Wednesday 26 July 2023

Around the island

me at the needles isle of wight

My second trip this year included a ferry. Not to a different country though; the Isle of Wight was my destination.

Arriving in Portsmouth by bicycle meant I could use the foot passenger only catamaran that landed me in Ryde, my base for two nights. I hadn't thought of using the hovercraft, I was under the impression it was no longer in use. I talked to my sister about my holiday and she mentioned them. Gone are the huge craft capable of carrying cars. These are much smaller, they do carry bikes. But they have to be packaged as cargo. The vessel I used has cycle racks, so much less hassle.

The trip to Portsmouth.

It was a good journey, rolling hills that were not too much of a test. Except for a very steep climb after about 40 miles, it peaked at 20%, then 15 miles later another at over 15%.

I arrived at Midhurst needing lunch. A very busy town, I found a seat outside the Midhurst bakery.

Delicious coffee and the best vegan "sausage" rolls. The filling was curried veg, I had two.

midhurst bakery
waiting for the food to be warmed at Midhurst bakery

Interesting place names. 

Unfortunately not long after lunch on a narrow country lane an idiot who was either too impatient, didn't care or incompetent overtook when there wasn't enough room. It took me off the bike.

Three people stopped. Two women had first aid training and a huge kit. They cleaned and patched up my knee and elbow. The third, Robert, rang 111. I discussed what happened and how I felt. It was decided I didn't need an ambulance, which was good. Robert suggested I take the lift in the horse box offered by the two women to the nearest station and head home. I declined, the bike was rideable and I really wanted to get to the island. Luckily I had obtained the name, number and reg from the idiot because by the time I had been patched up she had gone. Robert was the last to leave, staying until I had got my head together and could carry on. It was whilst we stood and chatted that I assessed my situation. My gilet was shredded, the jersey underneath had damage to the shoulder, and my shorts had a huge hole in them. I used some gauze bandage to stop the grazes sticking to what was left of the garment and to cover my dignity.

My first view of the coast.

I had intended to walk around the naval dockyard and take pictures of HMS Victory etc. Not surprisingly I didn't feel like it.

HMS Warrior
HMS Warrior opposite the ferry/train terminal. 

Spinnaker Tower
Spinnaker Tower

I did take a couple of pictures from the ferry.

portsmouth harbour

The ferry docks at the end of Ryde Pier. 

ryde pier

It was a short walk up the hill to my hotel. I must have looked a bit of a mess, but no-one at the ferry or hotel made any mention of it. 

Staying in one place for more than a night was a welcome change, especially considering the situation I found myself in. I'll also ensure I have company in the future. Which will please my family.

Last month's trip had me checking out every morning. Traveling to a new place by bike is very rewarding, knowing I achieved it by my own effort. But it was nice to return to the same place in the evening. Maybe my future plans will change now. Instead of constantly moving on I could base myself in one place and ride loops each day.

Another change; I wasn't alone, on the island at least. Stefan was my guide. I'd never met him face to face before.

ride artwork stefan powellOur first interaction was me seeing his artwork on twitter. I bought a framed print.








Later I tweeted my plan to take a trip to the island. Stefan suggested we could meet and he'd show me around.

A couple of weeks before departure we had a video call. We talked about what I wanted to do, and where I'd like to visit. Marcia was within earshot some of the time and remarked afterwards that he seemed like a nice man; high praise.

I sent Stefan a message to update him. The planned ride was obviously off. I was feeling pretty down and sorry for myself. He replied saying he'd drive to meet me at the cafe as we'd discussed previously. I hadn't fancied the breakfast offering from the hotel. A full fry-up veg style was also expensive at £9.99.

We drove the route discussed a couple of weeks earlier. And chatted about our lives, thoughts and plans. Probably more so than if we'd been on the bikes.

It was just what I needed. He is an easy going friendly guy. The day was absolutely brilliant.

st helens church ruins nodes point
st helens church ruins nodes point

We drove into the Nodes Point caravan park for the pic above. As we got out of the van we were approached by an employee. He asked if we were residents, we said no. It looked like he was about to ask us to leave. Stefan said we wouldn't be long and then pointed at me, explaining my situation. Saying we'd just like a picture or two. His demeanour softened, and said it was very disappointing how terrible some people drove, then left us to have a walk.

culver down

The next stop was Culver Down. A view of the coast from the top.

Earl of Yarborough Monument

We saw the Earl of Yarborough Monument from a long way off. It was erected by the locals.
The inscription reads:

D.C.L. F.R.S. F.S.A.

Shanklin with its thatched high street was next. We had a bit of a walk and a coffee then moved on.

Blackgang chine gave a photo op. Unfortunately the dinosaurs were protected by fences so I settled for a pic of the pirate.
pirate Blackgang chine

We were now on the military road with its spectacular views. The one below was straight out of the van window while stopped at the side of the road. Although the whole route had vistas just as impressive.

view from the van

Near Brook is a carpark being reclaimed by the sea. They have to regularly fence off more and more of the paved area and move the stairs back as the tide moves inland.

It was time for lunch so we went to The Freshwater Coffee House. Stefan is rightly proud. It's a great place to visit. Just as we were leaving they brought out vegan chocolate brownies. I could not resist. So much so that I didn't pause to take a picture.

The last stop was the Needles, the walk from the carpark gave a view of Alum bar. Famous for its coloured cliff face.

Alum Bay
Alum Bay

I hadn't been to the Needles before.

the needles

Stefan then drove me back to my hotel. The steps tracker on my watch recorded over six miles of walking. It certainly didn't feel like it. 

That night I had dinner in an Italian restaurant. At first I was alone, it was just after opening time. The dining room soon filled up. I had wanted to eat there on the Sunday night but by 18:30 it was fully booked.

Ristorante Michelangelo
Ristorante Michelangelo

After dinner I went for a walk. And discovered the hovercraft.

isle of wight hovercraft

Certainly not the behemoths of yesteryear.

Tuesday morning and time to go home. I woke early, packed, collected my bike and headed out along the pier. Breakfast was from the Seagull Cafe at the end.

seagull cafe wightlink terminal ryde pier
seagull cafe wightlink terminal ryde pier

I'd just missed a departure, but I didn't mind. It gave me time eat some porridge and drink a latte.

At the train station I bought a ticket from the office, we need to have these and not allow them to be closed. I asked if I needed to change during my journey. The guy behind the counter looked pleased and said "no you look just fine dressed as your are". It made me smile. He informed me Americans especially like this joke. A machine wouldn't have been the same.

portsmouth and southsea station
waiting for my train

I changed at Gatwick, heading for another at Redhill. Unfortunately a points failure further up the line meant my final connection was cancelled. So I rode the last 7.5 miles to home.

A final thought. The roads that I saw on the island were well surfaced, great for riding on. It's the holiday season and they weren't that busy. Just like the standard European countries beloved of my fellow cyclists. Okay there aren't any incredible climbs, but I'll definitely be back to sample what is available. I wrote about the impact of holidays, the Isle of Wight has good travel connections. You don't need to fly for a start. I know the weather might not be as predictable, but no-one ever melted when they got rained on.


Info about the dinosaurs at Blackgang Chine.

Yelf's Hotel. An old style hotel, that is a bit tatty around the edges. The staff were friendly and helpful, if not that observant. The bike storage was in the cellar so very secure. If your bike is heavy I'd remove any luggage before taking it down there. The ramp is very steep. Don't load up until you have it in the courtyard for the same reason. Also on Monday I had been told there would be someone to unlock the gate, but I couldn't find anyone. I eventually left a message with one of the people serving breakfast that I wouldn't require the bike.

I told the receptionist on Monday evening I'd need to checkout early, before breakfast, the next day. She left a note for the night porter. He knocked on my room door just after seven and made sure I had the bike sorted and in the main bar area for me to leave shortly after.

Wightlink Ferry. Quick efficient service, joined to Portsmouth train station so it's easy to get to. There is another station, the one I left from. Just a short distance away; it's called Portsmouth and Southsea. Trains leave for London via Gatwick.

Ristorante Michelangelo I think this serves a more traditional menu. Certainly the pizza I had was devoid of cheese or a non dairy alternative. I think the heavily "cheesyfied" versions more commonly seen are an American inspired creation. The sweet was a disappointment though, which was a shame.

About Stefan. Exec & Leadership Coach. He also trains baristas and is a musician.

The Freshwater Coffee House An award winning establishment. Definitely visit if you are in the area.

freshwater coffer house

Artist The Little Boat IW. You can buy prints online, he does commissioned pieces too.

Friday 14 July 2023

Trigger's broom

rigid forks new handlebar grips

My Kona Blast mountain bike has been altered again. Regular readers will know I have had it since late 2009. It was second hand but an improvement on the Peugeot I had ridden for three years.

There have been many changes: bigger brake discs now gripped by hydraulics, handlebars to better allow a bag for touring and upgrades as consumable items wore out. New wheels were the biggest investment. The only parts that remained were the fork and frame. 

It's no longer used for slogging through mud and bouncing over rocks. I now ride mostly on the road, to commute to the office or for coffee in Westerham on a Sunday. Maybe a bit of light off road and last month for bikepacking. 

The suspension fork isn't sophisticated, it's very heavy and I just don't need it. So when an opportunity came to buy a secondhand rigid version I went for it. The bike weighed nearly 15 kg, it's now lost over 2 kgs. I also bought second hand wheels as part of the package. They are lighter and have better hubs.

carbon fibre and logos on view

The fork is made from carbon fibre, but was a bit tatty so I spruced it up.

painted forks
watching paint dry

 Combining bright orange paint with a metal flake top coat. Should I have left it showing the magic material?
The handlebar grips were worn out. Ross Cycles had some orange ones. With the clamps sprayed to match I think they work well.


The cassette was worn; the new set of sprockets are from a road bike. Losing the lowest ratios means that the jump between each one is smaller. I can select a comfortable cadence that helps to maintain speed. With three chainrings up front I can still find a low enough option if needed.
I now have what could be called a flat bar cross country/gravel/touring bike. The amount I spent is much less than buying a new bike. And it's way is better for the environment.

It climbs better and accelerates faster. I rode a gentle off road section and it coped well with the few roots and rocks I encountered. In fact the test ride confirmed a suspicion I had about the springs. They were too stiff for someone of my build. Only hitting a big bump at speed would cause any movement. 

Don't ask me to paint your bike. It didn't turn out as well as I'd planned. While the metal flake was wet, it looked terrible. Once dry the appearance improved, so that was a relief. The masking had also missed a few bits. The instructions said no primer needed and that I should have had enough for a frame and fork. The white logos took a lot to cover, so I used the whole can. I still have plenty of the sparkly top coat so I'm now looking for something else that needs this treatment.

From a distance the fork looks okay, I'm generally pleased with the result. I'll have to work on my technique if another project looks likely.

With regards to the blog title. I'll give you a clue: Only Fools & Horses. If you know, you know.