In the Autumn of 2011 I carried on riding. I rode from home to Bude on my own one day. A hilly 92 miles. I still rode on my own a lot but increasingly went out with Steve. Steve is a very experienced cyclist and he gently passed on top tips and encouragement giving me more confidence. With him I started tackling bigger hills. Getting out of Lyme Regis was a turning point. I started to believe that I could climb hills. Eggardon became a part of most rides now – though I still avoided the coast road and the dreaded Abbotsbury Hill.
During the winter of 2011/2012 my Roubaix was stripped down – thoroughly cleaned and put in the loft and out came the old Ribble. Surprise surprise – the Ribble could go up hills too. It wasn’t as comfy or as fun but I was riding it much better. December found me success on Portesham Hill – almost as steep and as long as Abbotsbury. Steve said I could get up anything now!!!
Through the winter of 2011/2012 I continued to ride around the local hilly roads in West Dorset. I also went to spinning classes at Bridport Leisure Centre through the winter. In the early part of 2012 I didn’t ride very much and it wasn’t until April 2012 when I brought the Specialised Roubaix down from the loft that I began to ride regularly again. I diary note from this time records that 21 miles felt like a very long way.
At the end of April I had a notable a ride on a 72 miles circuit around North Somerset with two friend of Steve, Derek and Ted. Ted was on a Dawes Super Galaxy as he was preparing for a tour across the Pyrenees. It was a cold wet day and the pace was slow due to Teds weighty bike and also due to multiple punctures. More lessons learned.
I changed my tyres to Continental Gatorskin and from 23mm to 25mm. These tyres have proved to be very puncture resistant and the extra 2mm does not seem to make any difference to my speed.
At the end of May I rode 108 miles in a day. There is an annual ride organised by Dorset Air Ambulance from Watchet to West Bay. To solve the problem of getting to Watchet in the first place I decided to ride both ways. It was quite a chilly windy day.
Finishing the Dorset Air Ambulance Coast to Coast ride 20/5/2012
The ride up to Watchet early in the morning on my own was not as much fun as the ride back in company with the other cyclists and at times benefiting from drafting behind groups of large men. A few days after this ride Steve coaxed me up the dreaded Abbotsbury hill. A big tick in the box for me. Its not that its amazingly steep – only 17% – its just a long hill with the steepest part towards the top. A month later in June 2012 I was up it again – without Steve holding my hand.
Around this time I found a deserving home for the old Ribble racer. The partner of one of my daughters is a very good runner but had reached a stage in his life, at the grand old age of 21, when 100 mile weeks were starting to take their toll and he was thinking about cross training. Here you are Steve – (another Steve) – have my old bike – that will get you started.
So for a winter bike I decided that I needed something that I could also tour on. Ted – who was on the North Somerset ride– had recently returned from crossing the Pyrenees and he had a Dawes Super Galaxy. This seemed like a suitable way to go and I found a Dawes Galaxy on ebay for £150. It was well used and very filthy. Crucially, husband – though not interested in riding – was becoming interested in bikes as machines and this turned into a bit of a project for him. With quite a lot of TLC the Green Galaxy became my winter bike and also a machine I could plan to touring on.
Our good friends Dave and Kelly have done some very long tours. Their most recent – before baby Iris put in an appearance was from Argentinia to Mexico.. http://www.cyclingnomads.com/index.htm. I talked to them about their bikes and their gear. The Galaxy had straight bars which were new t me but after talking to Dave I decided to get some Ergon grips and try the straight bars. Although the choice of riding position is limited I have found the straight bars to be quite comfortable. I also followed their advice on Ortileb panniers and a front box.
Towards the end of the summer of 2012 my weekly distances were increasing. I went on some notable rides. The first was 80 miles on the South Somerset Way with Steve.The second was a 72 miles tour around the Isle of Wight with Steve Ted and Derek.. The third was a ride from home to Burgh Island in the South Hams of Devon – I enjoyed this solo 82 mile one way journey a lot.
At the end of August Steve and I were out on the Specialised and got caught out in heavy rain with flash floods. I comment in my diary that it is good that Steve is as mad as me. The day after we were out again this time in sunshine and my back hub started making very strange noises. We limped home to discover that the ball bearings had corroded and the adjustable race was badly pitted and scored. This was a revelation to me. I had no idea that there were parts of a new (ish) bike that would disintegrate and need replacing.
The Specialized was repaired and thoroughly serviced in the next couple of days by husband just in time for me to participate in my first Sportive. The Moor 2 Sea event started at Haldon racecourse near Exeter. The route was 66 hilly miles across Dartmoor and back along the South Devon Coast. I rode well and enjoyed the day. I was starting to learn what suited my body in terms of food and hydration on long events and realising that getting this right was very important to enjoying longer rides.