There are certain things that you should perhaps never look up on Google. Despite the obvious topics that are going to get your name added to some MI5 watch list, and medical topics with pages of bad news. Now add to these the stuff I found out when I went looking for information on the noises coming from my Ti frame and the bulge in my carbon forks.
You would never ride a bike if you knew what I now know about material failures and delamination. Which is how I ended up spending hours on eBay having declared I would not ride the bike ever again, not ever. 17 years or so and thousands of miles we were together and it was not how I expected things to end. The bike had been bought within 2 days of my previous winter bike being totalled by a young lady high on drugs who hit me at 40mph from behind, but that is another story so back to eBay.
Every bike I wanted had issues that would require further messing around and expense. I think I also wanted to change to wider tyres and disc brakes if possible. Call me shallow or whatever, but the frame had to be titanium even though I have now had three frames crack on me. My love for the timeless classic and beauty of the earths 5th most abundant element has very little logic. It comes from the heart and bypasses the brain totally.
There is only one answer in the UK if you want cheap and surprisingly well made, is Planet X. Customer support is zero. You need to know what you are doing and still there is a nauseous light headed guilt at pressing go on a spendy bike that you will first view and assess when it turns up in a very big cardboard box that has been handled by a baboon paid £1.37 to deliver it to you. It all worked out, so hurrah indeed.
There are those that hate Rapha because it is too expensive and Planet X because it is cheap and can be rubbish or fantastic in equal measure. One is now owned by Walmart and funds Trump and dodges taxes and workers rights, the other by a workers co-operative who share ownership and profits. You just can not win.
Whenever we meet any of our friends who own companies that have anything to do with tourism there are sad conversations and you quickly have to try and steer the conversation to ” How is your vegetable garden? ” before everyone goes into a tailspin of despair. We own and run Galloway Cycling Holidays, the Visit Scotland Thistle Award winners – Best Outdoor Company for the west of Scotland. We last made money in September 2019 and have been refused all but 20% of the grant we asked for to get us back up and running.
98% of our guests came from the USA, Asia or Europe and that is where we spent our energy and a big bill for advertising. We are good, very good at what we do with pages of 5 star reviews but we now have to start again as a UK focused cycling holiday company with very little budget to crack a new market. You can see from this blog just how amazing the place is, but that is not enough. I can ride to the highest village in Scotland on Alpine style roads or take the gravel bike along clifftop tracks and ride for miles along quiet roads where we see 1 car an hour. But it is not known, not THE HIGHLANDS an almost unknown place where there are 6 cows per person and you could sit in the middle of a road and read a book in peak holiday season if you picked the road carefully.
The garden is starting to pay back the trips to local farms with the back of the car full of pony poo. The crop of the year has been spinach requiring us to trawl the WWW. for meals that use a minimum of 1Kg per serving. It does not taste like shop bought stuff, it has a taste not just a green colour and texture. Then the local Elder trees came into flower and our own posh red version in the garden. Everyone we know makes a version of Elderflower cordial. It varies from house to house like a farm made wine in colour and taste depending on how much the maker hates to use sugar in anything.
There have been days at the computers in our ongoing challenge to our full grant refusal. Letters to politicians and council members and companies we partner with. There have been hours spent doing bookkeeping projections with figures that made us wince. In amongst it all there were HEADSPACE RIDES and thank goodness for those and the whole body care of Dr. BIKE and the landscape of Galloway.
We rode the clifftop track again between Rascarrel and Balcary and met not a soul. Colonies of seabirds are raising chicks above vertigo drops with crows, ravens and hawks paying them close attention. There have been gravel rides to search out new tracks in the heart of the Galloway Forest.
Yesterday’s ride was in the wet on winter bikes. My new Ti bike’s discs squealed like a pig on heat every time they got even slightly damp, but that can be dealt with if it doesn’t go away. The Carradice bag had a big flask of barista level coffee and my signature flapjacks. We stopped to take a photo that captures the way the clouds hung onto the tops of the hills, the world of green and grey we were riding in. Quiet, silence and a strange call from the open moorland. I knew it was a bird calling despite it sounding more like someone blowing across the top of a beer bottle. A little more tuneful than those hose things that the crowd had in the world cup in Brazil, similar enough but quieter.
We stood next to the bikes and waited for the call to drift to us again. It is a sound once heard widely in bogs, fens and marshes throughout the British Isles. But in the last few decades Snipe have declined as breeding birds in many places and are now very local. It is easy to assume the sound is coming from the birds bill, which is wrong. Down at the other end Snipe have a special hinge to their outer tail feathers, which when they fly rapidly causes them to flutter like a flag in a strong wind. The strangest sound made by any British bird.
We stopped to talk to a neighbour here in the village. A good half hour later we knew more about old tractors than we may ever need. He had worked his life on local farms and finding money short and needing transport now does the run to Tesco by tractor and longer trips by Suzuki.
We have been meeting a few friends as lockdown has eased. With my recent interest in bicycle materials I have been looking more closely at forks. I pointed out the stain of rusting on a pals bike. An old mountain bike that should perhaps have made a sad oneway journey to the recycling centre rather than having an ebike conversion with a deregulated motor that takes it up to 40 mph. ” Have you ever had a fork snap? “, I just wanted to draw attention to the consequences of failure. ” Oh yes I have. But there were 11 of us on the bike “. Some people have charmed lives.