The Monsal Trail (almost)

Hello again! Told you it wouldn’t take long.

After spending two weeks in hospital due to an infection, I found myself really craving a bike ride.  The weather had been perfect for cycling while I was in hospital, and the infection had somehow sorted out the water retention in my legs, so walking no longer hurt.  Trouble is, my exit from hospital coincided with the wind going a bit crazy, and our child minder going on holiday, so each day was spent either cursing the wind (I don’t have the energy to cycle against wind, yet), or looking after my son.  I spent a bit of time planning where I might cycle, and everything seemed to align for the Friday..

On Fridays, my in-laws look after my son, meaning I’d have practically the whole day to cycle.  The weather was forecast to rain, but the wind was only 5-6mph, which I don’t mind at all.  One of the routes I’d found was the Monsal Trail, which normally sounded a bit nightmarish due to walkers, but I figured the rain should see most of them off!

So, on Friday, after lunch, I put the Muddy Fox into the boot of my car and drove the 25 miles to Miller’s Dale.  Why Miller’s Dale?  erm.. because I mis-read the map when I was telling the sat nav where to go.  I was supposed to start at Blackwell. 😛  Anyway, it turned out that the car park required exact change, and I didn’t have any change at all (too used to paying by phone), so I had to drive back to a village called Tideswell, which looked like a lovely place, but I was only interested in the co-op, a carton of milk, and a pack of Crunchie bars.  One parking ticket later, and I was on the trail!

I decided to head in the direction of Bakewell, as 8 miles seemed do-able.  I had 2 hours before having to head home for dinner, and 8mph should be easy peasy, even for someone in my condition!  Of course, I forgot to consider time taken admiring views, or reading the information panels that’re dotted along the trail.  The trail is a disused railway track, which heads over viaducts and through the hills via tunnels.  The tunnels are pretty spooky at first!

Monsal Trail

I got used to them, though. 🙂  Also, the views from the trail are awesome;

Monsal Trail

I lost a lot of time gazing at old mills, rivers, and outcrops! So much time that I’d only managed just over 6 miles before I had to turn back.  I didn’t quite make it to Bakewell, and the end of the trail, but I was pretty close. On the way back, I realised that the trail was not quite as flat as I’d hoped – it was a lot more uphill going back!  I had been right about the rain putting off walkers, though – there were hardly any, even though the rain had stopped just as I’d arrived.  A few had appeared once the rain had stopped, so the way back involved a lot more pedestrian dodging (there’s a keep left rule, but almost all of them were on the right).  I got back to the car with wibbly legs, and something really weird had happened to my stomach (hard to explain.. I looked pregnant, but the bulge was largest just under my rib cage, as if all my organs had been pushed up), but I was sooooo glad to have got the bike ride out of my system.

Since then, the weather’s been shite, but the next time the wind slows, I’m heading out again!  I don’t know where to, but I’ll try and post an update when I do.  🙂


Flippin eck – 3 years??

Well, umm.. sorry to anyone who’s interested in my ‘adventures’.  It seems I’ve neglected this blog a little, but I have got a good excuse; my liver died, so I got a second-hand one, then that died, and then I got another one.  That one hasn’t died yet!

So, all that has kind’ve put me out of action for the past couple of years. My last major illness was back in September last year, which resulted in 4 months in hospital, and the loss of almost all my muscle mass.  It took 3 months of protein supplements and physio to get me on my feet again, and another 2 months to be able to walk normally.

After a few local rides to the supermarket, I finally managed a proper ride on the Middlewood Way in February.  I only had a small amount of time, and I’m pretty slow at the moment, so I only managed about 7 miles in total.  I’ve ridden there a few times previously, and it’s a nice place for a pootle.  Just watch out for the horses!

ooh – the Muddy Fox is complete!  I actually completed the build back in 2015, and the Kili’s been out of action due to setup issues, so I’ve used it quite a lot since then.


There’s also been another addition to the fleet, which I bought *just* before my liver keeled over; a Lynx Parrilla.  If you google the name, you get motorbikes and barbeques, and practically nothing about the bike (except my own posts to retrobike).  Info on the bike is rarer than it was for my Courier, so I have no idea how many exist, or what their spec is supposed to be.  Luckily, the frame under the branding is not so rare; it’s an early Roberts Genesis!


So that means it needs a decent spec, but as I’m a cheapskate, XT is about as far as I’m willing to go.  I’ve got the crank and mechs so far, and I bought some Project 2 forks.  I just need to get some brakes and put it all together! Once I’ve built up the strength to hammer in the headset, that is.

I just noticed that I never posted an update about the Kili Racer, or the ALX89 for that matter.  Shameful!  The Kili worked for a little while, but after the ride down south, it was clear that I’d set it up badly, and I never quite got around to finishing it properly.  I’m gonna finish it soon, though – honest!  Here’s how it looked just before heading south:


Not bad, eh? Since then, I’ve put on some silver chainrings, swapped the front brakes for some that work, put on a black handlebar with some Yeti grips, and the tyres are now Panaracer Smoke and Dart.  The brakes are Suntour SE XC self-energising brakes, which are spring loaded to pull the brake in as they grip the wheel.  Only the rear are spring loaded, but the front brakes are a lot more expensive, despite being basic brakes.  Originally, I had rear brakes on the back and the front (they’re reversed, so the spring does nothing on the front), but the shape of the brake meant the fork got in the way when trying to adjust them.  In the end, I bought proper front SE XCs, but now I’m pondering fitting some Maguras that I’ve got…

As for the ALX89; I sold it.  It was just too small!  Shame, though.. that bike was ace in every other respect.

And that’s everything up to date!  Except for my most recent ride, which I’m gonna stick in the next post.  It’s gonna be a lot sooner than 3 years!  🙂

Pea Fritters!!!!!

This is a bit off topic, but as a southerner in the north, it may actually be the most annoying difference between here and there: (lack of) Pea Fritters!

Everyone likes fish and chips, don’t they? Well.. not everyone likes fish.. I used to prefer a battered sausage (something else that’s hit and miss up here), and when I became a veggie, I swapped the sossies for pea fritters. I love pea fritters. 🙂

Then I moved north, and found out that they don’t exist up here. No-one’s even heard of them! Instead, there is mushy peas in pots, or scallops (battered potato and chips? Ever heard of variety?!) So I did some research, and even Londoners don’t know what they are – they seem to be limited to Hampshire and the counties that border it. Crazy!

So, what are pea fritters? Mushy peas in batter. Those are these:

They’re like an evolved pot of mushy peas. Someone like me must’ve thought “how am i supposed to eat these mushy peas while i’m on the move? I know – I’ll batter em!”

I did find a chippie that sold ‘pea fritters’ in Porthmadog in Wales. I use inverted commas, because they were mass produced, pre-cooked, tiny patties that tasted revolting. Real fritters are apparently made by getting a lump of frozen marrowfat peas, dipping them in batter, and then deep frying them.

I therefore urge anyone who reads this to try a Pea Fritter at least once. You might have to go to Hampshire or Dorset to do it, but it’s worth the trip (there’s lots of other lovely things to do, too). If that seems too much like hard work, then maybe try this recipe. I can’t guarantee that it’ll be as good as a chip shop fritter (Golf ball sized? Should be tennis ball sized!), but it looks like it’ll be pretty close. I’m going to try it myself sometime soon!

Pea Fritters!!!!

Dahn saahf

I had a pretty good weekend, last weekend; I took the Kili down south and cycled in the countryside with an old friend! 🙂

On Saturday, we headed into the New Forest, for a cycle up and down forest paths around the Minstead area. It was absolutely tipping it down, but we ventured on regardless, directed by a friend of my friends who seemed to know the area quite well (and had a map). The bike performed admirably, despite not having fully operational brakes, and having a crank that was getting more and more wonky. My bike did look a bit odd next to their modern 29ers, with no discs or suspension, but I held my own. Only the brakes were a true embarrassment. Best bit of that day was a section where the path disappeared and became a very rooty slalom through trees (I was convinced we’d gone the wrong way, but apparently it was a path). For some reason, the other guys slowed down for this bit, but I couldn’t help but speed up and enjoy some proper offroading. No more commute through the forest – time to bounce off some roots! It was fun, and reminded me of how I used to ride mountain bikes about 20 years ago (that makes me feel old!).

On Sunday, the weather was lovely, and it was just me and my mate, so we headed to a trail that goes from Titchfield to Lee On Solent. It wasn’t a race, or a test of our abilities – we just chilled out and took our time. Sometimes it’s nice to just admire the view..


When we got to Lee On Solent, it seemed right to stop for a bacon butty on the beach before heading back, even though I’m supposed to be vegetarian. It’s a good job I’m not a very strict vegetarian. 🙂

The trip hasn’t cured my home sickness. I miss proper forests. I miss being able to see the sea. I miss pubs that sell decent beer. 😐

Dammit – I forgot to get a pea fritter! I must go back!!!

Still sort of back. Ish. On and off.

Sorry for the delay, but I properly cursed myself with that last post. I had about 2 weeks of being healthy, then got a fever and jaundice, and spent over a month in hospital. That hospital visit resulted in surgery, which has left me with some small scars that still hurt even though it’s been 2 months since they did it. Cycling makes them hurt more.


I spent my time in hospital productively, tho. I bought up all the bits I thought I’d need to get my bikes sorted out fully! Then, about a month after leaving hospital, I bought another bike that meant I had to get rid of one of the old ones. Exit: Saracen Tufftrax. Enter: Muddy Fox Courier!

Drive side

The Courier is of a 1988 vintage, but it’s not your normal Courier. Couriers back then were either white (1987) or white to purple fade (1988). Mine’s red! Not only is it red, but it has two bottle cage mounts on the downtube, a seatstay mounted U brake, and Shimano Exage Mountain components. Normal Muddy Fox bikes didn’t have Shimano parts until about 1990, they never had two cage mounts, and their U brakes were mounted on the chainstays.

So, why is any of this important? Coz it’s actually a re-branded Tushingham B52 – the forerunner of the Orange Clockwork. B52s were based on Couriers, and made in the same factory as Couriers. For some reason or other, Muddy Fox acquired some of the B52 frames and re-badged them.

It’s still just a Courier, though, and not even one that’s in good condition. The paint’s chipped all over the place, there’s some serious chainsuck damage, and someone’s drilled a hole through the seat tube (I suspect they used a bolt to stop the seat from dropping). Due to all that, it’s gonna become my commute bike. Did I mention that there’s only about 50 of these bikes left? 🙂

oh, obviously it’s unrideable at the moment. The bottom bracket is an old plastic thing that disintegrates when I try to remove it, but not enough to crumble and fall out. I need to remove that before I can get it on the road. It’s never simple!

The Reflex ALX89 is back on the road, though. I spent loads on new tools, and finally got a new headset on it. It’s a lovely bike, but a bit too jittery for commuting.


The Saracen Kili Racer has had it’s bottom bracket removed by a burly bike mechanic, and the seatpost was dissolved using caustic soda. That was fun, I can tell you. I dropped it off at a powder coater today. How does Pearl Pink sound? It should sound coppery, because that’s what it actually looks like. I get the bike back in about a week. Can’t wait!!! 😀

oh, and as for actually riding bikes – I’ve been doing some of that, too! Mostly just riding home from work, after getting a train in (trains home are hellish), but I’ve done both ways a few times now. I’m actually faster than I used to be, which is surprising. I’m currently using the Reflex for commuting, as the Cobra is too.. er.. racey! I might sell it, to be honest. I just don’t use it!

I’ll try and update when the Kili comes back from the powder coater. eeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Back again

Hooray – the sun is out!  Well, it was..  

So, it seems that I’ve started suffering from seasonal affective disorder.  I dunno if it’s because I’ve moved north, or because the weather has become rubbish generally (the weather back in Southampton has been far worse!), or because I don’t get out as much due to a small child, or maybe it’s just age.  It’s probably all of the above!  What I do know is that for the past three winters, I’ve been depressed during the winter months, and it’s not something that I used to suffer from.  At least I recognize it now, and maybe I can do something about it next time.

The upshot of all this is that I found it hard to get into anything between November and March.  I didn’t feel like writing stuff, or reading stuff, or fiddling with stuff.  I spent most of the winter slumped on a sofa with that feeling of waiting for something, but not being sure what I was waiting for.  My PSC was also in effect, so I was jaundiced the whole time, too.

Turned out, I was waiting for the sun!  After a full day of proper sun, my mood lifted, my jaundice disappeared, and I felt interested in things again.  It started with people (I get VERY introverted when I’m feeling down. I think my wife was about to leave me), then computer games, and now it’s the turn of bikes!

There is much to do in bike land, as only my Carlton Cobra is in ridable condition…  

  • The Twenty needs a new cotter pin hammered in, after the old one sheared it’s thread.
  • The Tufftrax is in bits after I treated it for rust, and needs a new headset and a really good clean.
  • The ALX89 needs a new bolt for the rear brake, a new headset, and some paint cleanup.
  • The Kili Racer still needs the bottom bracket and seatpost extracted, and then needs building.

On top of all that, I’m still fighting the urge to buy new mountain bikes!  I don’t have the space, and I can’t afford it, but ooooh – look at that lovely aluminium Muddy Fox, and aaaah – look at how amazing that Kona looks!

Back to normal, then.  🙂

Raleigh Twenty: Proper photos!

I had nothing to do at lunchtime today, so I used my 30 minutes to take photos of my bike.  I didn’t pick a very good day for taking photos.. even at lunchtime, it was so dark that my camera wanted to use the flash!  It didn’t get it’s way – I’d rather take a blurred photo than a photo using a flash.  😛

All the photos are in a set on flickr, which is here.

So, here’s the bike in most of it’s glory.

Rear view

I’m probably keeping the paint the way it is, btw.  The blue’s grown on me, and who doesn’t love a bit of patina?  okay.. I don’t like patina much, normally.. but I’ll let it off just this once.  I’m just going to clean off the sticker residue, treat the rust, and leave it at that!

RH View

The crank’s staying too, but the 18T freewheel will probably swapped for a 16T.  I’m cycling a bit manically at the moment..


It doesn’t fold up particularly small, but it’s better than trying to fit a full MTB on a train!  The handlebar causes a bit of a width issue, which is more annoying than the general size.

Front view

The headset needs a spacer added, and the stem is still giving me issues.  It turns out it IS a 22.2mm clamp (so the shim I bought is way too big), but the clamp is deformed.  I think I need one with more forward reach anyway..

So, this project is nearly done!  Just lots of fine tuning to do.  🙂

Raleigh Twenty: First ride

So, yeah – the Raleigh Twenty (or Triumph Traffic Master, if you’re being pedantic) is now pretty much assembled, and had it’s first test run this morning! Naturally, things didn’t go quite to plan..

As the front brake isn’t set up (the brake blocks are too close to the rim, and rub like nobodies business), I was relying on the coaster brake working.. which it did! It’s actually quite a good brake, although it’s a weird experience not being able to align the pedals. If I align them for a dismount and coast, I can’t brake! If I brake, I lose alignment.. I’m sure there’s a knack to it, as fixed speed must be even more difficult to stop, and plenty of loonies ride fixed. I’m not sure that I’d like to lose the front brake entirely, though. That just seems like an accident waiting to happen.

The coaster brake can also be quite powerful, I found. Or at least, it felt like it was powerful as I braked and the handlebars swivelled forward! I knew they’d be the biggest potential issue, but I’d hoped I’d managed to tighten them enough. The stem I’d bought was supposedly for 22.2mm bars, but it didn’t seem to want to grip the bar properly. I tightened it up some more on the train, which resulted in the bolt snapping in half, so I think I can safely judge that it’s actually intended for 25.4mm bars. 😛 I’ve ordered a shim, but I’m not sure where I’m going to find a replacement bolt. I’m sure I must have something in all the spares that I’ve got at home.

Everything else worked alright, though! It’s a weird old thing to ride.. the crank is in front of the saddle, rather than underneath it, so my riding position is very laid back and relaxed. Getting up on the pedals makes it feel more BMX-like, with it’s short wheelbase and low center of gravity. I can’t work out if 18 teeth is right for me or not.. it’s alright for cruising, but pedalling is a bit frantic when I’m standing up. I reckon a 16 tooth cog might be better, but I’ll give it a while. It was hard to get a proper feel for the bike when the handlebars kept pitching forward. 😛

A really poor photo - sorry!

The current plan is now:

  • Fit shim to handlebar
  • Fit new bolt to stem
  • Fit a headset spacer (there’s a 2mm-ish gap between the clamp and the nut, so it’s not as tight as it can be)
  • Sort out the front brake (it doesn’t seem very adjustable. Tempting to swap it for a dual pivot or center pull)
  • Strip the paint
  • Paint?

I should proooobably have stripped the paint before I assembled it, but I’m not blessed with that kind of patience. Instead, I’ll probably end up stripping stuff I wanted to keep, and painting stuff I didn’t want painted. I still don’t know what colour to paint it!

Raleigh Twenty: Starting to wish I’d left it standard!

Another day, another issue!

I got the new fork over the weekend, so I started putting things back together.  I got the old lower headset race off, put on the new one, and then attempted to fit the new crown race to the new fork.

  • I tried hammering it using the old headset cup and a screwdriver.  It wouldn’t budge.
  • I tried hammering a piece of plastic pipe, to even out the force.  It wouldn’t budge.
  • I filed down the fork crown a bit, then tried hammering it via the pipe.  It wouldn’t budge.
  • I tried using a hammer again.  It budged!  Then it got stuck.
  • I hammered more and more and more…


So, it turns out that there are different measurements of fork crown.  Just because a fork is 1″ diameter, and you have a 1″ headset, it doesn’t mean they’ll fit together.  In my case, the fork had a JIS crown, which is 27mm in diameter, whereas the headset had an ISO crown, which is 26.4mm.  ISO has been the standard for years, with JIS only being adopted in any kind of number in Asian countries.

The fork I bought has a German-sounding brand name, so it surprised me to find that it had a non-standard crown. My theory is that it makes more sense to make the larger diameter, and let bike shops face it down to 26.4mm if needed.  That way it can fit anything! That’s probably why it also has such an enormous steerer – let someone else cut it, rather than limit the appeal.

Anyway, this lesson in crown diameters has now cost me a crown race, and judging by the stuff available on the interweb, and what I’ve got at home, I might have to buy another headset.  For £10.  I guess I should’ve taken this job to the bike shop.  😐

ooh, and while I’m here – I forgot that the locknuts from the old fork won’t work on the new fork, because the old fork has Raleigh threading.  It never bloomin ends!