“The West Surrey Cyclist” - April - June 2010
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At the time of updating the magazine archive (December 2013) electronic copies of the entire magazine issue were not available. If you are the author of one of the articles listed in 'Contents' below but your article is missing from the body of the page then if you still have an electronic copy of your article please email it to me and I will add it. If you want to read one of the missing articles let me know; it may be possible to scan it from the paper copy or re-type it. My email address is on the history home page.
Front cover - Patterson drawing of Witley - same as previous issue
Inner front cover - very similar to previous issue
Editorial front matter - very similar to previous issue
Riding Around - with Editor Geoff Smith
Puskas, Cucumbers and Kings in Concrete - by Paul Gillingham (see next issue)
Cycling in New Zealand - by John Gilbe
Reliability Ride - 25 April 2010
Beside the Wye - by Claire Hooper
Organised Cycle Rides April - June 2010 - the Rides List
A Rave Review from Cycling Weekly
Track Cycling - by Chris Jeggo
Ten Years Ago - from WSC April-June 2000
The Wonders of Cable Ties - by Dane Maslen
The Tour Series is Back: Thursday June 24th - by Ellie Guttridge of Cycle Woking
A Route Sheet Viewer for the “London Sightseer” - by Bob McLeod
Letter to the Editor (Not really, but readers might be interested...
Dates for Your Diary
I HAVE always found the first Severn Bridge fascinating, ever since we used to cross the Severn on a ferry beneath the half-finished monster. When I discovered there was a bike path over it, naturally I wanted to try it out. So on a very foggy morning last September I drove to the village of Aust, parked the car, unloaded the bike and set off to the Bridge just as the fog started to lift. It took a while to cross because I kept stopping to marvel - at the river like hot chocolate rolling and eddying underneath, the way the whole bridge vibrated constantly as cars crossed, the sheer size of the thing! But eventually I tore myself away and cycled into Chepstow. After some first aid on my brake blocks, which had made life harder by jamming under one wheel, I cycled (and walked) up the first hill out of Chepstow, hoping the fog would clear.
Cloud hung around all the way up the first long, slow incline towards Usk, where I’d decided I would have a coffee stop. I already wished I’d brought less luggage! Off the main road I headed up smaller lanes until, after a final steep climb, the sun came out and I had a lovely few miles riding the crest of the hill and catching glimpses of the views to either side. On both sides the ground dropped away steeply. To the left were intricately folded hills leading into Wales, while on the right there was a long view towards Monmouth.
Eventually the lane began to drop downhill again, so steeply that in places I couldn’t see where it went, further than I ever thought it could. Being a poor descender I spent all my time hanging on to the brakes on a beautiful but freezing descent.
I finally arrived in Usk, which was pretty but mostly shut, at lunchtime. After watching a man practising his fly-casting in the river, and a very disappointing coffee and sandwiches, it was back into the hills towards Trellech. On the map this looked like a quiet route and it was at first, but an unexpected steep stretch on a busy lane found me walking again. When I reached the top of the hill I rang the Youth Hostel at St Briavels and was invited to join them for a mediaeval banquet!
The weather was sunny and warm by now, and an easy ride along the ridge above the Wye to Trellech. I couldn’t see the river, but the spire of Trellech church was visible miles ahead, rising out of its valley. Sighing for lost altitude, I swept down looking for Trellech’s standing stones, but they were signposted across fields full of horses so I gave them a miss. In the church I discovered that this sleepy little village had been larger and more important than Swansea or Cardiff 700 years ago, as a Marcher lord’s stronghold. On the way out of the village I found the Virtuous Well, a healing well which still seems to be used today, judging by the tree full of ribbons beside it, and the collection of candles and vessels by the well itself.
I enjoyed another long descent to Tintern, through deciduous forest and then a pretty valley to the main road beside the Wye. Time for coffee and bara brith, and a postcard bought from the very man who’d taken the photograph for it.
By now the Welsh bank of the Wye was in shadow, but I managed a quick stop at Tintern Abbey, and found the remains of the Romans’ slipway into the Wye. Then I headed back into England for the day’s final climb up to St Briavels. What a hill! It’s 800 feet above sea level, but I was determined to ride as much of it as I could. I climbed back up into sunshine via more endless inclines and lovely scenery, eventually arriving at the hostel at dusk after almost circling the village because I was lost.
It felt rather good crossing the drawbridge into the castle, and sleeping in a turret dormitory was a fitting end to the mediaeval banquet (whole roast chickens and veg shared between all the guests with no cutlery unless you cheated - a great ice-breaker). Breakfast was equally convivial, and I didn’t rush off because the Wye Valley was filled nearly to the brim with morning mist.
By 9.30 the mist was thinning, so I had another fantastic day to cycle in. Riding this time on the English side of the Wye was pleasant, but the flatness was a bit - well, flat after the previous day. This changed when I zoomed downhill to the village of Clearwell in its pretty valley and my second castle of the day, although this one was a mock-Gothic one used as a conference centre. Still, it had another portcullis to walk under! Next stop was the Clearwell caves, once a lead mine and now used for mining artists’ ochre in three different colours. I had the mining museum to myself, but decided against the underground tour because the weather was too nice.
I decided to head back into Wales, so climbed steeply out of the village back up to hilltop level and shortly whizzed back down again towards the Wye. After taking some postcard shots of the bike posed by the Offa’s Dyke signpost we popped back into the land of my fathers via the bridge at Bigsweir.
The road now hugged the bank of the Wye but not at river level. It was an upsetting ride: I kept feeling that I could barely drag the bike along a flat road. In the end I dismounted, took everything off the bike and checked it, then glanced back along the road to find that I’d actually been climbing for quite some time! This optical illusion persisted for the next few miles, and was very uncomfortable. By the time I reached Tintern Abbey I’d had enough of it and turned up the next side road.
It was one of the nicest bits of the weekend. The road wound uphill for miles at just the right gradient, up a delightful valley, accompanied by a stream for much of the time, then through deciduous forest where it joined the road to Devauden. After a couple more miles up the hill, walking again, I thought Devauden looked just like the villages of Gower. The impression of being near the sea, as they are, was increased by being able to see down to the Bristol Channel from the edge of the village.
Now, sadly, I was definitely on the homeward leg of the journey, with one last big hill. By now I had become a steep-lane addict, and chose this sunny, open hill deliberately even though it did mean missing the intriguingly-named Bullyhole Bottom. I didn’t care if I did have to walk half of it; it was too good to tear myself away. And of course, the attraction of big climbs is that the view changes all the time and gets better the higher you go. From the very top I could see the Bristol Channel and back along the Severn Bridge to England; the Wye Valley was somewhere out of sight below the hill.
There was no choice but to go downhill now - for miles. I rewarded myself with a drink in the pub at Shirenewton, which was bursting with Sunday lunchers, then continued on to Chepstow. I’d seen surprisingly few cyclists so far, but when I was consulting the map a mountain biker asked me if I needed help and stayed to chat.
The Severn Bridge today was busy with families out for a stroll or on bikes, and maintenance men in vans! The final treat was crossing it in glorious sunshine.
When I arrived home there was a package for me from the British Cycling Quest. It contained the questions for Monmouthshire, one of which was about the date on a plaque at Tintern Abbey! It’s a great excuse to go back again.
NO, not Herne Hill or some other velodrome, but the Transport Research Laboratory’s (TRL) Test Track just off Nine Mile Ride in Crowthorne. On the July day earmarked for the visit to Jules’ destroyer I had a second entry in my diary, so when the Portsmouth trip was postponed I had a fall-back option and signed up for the trial of Advanced Stop Lines (ASL) to assess the effects of permitting motorcyclists to use ASLs in addition to cyclists, enabling them to stop ahead of cars and lorries waiting at the standard traffic-lights stop line.
In the centre of a large, paved area the scientists had set up a simple, signal-controlled crossing of a two-lane road with a four-lane road, with an ASL on each arm. The scene was recorded by eight video cameras. The participants were volunteer cyclists and motorcyclists. No cars or other many-wheeled vehicles were moving in the trial. The organiser agreed that this reduced the realism, but explained that to do otherwise added so greatly to the difficulty of mounting the trial as to make it infeasible at this stage. Nevertheless, each of the six lanes entering the junction had a car parked at its stop line. There were approach lanes for two-wheelers, either to the left of or between cars, and to the right, on the various arms.
The volunteers were divided into four similar teams of mixed vehicles, each with a TRL marshal, for the day. A session consisted of twelve complete traffic-light cycles. The riders were held at the marshal’s position, several car lengths away from the junction, until the lights turned red, when they were released one or two at a time at three second intervals to make their way to appropriate positions for the manoeuvre they had been instructed to make, riding safely and considerately as they saw fit. My pattern of 12 manoeuvres was straight on, turn left and turn right, repeated four times. Another pattern was two lefts, two rights and two straights, repeated twice, and other patterns were similar or more complicated.
Each session ended with a break during which drinks and snacks were available. Session by session all four arms of the junction were covered by each team, and then for the fifth session the motorcyclists were forbidden to use the ASLs and had to stop behind the standard stop line. Towards the end of the day all participants had to complete a questionnaire asking for their observations and opinions. From the trial, I concluded that allowing motorcycles to use ASLs made no great difference to cyclists, but this might no longer hold if two-wheelers were sufficiently numerous to compete for the space in the box between the standard and advanced stop lines.
TRL have a great deal of analysis to do. This was the fourth day of the trial so there are many hours of video tape and a large pile of questionnaires to digest. I shall look out for the report when it is published, and let you know its conclusions. I found the day interesting and enjoyable, and received a tasty and sustaining baguette lunch and an honorarium, so watch out, clubmates, I am now a pro cyclist!
I DON'T suppose anyone has noticed, but since March the rack on one of my bikes has been held together by a cable tie. Originally it was intended as a short-term fix, but the cable tie has been doing such a good job that I've yet to bother getting a replacement rack. Despite this I didn't realise just how versatile cable ties could be for emergency cycle repairs.
My derailleur broke on a recent Sunday ride: the bolt forming the hinge at one corner of the parallelogram disappeared, leaving the derailleur dangling at a silly angle. As I stood contemplating the need to remove the derailleur and shorten the chain, Clive Richardson produced some cable ties and suggested feeding one through the hole to act as the hinge. Alas the hole was too small. Undeterred Clive strapped the derailleur together at the correct angle using a cable tie, allowing me to get to Petersfield station. Indeed I could probably have cycled home, but it was starting to drizzle, so I made my excuses and left.
I have now added a few cable ties to my repair kit. If only there were some way to use them to fix punctures! Speaking of which, I used to repair my inner tubes piecemeal, but following Phil Hamilton's article a few years ago I invested in some extras and saved punctured ones until I had a large batch (six) to be repaired. This proved much more efficient and I'm definitely a convert to this approach. Sometimes it can take a long time for repairs to become due (I only had one or two punctures in 10,000km of cycling last year), but on other occasions (already four punctures this year in just 700km - the first two also wrote off the front and rear tyres) the wait can be considerably shorter.
HAVING read the excellent articles on this great ride I am reminded that when I signed up for this event and was faced with several sides of A4, holding twin columns of instructions, I knew something had to be done.
Firstly I photocopied the instructions as the originals were double sided and this device requires single sided sheets. They were then cut into column widths and joined together with clear tape into a strip roughly 100mm wide x 2000mm long. Add a blank leader and trailer giving a total length around 2250mm.
If you have ever had a camera that used roll film, all should now become clear. I found two identical supermarket plastic containers. The ones I used were black and rectangular, approx. 120mm x 200mm x 30mm deep and probably once contained mushrooms. They were stacked one within the other for strength.
Now make slits in the sides to hold the take-up and dispenser spools about 100mm apart. I used two pieces of bamboo 10mm diameter and about 170mm long but I suspect two pencils would also work. Don’t make the slits too big, just a couple in the form of a cross as the spools must be held quite firmly. Before fitting the route instructions (film) to the spools attach a couple of cable ties to the base of the container. I utilised the corrugations that were about 20mm apart, to reduce the risk of the plastic splitting, for the two tiny slits to take the tie wrap. The actual position will depend on your handlebar and stem layout. Two ties should be sufficient; obviously the ends should protrude through the base ready for fixing to the bike on the day of the event. Now stick the trailer end to the dispenser spool with more tape then wind up until only the leader is left for attaching to the take-up spool.
To use the device most effectively the last instruction obeyed should be wound just out of view leaving the next one at the head of the list. This saves the hassle with other viewers of having to scan down the instructions to find the relevant entry, this way you always know just exactly where to glance. Before turning the take-up spool first turn the dispenser spool a little to provide a little slack in the instruction roll.
I have used this device on other Audax events to good effect, even stretching Clingfilm over the top and securing with a rubber band to keep off the rain.
Bob's sketch was not published in the magazine originally, but web pages are more elastic than paper ones, so here it is.
In an email exchange, your Editor wrote to the Secretary: Call me reactionary but I do like the idea of the West Surrey continuing to offer a 100 miles ride in this metricated age, on top of which it is such a pretty (and rewarding) route.
Secretary Dane Maslen replied: I’m thoroughly metricated but it doesn’t stop me from maintaining a “Ton +” record of days of at least 100 miles that I have ridden.
Quite - Ed
APRIL 25th: 50 miles reliability ride, start 8am to 9am from Pyrford Common car park or Meadrow car park, Godalming (Phil Hamilton 01483 772008)
MAY Bank Holiday weekend away (Derek and Anne Tanner, 01276 474553
MAY 2nd: Isle of Wight round-the-island Randonnée (100km, 35km), www.cycleisland.co.uk
MAY 9th: Stonehenge 200 (207km), Danebury 150 (150km) and Elstead 100 (115km), start 8am onwards from Elstead Youth Centre (Mark Waters, as above)
JUNE 24th: Tour Series professional bike race, Woking town centre
JUNE 30th and SEPTEMBER 5th: London Sightseer (Roger Philo 01483 233381 will co-ordinate a West Surrey presence)
AUGUST 15th : Tour of the Hills 115 km, Start 10.00am, Tour of the Greensand Hills 52km, Start 10.30am, Shere Village Hall (Don Gray 01483 810028)
SEPTEMBER 19th : Freewheeling and pace judging competitions, Seale Craft Centre, 10.45am (finish by 12.30pm) (Dane Maslen 01483 721856)
WEST SURREY CTC GROUP CYCLING SHIRTS are available from Peter Clint, phone 01932 340564. Short sleeve, short zip, three pockets at back, sizes 7, 8, 10, 11, 13
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Web page by Chris Jeggo. Last revised: 28 March 2014.