I spent most of the week 22-25th at Bradford on Avon, visiting Graham McDermott, who recently moved there. We were mainly working on computers, which was just as well, because it was very wet. Indeed, my Birdy got dreadfully dirty on the way down along the towpath from Bath to Bradford on Avon, and again on the way back, when I not only rode to Bath but continued on the cycle path as far as Bristol. A fairly major cleaning job was required on Thursday afternoon to get the worst of the grime off. Pending some lubrication to finish the job, the old Brompton T5 was pressed into service for the trip to the university on Friday – it too got very wet.
After the heavy rain during the week, Saturday’s Stockport Ride – one of the longest-standing and most popular rides in the Moulton Bicycle Club calendar, was looked forward to with some misgivings. However, following a dull start, the weather quickly improved as I made the train journey north from Wolverhampton. As at the Lancaster Ride a couple of weeks earlier, I had obtained permission to bring a folder, which makes travel by train much easier, though of course the riding is not as enjoyable as on a Moulton. As the Birdy was accessible, and well suited to this sort of ride, it was again my choice. During my visit to Bradford on Avon I was able at last to get the Schwalbe Marathon tyres for the Birdy from Avon Valley Cyclery, but regrettably I did not have time to fit them before this ride – I hope to have them fitted and issue a report quite soon. The Birdy tyres are a bit sluggish on the road, though they seem to be quite puncture resistant and long lived; their heavy section means they are quite good for off road riding, though on wet grass or thin surface mud over a harder surface they are inclined to slip around.
The train journey to Stockport was uneventful, and provided the opportunity to write the preceding part of this report. The ride from the station to the start of the ride, in Hazel Grove, is about 8km, but, despite having been there several times in the past, I managed to overshoot the turning into Torkington Road, and added a couple of Km to the distance, meaning I arrived a few minutes after the nominal ride start time – happily other people were still getting prepared, so I still had time for some refreshments.
I had left home in the dark, but after some initial greyness, the weather turned had turned bright and sunny, and was to remain so throughout the ride. Indeed, the low sun and the bright conditions made visibility quite difficult when riding towards the sun, and the high contrast did not make for very satisfactory photography. As is usual at a ride, lots of discussion about bikes took place before the start, with owners inspecting the finer points of the other machines present, and showing off their own latest modifications.
As usual, we had a good collection of Moultons on the ride – several APBs, some AMs, a nice selection of F-frame models, but no New Series. There were also three conventional machines, a Brompton and my Birdy. Thirteen riders set out, although unfortunately Gertrud Ludwig and her fx80 had to leave us fairly early, due to work commitments. After the rapid pace set at the Lancaster ride a couple of weeks ago, this was a much more leisurely affair, though still involving some hills.
Despite quite a leisurely pace, and a stop to repair a puncture (on one of the conventional, large-wheeled machines!), we arrived early, soon after 12:00, at our lunch stop, the Olde Cock & Pheasant. Despite a change of management within the last few days, which had resulted in the prior warning of our visit going astray, we received excellent service – very speedy and attentive.
We were joined at lunch by a number of others who, for various reasons, were unable to take part in the ride itself It was particularly nice to see Hugh Roberts’ recumbent based on an F-frame Speedsix in action again (shown here in the foreground).
Although there was no need to rush the meal, a few clouds were beginning to appear in the sky, and with the shortening days and the need for some people to travel after the ride, we made a fairly early start back. The lunch stop proved to have been at about the mid-distance, but suitably refreshed we made steady progress back to Hazel Grove, where more refreshments awaited us.
I covered a total of 64 Km during the day – about 40 Km on the ride, and the rest in getting to and from the event. Apart from the puncture on the conventional large-wheeler, and some gear engagement problems on one of the old F-frames, all the bikes performed faultlessly.
Many thanks to Alice Roberts for her hospitality at the start and end of the ride, and to Brian Morrison who organised and lead the ride.
Return – a train journey in hell
I didn’t wish to appear unsociable, so rather than rush off immediately to catch a train, I stayed for a short while at the end of the ride, before setting off to catch the 4:26 from Stockport. My intention had been to try to avoid the majority of the football travellers, and I thought it should still be possible to do this using this train. Unfortunately, the train was running 45 minutes late (signalling problems), and the train was full enough that I had to stand in a lobby all the way back. Despite the discomfort this caused, and the consequent inability to get on with writing this report, things weren’t too bad until we got to Stoke on Trent. Unfortunately some visiting ‘football supports’ boarded the train at this point. I didn’t see too much of them, though they passed very noisily through the lobby where I was standing, and remarked loudly that they were hoping to find a Stoke supporter on the train. Apparently they did later, and when we reached Stafford, the next station stop, there was a 25 minute delay while he received medical attention, and efforts were made to summon police and restore order. It wasn’t too clear what was going on, and I had no wish to investigate more closely, but in the end we left, now about 70 minutes late.
At Wolverhampton we were greeted by a large police presence (about 20), and the doors of the train remained locked, with police standing outside them. After about 10-15 minutes further discussion, those leaving the train at Wolverhampton were allowed to get off, but I believe further searches and identification was going on, possibly with police travelling on the train. I had been expecting to catch the 5:52 from Wolverhampton to Tipton, but in the end it was the 7:22. A lady who had been on the same train as myself, but who unfortunately was much closer to the action, confirmed that after prolonged taunting of the opposing supporter, the group had hit him, and their behaviour had put many passengers in some fear for their own safety – some even getting off the train to avoid any further exposure to this behaviour.
After this unpleasant experience, I had my own further potential incident, when a group of youths started shouting and screaming at me just as I was about to dismount for a short walk up an unlit path into the estate I pass through on the way to and from Tipton station – after the earlier experience, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and instead rode an extra kilometre loop on a busy main road to avoid the path and the majority of the estate.
While I was at Bradford on Avon, my attempt to ride the towpath to Bristol on Wednesday had been curtailed by police turning me back – someone told me that a body had been found in the canal, and certainly when I used the towpath later there were police apparently interviewing boat owners. Overall it has been an ‘interesting’ (as in the Chinese curse) week.