful 15% descent into a small river valley (and the accompanying climb back out). The waterproofs had to come out and so it continued until the sign as we entered the village of Boussoulet announced that we were now at an altitude of 1300m. The rising main street was too much, the bike was leant against the wall and the (hopefully still) devoted wife disappeared ahead. After ten minutes she returned (surprisingly cheerful) having found a bar and campsite just around the corner. There are times when our mountain tent gets tested to its design limit and it was one of those nights.
Being the only campers we commandeered the toilet block as a drying room. Next morning we turned right out of the gate and within 200m were on a freezing cold 8km descent into St-Julien-Chapteuil, a mere 900m above sea level. Another 20km of continuous descent then got us down into the Loire Valley at Le Puy. This is cycling as it should be! Rapidly back up to 1000m followed by another 10km descent, we were in the riverside campsite at Langeac by late afternoon - only another 52km to St-Flour.
Pinols is the only village between Langeac and St-Flour and back at 1000m we stopped there for lunch and the afternoon passed in a soporific blur. It was only by the signs that we noticed we had conquered a stage of the 2004 Tour de France while passing through Védrines-St-Loup. St-Flour is a medieval town built high on a rocky bluff some 100m above the valley. For once the campsite was not beside the river and the (now not at all) devoted wife refused to freewheel back down to the supermarket - so we ate out!
In the next three days we visited the barrages and Eiffel’s bridge at Garabit, found a local Spar for food, and then routing via Col de Prat de Bouc (1396m) freewheeled into the riverside campsite at Murat, another medieval village built this time on the side of the mountain. Two days here were not wasted playing tourist.
Starting in the fresh morning air we were at Col d’Entremont (1210m) by 1050am and Col de Serre (1364m) by 1230pm. Enough for one day; we headed for the nearest village (1168m), found a 4-star restaurant and ate and drank to a nett gain in height of 250m for the day. Next morning Puy Mary beckoned and on unloaded bikes we sprinted back up past Col de Serre and on to Col du Pas de Peyrol (1589m) for a short walk to the summit of Puy Mary (1787m). The reward was a refreshment stop in every bar we saw on the descent back to the tent at Le Claux.
Next day it was coffee at Lugarde Station (a stop on the tourist mountain railway) and into Condat by lunch. A disappointing one-street town, we could only find a beer in a tabac to shelter from the afternoon rain. The views improved next morning after we left the major road and gained a bit of height, on what was probably our stiffest climb yet, and we rewarded ourselves with lunch in a rather upmarket hotel in Compains, visited the waterfalls and were in the riverside campsite at Besse-et-St-Anastaise in good time for a walk around the medieval hillside town before dinner.
Two days later we left via Col de la Croix St Robert (1451m). It provided ample opportunity to consider what to do when you give up cycling (which was a growing probability with every pedal revolution). But the descent into le Mont-Dore was so good we even passed a café on the way. The campsite was by the side of the river with the big touristy town just around the corner.
Next morning the 8km ride up to the cable car station seemed strenuous even on unloaded bikes. But after the cable car, a truffade lunch at the top station, walking to the mountain summit and back, we found the back road, which in winter is a ski run, that took us on a freewheeling helter-skelter back to the tent.
Heading north for a night at St Bonnet, the weather was beginning to break; we could see Puy de Dôme through a howling gale, but next day we backtracked to Aydat. It rained all night and day and we moved around bars, cafés and restaurants in the sleepy town until 11pm, by which time we had eaten and drunk enough to sleep anywhere.
Next morning it was cold but dry, we had spent all our money and the nearest bank was 15km away on an advertised 36km scenic route (with 1100m of climbing). We got back just as it started raining - after almost exactly three hours cycling time. Next day was the same, except we managed to visit the volcano visitors’ centre and walk up to some crater rims in the mist.
Time was running out, we had to move on, so we decided to head for Orcines which would put us close to Puy de Dôme and Clermont Ferrand. It was a dismal place with a very tempting logis just down the road, where we almost outstayed our welcome after settling into their lounge for drinks one evening.
But the weather held, we got to the top of Puy de Dôme, played tourist in Clermont Ferrand and after two days were on the train to Lyon. The throbbing metropolis was not for us and we were almost glad when the bike bus rounded the corner at 10pm to carry us back to Gravesend. (Total distance cycled 750km and on reflection a highly recommended tour for enthusiastic cyclists).
T’was the week before Christmas and I was impaled on the horns of a moral dilemma! The question was whether to fight global warming by boycotting cheapo airlines or seek out the best Ryanair deal for a bike trip to the sun. Sad to say there was no contest and shortly after logging onto the computer I was signed up for a 1p each way ticket to Nîmes. Sorry, Sir David Attenborough!
I’d found myself with a few days holiday owing at work and my wife and children were busy, so it had to be a solo trip. Besides, it was all in the interests of research, the aims of which were to assess 1: if cheapo fares were really cheap, 2: how easy it was to take a bike on Ryanair, and 3: if a 4-day winter ride in Provence was feasible.
The answer to the first point was that cheap is relative. The 2p return fare was in reality £70 after adding £15 each way for the bike, £7 for a pannier in the hold and £30-odd for taxes. Plus the cost of getting to and from Luton airport, but more of that later.
As to the second point, I wasn’t exactly a virgin when it came to taking a bike on a plane, having done a solo ride around New Zealand five years before. Then, the bike was dismantled and properly boxed and I had the luxury of being met at the airport by a nephew, being driven to an Auckland bike shop to have it re-assembled and storing the box in his flat until the flight home. This time I had nowhere in Nîmes to leave a box and faced the tricky question of how to bag the bike as per Ryanair rules and get it home in one piece.
The answer lay of course with the West Surrey Wayfarers. At Wednesday coffee I canvassed the known bike-travellers about ways and means. The Tanners had bought up a stock of eight heavy-duty plastic bike bags from the CTC shop and offered to sell me one. Not only that, but they suggested the nifty device of a derailleur guard, a defence against the most brutish of baggage-handlers.
So, I had the kit. The next step was learning a little know-how. Thanks to my local bike shop, I soon got the knack of removing pedals (right one clockwise, left anti-) and turning handlebars by the deft use of an allen key and a sharp smack on the stem with a hammer to loosen the nut inside. A weighty adjustable spanner to serve as pedal-remover and stem-smacker was added to the repair kit and, with panniers packed for winter riding, the plastic bag strapped to the rack, a roll of package tape to fasten it up, a new derailleur guard and some pipe lagging to protect the frame, I was ready to go.
But how to get to Luton? The flight was at 11am, which meant checking in by 9. There was no point in travelling by train as you can’t take a bike in rush hour. As the ticket attendant explained, I could have risked the 6am Guildford-Waterloo but the regular bike-carrying commuters would take precedence and there’s only room for three. I hesitated to fill the coffers of NCP, so driving was the only option.
We set off at 6am and made good time in spite of the freezing fog. My wife dropped me off at Luton’s departure hall and faced the M25 jams back to Guildford, a major marital sacrifice. I pushed the machine into the hall, found a quiet corner and set about undoing handlebars, removing pedals, cladding the frame, wheeling the bike into its plastic envelope and wrapping it in parcel tape. Then it was loaded onto a trolley and wheeled for check-in. “Any liquids?” asked the Ryanair girl. “Afraid so,” said I, remembering my two full water bottles were still on the bike. “Then they’ll have to go,” she said, so it was off with the parcel tape, a fumble through the plastic envelope and five minutes later I was ready to wheel the trolley across the hall to Large Packages.
“You let down the tyres, didn’t you?” asked the man in Large Packages. “Yes”, I lied, determined not to unpackage it all again. He was happy and the last I saw of the plastic envelope was it disappearing onto a conveyor belt and onto a chute. I worried throughout the flight, imagining two explosions in the hold and the prospect of shredded tyres on arrival.
I needn’t have worried. As a baggage handler ushered the plastic envelope through a side door at Nîmes airport I could see the tyres were intact. Once the panniers had been rescued from the carousel it was then down to business making the bike roadworthy again.
Off came the envelope and lagging, on went the pedals and the panniers, round went the handlebars, and I was ready to go in 10 minutes. The remaining chore was to reduce the envelope to fit on the carrier and this involved deflating it like you would an innertube. While this is okay on a country road, it is less so in a crowded concourse when you’re on your hands and knees with bum in the air à la Kylie Minogue. But indignities aside, it was easily managed and I was soon in the fresh air of Provence.
The sky was a brilliant blue and the sun was bright, but it was freezing cold and the Mistral was blowing hard. These were the conditions over the next four days, as riding alternated between the bliss of having the wind behind and the agony of having it in front.
The actual riding time was 2½ days - Monday afternoon to Thursday morning - and I covered 130 miles through spectacular country. The route took in the Roman ruins of Nîmes and Arles, the Camargue, the Alpille mountains, the hilltop village of Les Baux, St Rémy - where Van Gogh went mad - the papal palace and the the Pont d’Avignon and the empty Pont du Gard. Quiet D-roads lined with pencil-thin cypresses took me through bare vineyards and olive groves and past ancient moulins on hilltops. Never one to plan ahead, the 2-star hotels in Arles, Tarascon and Nîmes I found on spec welcomed me as a long-lost friend as they hadn’t seen a tourist in weeks.
On the final morning I wandered the streets of Nîmes, then pedalled the 12 kms to Garons airport for an early afternoon flight. It all went like clockwork and back at Luton the plastic envelope came safely through on the carousel. Having left Provence in the sun, I then pedalled through freezing fog to Luton Parkway and took the slow train to Kings Cross, riding across London to Waterloo and then taking the 7pm train to Guildford, avoiding rush-hour.
It had been a fantastic trip and I was no longer a Ryanair virgin. Next time I’ll take a tent and go in May or September. Perpignan? Carcassonne? Sorry, Sir David!
As in previous issue plus:-
APRIL 28th : CTC annual general meeting, national office, Parklands, Guildford, 2pm (phone 0870 873 0061 to advise attendance). CTC National Dinner, Holiday Inn, Guildford. Tickets £26. To attend, complete form on page 15 of Cycle, February/March issue.
APRIL 29th : Choice of Sunday rides, on- and off-road, in the Surrey Hills (organised by CTC staff in connection with the AGM and National Dinner weekend. Details from HQ office)
SEPTEMBER 23rd : Tricyclathon (fun hill climb, descent, plus out-and-back), Seale Craft Centre 1030am (finish by 12.30pm). Clive Richardson 01428 724390)
Peter and Gill Norris have relocated to the New Forest. They both wish to express their gratitude for the enjoyment and friendship received from West Surrey CTC over the years and wish everyone all the best for the future.
Peter wants to especially thank those who supported him while he was working at the bike shop.
|The junior Geoff Smith
Is a cycling monolith.
But as he told Roberta Shore,
He ain’t no editor.
|He’s no relation either
To me, Geoff Smith Senior.
His Dad is yet another Smith, Geoffrey,
But not a DA personality.
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Web page by Chris Jeggo. Last revised: 6 November 2009.