Variations on a Circuit

by Carol Hague

As I was working from home when we lived in Somerset, I decided it would be a good idea to do a short ride on my GTO each morning by way of a "ride to work" to keep my bike muscles ticking over for our longer weekend rides on the tandem and to get the blood moving around a bit.

Since I started doing this, the weather has generally been less than ideal, but I have nevertheless dragged my carcase out of bed and on to the trike on the odd occasion, albeit fewer than I should have....

Tuesday November 7th

My most memorable ride so far, for all the wrong reasons.

It had been raining heavily for several days and the previous day Taunton town centre had been closed off and some businesses flooded, so I suppose I should have known better....

It began well enough, with a relatively uneventful passage of the main street of Bishops Lydeard. This is usually good for a laugh, with cars merrily parked on the double yellow lines outside the village shops and lining both sides of the street, restricting traffic to one direction at a time. After running this gauntlet as usual I trundled up the hill and took a left turn down a smaller lane on to the loop which would eventualy bring me back to the village again.

The first sign that all wasn't entirely well came just after the left turn at the end of this lane, where the torrential rain of the previous few days had washed a slick of red sandy soil across the road from a nearby field. I negotiated this as carefully as I could and proceeded on to the crossroads where I turn back towards the village.

A couple of hundreds yards from the crossroads I have a choice of taking a road that goes downhill and emerges just outside the local health farm or uphill and joining the main road before turning off onto the same road as the other route. The downhill road tends to be covered in mud and other salubrious substances, but it avoids the main road (the A358 to Minehead) so I decided to go that way.

As I went down the slope, braking carefully to avoid skidding in the mud, I gradually became aware that something about the road looked different than it had on previous mornings. On closer inspection, I cleverly deduced that the out of place item was the tree lying across the road and blocking it completely....I was a bit irritated that I'd have to turn around and go the other way after all and peered nervously at the rest of the trees on the way back up, in case they also decided they preferred the supine position.

I don't remember at what point exactly it started raining, but it had definitely begun by the time I got back to the junction and found two large hedgecutter tractors coming towards me. I pulled on to the grass verge to let them by and that's when I heard the ominous hissing sound....Curses! A puncture!!

At least it was in one of the front wheels, so I wouldn't have to disconnect and reconnect the hub gear, nor would I have to remove the wheel, both of which were some consolation to a non-mechanically minded person like me. Rob is a great believer in replacing tubes when you puncture and mending them later on in the warm and dry, which seemed like a good idea to me. I got out my spare tube and set to work. A quick inspection of the tyre revealed the villain of the piece - a sliver of quartz, which had sliced neatly into the tyre. I checked the rest of the tyre too, just in case, not wanting to be caught in the rain with a puncture in my spare tube a couple of yards down the road because I'd missed a thorn somewhere. By this time the rain had really got into its stride, in order to make the whole thing more fun.

The hardest thing about the whole procedure was attaching the pump to the valve without the valve disappearing, but I managed it eventually and just about managed to get enough pressure into the tyre to get me home if I was careful. I'm now sizing up mini track pumps as a possible solution to this feebleness on my part.

I set off again cautiously and negotiated the main road with no trouble. I turned off by the health farm and found the day's third Delightful Surprise - a puddle stretching all the way across the road for about 15 yards. It didn't look too deep, but having already suffered one puncture I was wary of lurking potholes and went through it in the middle of the road and quite slowly. By this means I acquired a damp rear end, but nothing worse.

A few yards further on, I discovered that it was delivery time at one of the village pubs and the lorry was blocking the street. By this time I was wet, cold and more than a bit fed up, so I lifted the GTO on to the pavement, past the lorry and continued on, to the cup of tea I could hear calling plaintively to me from my kitchen...

Later that day I fitted Slime tubes to both front wheels as a precaution. I should have checked the back one as well, as when I made to set off on the circuit the following day it was as flat as the proverbial pancake....the rear wheel now has a Slime tube too, so hopefully there will be fewer punctures on future rides.

Wednesday 13th December

I've had complaints (OK then, one...) that I'm not updating the site with new reports fast enough. The truth is, the weather here has been diabolical lately, and while we haven't suffered as badly as some parts of England in the flooding stakes, it really hasn't been ideal conditions for riding, so for the most part, we've wimped out and done our training on rollers in the garage, which tends to make for rather dull reports.

Today, however, it not only stopped raining for five minutes, but (don't tell everybody or they'll all want one) the sun came out!!!! So, since Rob wanted to go running and had left his heart monitor at home, I took an early lunch break and seized the opportunity to get out on the GTO for a mile or two and take it to him.

Although the rain was taking a breather, it was still pretty windy as I set off, but wind is much less of a problem on the trike than on an upright and anyway you can't have everything. I trundled up through the village, dropping several gears for the short but sharp incline up to the post office, and then past the vets' surgery and up to the main road. This one is fun as I have to go straight across. Waiting for a suitable gap can get quite tedious, but luckily one turned up before I fell asleep and I was off again, over the (steam) railway bridge and into the drive of Sandhill Park, where Rob works. I still had about half a mile to go to get to his office though, as it's in the grounds of a former manor house (later a hospital) and has a long drive.

It's always got a good collection of potholes (I think one or two of them are National Monuments...) but today, for the sake of variety it was also waterlogged and strewn with bits of tree that the trees didn't want anymore. Combined with the occasional speed bump, this makes for an...interesting riding surface. I passed a group of horses in the field beside the road on the way in. Some horses are frightened by the trikes, but these seemed much more interested in the large bale of hay they were busy demolishing - I suspect they've seen Rob on his GTS often enough to be sanguine about it. By the time I got to Rob's office it had started the obligatory rain, but fortunately it was just a reminder that it could if it wanted to, and soon stopped. Heart monitor duly delivered, I received in exchange directions for how to reach the other exit to the site, via the new executive housing estate being built behind the main house.

So it was back a short way past the classical facade of the house, and a left turn by the tennis courts, through the car park of the fire museum ( now apparently defunct) and on to a gravel path for a short distance, stopping en route to divest the path of some of the larger bits of tree debris that had accumulated. At the end of the path I fell in behind a large yellow JCB thingy and trundled down through the estate, completely oblivious to the fact that I was going in the wrong direction....After a virtually complete tour of the estate, I asked the builders how to get out and they kindly directed me to the main road. So I retraced my tracks almost completely back to where I'd started and finally found my way out of the labyrinth of three-car garages and on to the descent back to the same main road I'd crossed earlier. This is the bottom part of a much longer descent and would be great fun if only there wasn't always a car hanging on behind all the way down.

On to the main road for a bit and then down past the health farm. Fortunately this road was much less flooded than on previous occasions, although the water had washed uneven ridges of sandy soil across the road, so that care was needed. Back through the village and back to work....