Tag Archives: weather

Wet? Need shelter? Try the local market square

I have often lamented the lack of shelter for cyclists in England, Scotland and France (the three places in Europe where I have cyclo-toured). Quite simply, there is nowhere to get out of the weather when it turns nasty or even inconveniently wet (unless you can squeeze yourself and your bike into one of those very rare bus shelters).

I find this quite amazing, because winters in these countries are very cold and wet – and I would have thought porches, verandahs and the like would have featured on almost every building.

There is, however, one place where a soggy cyclist may be able to find respite in French towns and that is at the central marketplace. I have found reference to these areas in other rider’s blogs too, so obviously it is not just me who has made this discovery!

Market2

The market area was virtually empty when we first arrived.

Market

Beautiful, ornate steel posts support the large roof area.

This place is big, open and has plenty of room, all under a convenient high roof.

Unless of course, you have arrived at the same time as the local market is in full swing, in which case you will probably just be able to find a corner to hover until everyone departs.

The upside of market day though, is that there will be plenty of fresh fruit to purchase and to enjoy 🙂

We passed many of these markets, but this was one of the few where we actually stopped while en route from Sully-sur-Loire to Checy (just east of Orléans).  I must confess that I did not write down the name of the town at the time, but I am fairly sure it was Jargeau (on the southern bank of the Loire River). According to the sign in the photograph, entry was not permitted on Wednesdays between 12:30 and 8pm and Jargeau has a market each Wednesday afternoon.

The marketplace was deserted when we arrived, but this was not the way it stayed.

Market1

Stall owners start to arrive and set up for the afternoon’s trading. First in, best placed!

Market3

Rails for clothing, umbrellas to hang things. These vendors were well organised.

As we sat and ate our lunch, we watched a hive of activity suddenly erupt as stall owners arrived and prepared to set up their afternoon of trading. By the time we left, the covered area was full, crowds were arriving and vendors were fussing with last minute preparations.

Market4

Metallic lace work shows up against the lighter background. This structure was quite beautiful.

One can buy a fascinating variety of goods at these gatherings. Fruit and vegetables, meat and specialty cheeses all find a place. Fun toys and trinkets keep the children tempted and amused while their parents search clothing racks for elusive bargains. It was a delightful taste of the French culture.

It also seemed a bit of a waste because the weather was clear that day and we had not needed to shelter at all!

Autumn reflections – all mine!

Around Kintbury and Devizes in southern England, one can cycle along canal towpaths instead of cycling on the road. In the autumn of 2010, we rode along some of these routes to see what they were like and also to get a different perspective of the English countryside.

Beautiful reflections of autumn foliage in the water

Beautiful reflections of early autumn foliage in the water (cycling trail on far left)

Historically, the towpaths used to run up both sides of each canal and provided a place for horses to walk as they towed along the barges and other river vessels. Nowadays, only one pathway tends to be maintained and with the horses long gone, traffic is limited to walkers, runners, fisherfolk, boat owners and cyclists.

Exquisite reflections in the still water

Exquisite reflections in the still water

We had very much enjoyed our rides on the canal towpaths in France and were keen to see what this part of England had to offer. I must confess I found the condition of the trails somewhat disappointing (they were quite muddy and/or narrow in parts).

However, the one thing that was outstanding about these routes was the scenery. The weather over the few days were there was balmy, still and overcast, creating an atmosphere of quiet suspense (which I really enjoy). With no breeze, the water was very still and the reflections just amazing.

Pretty houseboats line the canals

Pretty houseboats line the canals – they are long and narrow to facilitate navigation on the waterway

Cycling in these conditions is when I find myself really living in the present – savouring every moment immediately as it unfolds. It is very relaxing and most enjoyable.

When asked recently what I would consider to be solely “mine” in life – it would have to be these moments when absolutely nothing else invades my space. The photos I have included are examples of the reflections and peaceful surrounds that I enjoyed so much.

Kintbury Lock

Kintbury Lock – beautiful overhanging trees make a sheltered place for the boats to be secured

This post is a response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Mine. The time I had to myself (immersed in my thoughts) was definitely all mine!

(Follow this link for details on the overall UK tour route).

It’s all in the (pannier) bag

As a mother, I have spent the last 20 years carrying a bag that contained a multitude of items to cover all eventualities at any possible time. Bandaids for cuts and scrapes, lipstick, tissues, and even sticky tape and scissors to mend homework books – I had the lot.  All of this stuff and a lot more became my regular load, compactly packed into my trusty handbag.

When my offspring finally developed the capability to deal with many of these events on their own, I was able to jettison many items, but it was not easy. Old habits die hard!

One small bag to take warm gear for a winter ride

My habit has now transferred itself to my cycling pannier bag and I seem to have an endless list of things that I am convinced I really could/should keep handy for every ride.

However, when I realised that I was looking longingly at those who go out on a ride with a small puncture kit, a miniscule pump and a bottle of water tucked away invisibly on their slimline, lightweight bikes (at least I think they take a puncture kit? :-)), I had a rethink.

I had finally woken up to the fact that I was taking far too much unnecessary gear which I would probably never use.

Fully loaded and weatherproofed on a rainy day while touring in France

My nearest and dearest assure me that I tend to worry too much about what may happen (but then take comfort from the fact that I probably have most things covered so they don’t need to worry!)

In recent months, I have decided to become rather ruthless and to cut the load of ‘might need one day’ gear down to that which is really essential! But I am also an independent sort and get annoyed with myself if I have to use/ borrow other people’s tools or spare tyres.

Riding on the beach in Tasmania – not too much being carried in the bags

So it has not been easy! So, here is my current list for casual rides around my local area (I go back to the full list when touring – that is non negotiable!):

  • Puncture kit
  • Tyre pump
  • Chain to lock the bike (depending on where I am riding)
  • Water (carried all the time regardless of the weather)
  • I have toyed with the idea of having a spare tyre, but so far, have resisted! (But it is easier to fix a puncture with a spare tube, so perhaps… :-))
  • Toolbag (this is where my indecisions really start) containing:
    • multitool screwdriver (fits all the screws and fittings on my bikes)
    • Some cable ties (they are useful for so many things especially if something comes loose or breaks)
    • Small plastic tyre lever
    • Side cutter pliers
  • I used to carry a first aid kit, but this is on the discard pile at the moment. (I seemed to be very prone to coming off my bike and hitting the dirt when I first started riding. This has not happened for a while now, so perhaps my riding skills are improving and the need for bandaids has declined :-))
  • Lightweight rainjacket/windcheater (rolls up into a tiny pack)

Weather considerations

I feel the cold and nothing spoils a ride quicker for me than having frozen body extremities. So winter temperatures and short days are tiresome, with head, arm and leg warmers all finding themselves classified as ‘essential’ items along with a good jacket. I admire riders who go out in the snow and bitter temperatures, but I am convinced that they must just be far more cold tolerant than me!

Riding around Auckland (New Zealand). Good weather, so not much gear on board!

I find this winter kit bulky, but non negotiable for about 4 months of the year, so usually this means having to take an extra pannier bag to lug it along.

Likewise, if rain is threatening, I will take some rain gear – waterproof jacket, gloves and pants. However, rain is less often a problem than the cold. One can ‘avoid riding’ on rainy days but I am not too keen on putting the bikes away for the whole of winter to avoid the cold!

What I would like to know from other readers is whether their kit is similar and whether you have have ‘must takes’ that I have left out?

Scottish Highlands tour (Part 3 of 4): Across the ranges

This is the third of four posts describing our Highland cycling tour in Scotland a few years ago. If you have not already done so, you can read the first and second posts before continuing with this section.

Day 2 of our Highland ride promised to be quite a challenge as we had to climb over a range of quite steep hills to get into the valley to our north. Unbeknown to me, it would also go down as one of my most memorable and most enjoyable cycling days of the whole UK tour. The rainy weather which we had encountered the previous day seemed to have cleared a bit, but unfortunately, more was predicted.

Start of the ride – an easy run along the north shore of the Loch (with a tailwind and reasonable weather)

Loch Tay

KJ has issues with his brakes. Took us a few days to find the problem (Note the blue skies!)

The first part of trip was easy, as we were going with the wind and the weather was quite unexpectedly pleasant. We were riding along the northern shore of Loch Tay going back the way we had travelled the day before – but on the opposite shore.

We had to make a few stops to check out KJ’s brakes which were misbehaving and making the most annoying noises (it took us a few days to work out what was actually wrong with them and get it repaired).

At the most easterly end of Loch Tay, we had to make a decision (based on how the weather looked) about whether to go directly back to Pitlochry or to tackle the climb over to Kinloch Rannoch. Finally, we decided to bite the bullet and take on the weather; turning the bikes to the south – up and over the range.

The weather starts to close in

going south

The weather seemed to sulk at our decision, it got gradually worse as the day went on, then as we climbed higher, seemed threw everything at us! It poured rain and then blew hard. Then it did both together and even sent down a shower of hail (which was fortunately only small hailstones!). The slopes were quite steep in places, with the longest, steepest section taking us up 300m to the top of the range. At the summit of the climb, the sun came out and the wind stopped blowing for a short while. We were in the heathland at this stage and it was rather surreal – like being on top of the world!

A sudden sunny break between the showers of rain and strong wind

There were sheep grazing everywhere, quite unperturbed by us or the weather! Stone walls once separated the large grazing areas, but there are now no fences along the roads and gaps in the stone fences everywhere, so they obviously have fallen into disuse. But the most incredible thing was that the stone fences went right to the tops of very steep hills, some must have been built on almost vertical slopes. The people who built those fences must have been very tough!

Unfortunately, there were few opportunities to get photos, it was just not good weather for cameras.

This downhill section required hard pedalling against the wind

Many times it was necessary to pedal hard going downhill, because the wind was so strong coming the other way! Every now and again, we got out of the wind and rain, and the sun came out as if to encourage us along! But the effort was worth it – the ride was curiously exhilarating rather than exhausting (probably because there were so many extreme changes in the weather that we did not get worn down by any one feature on its own!).

There was not much traffic on the narrow road – we came across a few hardy hikers setting out from their cars at one stage – they must have wondered at our sanity! But the lack of traffic added to the atmosphere – we felt as if we had the whole place to ourselves.

I did not get as wet as the day before when I had been wearing relatively light rain gear. This time I dug out my serious raincoat, and this kept me quite dry. My feet eventually got wet, but it took a long time, and I did not have to deal with the squelchy wet feet like the day before. I think this is why I got a lot more out of the ride. We also had shower caps over our helmets, which kept the cold out, and kept our heads dry.

I really enjoyed the day, and it will go down as a high achievement for me, because I was not sure how I was going to find the steep climbs. But I surprised myself by how easily it went, despite the elements!

The next stage of the Highlands Tour saw us return to Pitlochry via Blair Atholl Castle.

(Follow this link for details on the overall UK tour route).