Tuesday, 30 August 2011

chav lake

i have started cycling most days as an attempt at training for the trip to espana. the most i've done is about 22 miles so far, and mainly on the road bike because it is SO light and i love it. and it still counts as training even though it's not the bike i'll be using. i did cycle to hebden bridge on the touring bike with abi yesterday , with panniers and handlebar bag, as a trial run. it was fine. but it is heavy and you go slow and i like going fast. we had cake and coffee then cycled back in the rain. a good bike ride always involves cake and coffee as any pro cyclist will tell you. there were no performance enhancing drugs in my cake.

so today i cycled over the moors into enemy territory - lancashire. you go up cragg vale hill from mytholmroyd, which is a 40 minute climb - probably not if you're fit, but for me it was a 40 minute climb. it's quite a dark valley with small little houses along it, many of which are for sale. then you get onto the moor, which is huge and the heather was just the right colour of purple today. probably enhanced by the lack of blue in the sky. there was sideways wind and lots of grey. you swoop down a fast hill into littleborough and on to hollingworth lake, where i'd arranged to meet helie for a walk (and some coffee). we had in mind some beautiful lake in a small forest, with squirrels ferretting around (if they do such a thing) and birds chirruping. it was in reality a half full / half empty reservoir, complete with pikey parade of shops selling fish and chips and shit crafts, and of course an amusement arcade where you can win enough to buy a bag of chips. in an attempt to be cosmopolitan, there was an italian restaurant called 'ristorante del lago'. whatever. i guess 'ristorante del reservoiro' doesn't sound as appealing, but it would be infinitely truer.

sorry to be so rude about the lake, but the website i'd read about it had really oversold it, so i was expecting more than i got, especially after my gruelling hill climb. anyway we walked around it, watched some windsurfers and canoers, shared a rocky bar, had an apple each, berated that we'd wasted 40p on the pay and display by overestimating how long we'd be staying there, and then headed back to the mothership of west yorkshire. in the fiesta……. i had decided 12 miles was enough training for one day by that point and it was threatening to rain….  as you can see, it’s not quite the training schedule of champions yet, but there’s still time: ferry is booked for the 16th september.

Friday, 26 August 2011


my bike is almost totally ready to go on its tour de france now. here's the technical info about my bike, more for my information than yours, as it's probably boring reading. it's not that technical in fact, as i'm a girl.

bike: specialized sirrus 2007 hybrid, that i originally bought for commuting in london.
made of: aluminium frame, carbon forks. probably other things to note at this point, but as i said, i'm a girl.

new and exciting things that have pimped la bicicletta up to touring capability:
  • 2 new wheels and some kevlar tyres (kevlar is bullet proof, so no need for a puncture repair kit (over-optimistic comment alert)). 
  • a 34-tooth back cassette, ie lots of low gears. how d'ya like them apples now, pyrennes?!
  • a new mech (eek not sure that's the right terminology - back derailleur?).
  • 2 ortlieb back roller panniers, and an ortlieb handlebar bag. ortlieb are guaranteed for life so that's exciting. i guess they mean your life rather than the life of the bike, presumably those could be the same. i bet they would last the life of the earth until the next ice age, they are made in deutschland after all. i can't put front panniers on the bike as the front forks are carbon and therefore not weight bearing. this is good as that would add a lot of weight and luggage space, and this way i have to be frugal with what i take.
  • new brake and gear cables. 

some other (non) interesting facts about me / my bike:
  • i will be cycling in converse shoes as those clippy cycling shoes make my feet hurt, as i have a foot problem in both feet, and really should be having a foot operation (x2) instead of cycling 1000+ miles. if some blog posts just say 'ouch' then that'll be why.
  • i have bought the first map i need - the yellow michelin local map, to the roskoff area in brittany. that is where the ferry lands. these maps mark cycle routes, and places of interest like caves, and windmills.
  • i should have installed a dynamo to charge phone/ipod/camera batteries along the way. will do this for my alaska-patagonia bike ride at some undetermined point in the future (post lottery win?).
  • whilst i am a bit of a luddite, i do wish i had a kindle with 3000 books on it. i am inherently a bit anti-kindle, as i am anti most new technology, as a knee jerk reaction. but kindles are pretty cool for this kind of thing. and in fact pretty cool in general, other than heralding the beginning of the end for books which are one of my favourite things. they have managed to make the text on the screen look just like a book and not like a screen, and apparently the battery lasts for a month.
  • i have been reading 'it's all about the bike' by robert penn, which is a well interesting book about a man (robert penn) who builds his dream bike, and visits all the best frame builders, wheel builders, tyre factories etc etc in his quest. he explains a lot about the history of the bike, which is fascinating. turns out lots of things that were prototyped on bikes went on to be used in all other transport methods, ie cars, planes, rockets.
  • via the medium of this book and my visits to cycle:recycle bike shop in hebden bridge (www.cyclerecycle.org.uk) i am now slightly better educated about bikes and bike maintenance in general than i was 2 weeks ago. cycle:recycle is, as they say themselves, 'a not for profit sustainable project... aiming to get more people out of their cars and into the saddle, by reducing the number of old bikes that end up on the scrap heap, when all they need is a bit of TLC'. ben who works there has taught me lots about my bike and what to do if various things go wrong with it. i have learnt, or at least tried to learn, the following - how to change a spoke, how to true a wheel, how to change a gear / brake cable, how to adjust your gears. if you are ever in the hebden bridge area and need a bike, or some work done on your bike, or to look at some cool old bikes, pay them a visit. there's a cafe, and a 2nd hand book shop. what more could you want. and it's on the canal towpath so you might see some ducks if you're lucky. i saw a mouse.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


i will be taking with me a small pig, who will travel in the back wheel (unless he would rather be at the front, or in the handlebar bag if he gets travel sick from spinning around). ultrapig has previously cycled across mexico, and from land's end to john o'groats. he is a little big grubby, but he is a pig after all so don't hold it against him, and he has travelled far. he is getting pretty excited, and brushing up on his french at the moment.

that's the face of an excited pig if ever i saw one.


some interesting news just in is that my friend james, who i thought wasn't coming with me, has decided he is coming with me on the trip. this is very cool and means it will be less stressful and more fun (err, hopefully).

Friday, 19 August 2011

what am i doing / what i am doing

here's what happened. i came back from india in april. i lollopped around in yorkshire and london. it's hard to find work in england at the moment - everything costs too much and soon we'll be wheeling wheelbarrows around full of fifty pound notes worth nothing, like in zimbabwe. i worked for 3 weeks in taunton in july, teaching english on a summer school. i wondered about moving to spain to teach, as i want to finish learning spanish and carry on teaching, and there are no jobs to be had in engerland, and spain is nice. my friend james said oh we could cycle to spain. i said wow there's an idea. i already have some panniers on my bike as i cycled in the lakes with my friend gemma earlier this year. i had just bought a tent to live in after the taunton job as i was homeless and jobless, so i had the camping kit. it all seemed to make instant sense. james then said it was only an off the cuff remark and he probably wouldn't actually do it - which is fine as it has to be the right time and the right trip and the stars have to be aligned and all that.

i went to the lovely bike shop in hebden bridge (http://www.blazingsaddles.co.uk/), and announced i was cycling to spain and needed another pannier and some new handlebar grips, and a new back cassette so i have lower gears for the hills, in particular the pyrennes. i then went to cycle:recycle (http://www.cyclerecycle.org.uk/), and announced my plan and explained what needed doing to my bike. the lovely bike maintenance man ben gave me some bike maintenance lessons, and fitted my new gears, and explained to me what needed doing to my bike. and that was how that decision was made, it was strangely straightforward and i didn't realise i'd made the decision until i left the bike shops and was cycling home, and said to myself i'd better cycle to spain now i've spent all that money and had those bike maintenance lessons and told everyone i'm cycling to spain.

i then had another realisation which was that i could make it a fundraising trip too - why do a trip like that and not try to raise money. the people who have most inspired me recently, possibly in all my life, are the tibetans i spent 5 months with in dharamsala (see previous blog: www.tibetanpickle.blogspot.com). it's hard to consider my journey a journey compared to their journey over the himalayas and their situation - i joke about being homeless and jobless but i have lots of support and many opportunities, not to mention freedom, which they certainly don't. in honour of them and in support of tibet and freedom and non-oppression everywhere, i am therefore fundraising for the tibetan school i taught at in dharamsala: e.s tibet (www.estibet.ch).

here are some other reasons (post facto decision making), to cycle to spain:

1. cycling makes me happy.
2. going to new places makes me happy.
3. my friend kim cycled through central america on her own for 8 months last year, thus these things are do-able.
4. life's quite short and i want to have things to reminisce about when i'm old and wearing slippers. i probably won't be able to afford slippers at the rate i'm going, but you get the idea.
5. i watched a programme about the history of the world and it put things into perspective - we are a very small part of a very long history and we don't matter, therefore what i do doesn't matter (not meant in a defeatist way), so there's no point worrying about doing the right or wrong thing, as long as you are basically happy and not harming anyone/anything.
6. unless you decide to do things then not very much happens in life.

at the moment the plan is to get to valencia in eastern spain, with bike and tent and some sanity, enough sanity to teach english to some spanish people and earn some money. all this could change along the way, as the subtitle of the blog would suggest. who knows i might be writing a blog to you in a year's time from siberia or mongolia. or even exotic yorkshire again...