Leicestershire and Rutland
Cyclists' Touring Club

(founded 1897)


Editor's Comments
President's Page
Secretary's Report
Technical Topics
Leicester Easy Riders
South Leicestershire Report
Charnwood Generals
Playing Away
Land’s End to John O’Groats
The Mighty Zoncolan
Mince Pie Meet
Photographic Competition 2013
Awards Winners 2013
“Replacing the “Nuts” behind the wheel?
A Summer in France (part 25)

Lliber, Valencia, Spain
January 2014
photo by Dave Binks

"Editor's Comments"

Dave Binks

Well, Christmas is behind us and as I write this in early February, the real winter weather is arriving. It has so far been mild but wet, so much so that those living in the West Country are starting to develop webbed feet. I do feel sorry for them.

I obviously have no idea what the rest of the year holds for us, but if we have another poor spring like last year, it doesn’t look good for getting those early miles in along the country lanes.

Irrespective of the weather, the planned local events will go ahead come what may, so do check out what is in the calendar at the end of this little magazine, and support the volunteers who do so much to enable us to enjoy each other’s company whilst riding out bikes. It’s never as bad when you have company.

I have just read that a survey has shown that successful professional cyclists are seen as more handsome than their struggling colleagues, according to new research. Whilst we cannot claim to be racing cyclists, it does agree with what many of us have known for years; that cycling is good for you.

After many years of using conventional maps, I have splashed out on a GPS unit to show the way. However, currently the jury is still out on just how useful it is compared to its paper equivalent. I’ll let you know later.


President's Page

Peter Witting

Peter Witting

Firstly let me say thanks to those at the AGM last November who elected me as President of our Leicestershire & Rutland CTC. It will be a hard act to follow our outgoing President John Allen! In the last Cycle Chat John explained he was awaiting a major operation. After several delays this finally took place and John is now making a good recovery. We wish him well.

Earlier this year the CTC announced that it was receiving Government funding to improve the “Fill That Hole” reporting process. Our club developed the website in 2007 to replace the old postcard based system. It can be found at www.fillthathole.org.uk. More recently an App was developed for iPhones to allow potholes to be reported on the spot, rather than waiting to get home and onto your computer. Now, with the Government funding, another App is being developed for Android based phones. So soon every cyclist with a smart-phone will be able to play their part in making our roads safer by reporting potholes as we see them. That’s the reason I shall be getting a smart-phone for my birthday! Have you downloaded the App?

Advance info on this year’s President’s Ride: It will be on Sunday 31st August (it’s not the Bank Holiday weekend!). The plan is to start at Kibworth, with coffee at the Greenhouse Café at the Langton Garden Centre. Lunch will be at Shearsby; the green opposite the pub can be used for those bringing a packed lunch, while the Chandlers Arms has a pleasant garden and unsurpassed reputation. It was voted Camra County Pub of the Year since 2009! Dare we look forward to a good summer after the record-breaking wet winter?


Secretary’s View

by Ray Clay


Congratulations to Peter Witting on being elected, at the AGM as Chairman and President of the Leicestershire and Rutland Cyclists' Touring Club for the next two years. Peter is a very experienced cyclist and I'm sure we're in safe hands. He has already sorted out his planned President's Ride in the Kibworth area on Sunday 31st August.

Peter's predecessor, John Allen, is making really good progress after his major operation. He is now able to drive and walking at a good pace. The other day, I could hardly keep up with him!

History is repeating itself. In my last report I said the weather was foul and I'm off to Devon soon to see the grandchildren. The weather is the same again only worse. I certainly feel sorry for the people flooded in Somerset. Not much chance of cycling there at the moment. At least my family are in South Devon. The north coast there seems to have borne the brunt of it.

The over 60's reunion was again a great success and thanks are due to Eileen Johnson for the organisation. It was a very popular event. The food was plentiful, tasty and good value.

On the downside, the attendance at the slide show/photo competition was pitiful. This was a shame since Jeff Burton, from the Nottingham CTC, put on a very interesting slide show about his visit to the Outer Hebrides. Keith Lakin also put a lot of time and effort in arranging the judging and display of some outstanding photos taken by members. Let's hope the next photographic show will be better patronised.

I thought our carol service at Congerstone was pretty well received. However, there were some complications in setting it up. Keith and I went to see the vicar some months before the event and she was very supportive and saw no problem in the carol service being held at her church. But when I sent her the final draft of the service sheet, she said that she didn't realise the she was required to be there. So, in the end, my local vicar agreed to bale me out. The carols were played by CTC member Jeremy Kimber on, apparently, one of the best organs in the county.

Our annual dinner and prizegiving this year will be held at the Black Swan in Shepshed on Saturday 22nd March. (see the notice and booking form for further details. The booking form is also available on our website) We haven't used this venue before to my knowledge and the new owner has been very supportive. He also has a coffee shop which opens at 8am but, in the winter it is best to ring the night before.

There are several events planned for 2014. I hope the weather picks up soon and the events are well supported.


Technical Topics

by Peter Witting

D.I.Y. or L.B.S.?

Fixing a puncture is a DIY job. So is replacing brake blocks or a worn chain. Most of us can replace worn sprockets on a cassette. So why not choose DIY for the worn chain-rings? I had always done so previously, but wished I’d used the local bike shop (LBS) on the last occasion!

New XT triple rings had been purchased ready for the job, but smaller, to give lower gearing. The first problem was that the original Shimano fixing bolts had an excess of Loctite on the threads. The Allen key rounded the recessed sockets in the soft bolts. I had to buy new bolts before drilling out the old ones. The metal drill cut through the outer bolts like butter. But the inner rings were bolted direct onto the spider, so could not be drilled. A metal hacksaw was needed to cut across the bolts to free sections of inner ring, then a wrench used to free the frozen bolts.

The problems continued when I discovered the replacement rings were from the latest XT kit, and wouldn’t fit my model. Luckily my LBS had some replacements in stock – thanks Julies!

Finally, when all was reassembled, I simply needed to drop the front gear clamp down the seat-tube to match the smaller outer chain-ring. And that was exactly the point where the frame had a reinforcing pip for a bottle cage. That needed filing off the titanium frame. And bang goes the frame warranty! I’ll think twice about DIY next time!


Brooks Saddle
Spa Saddle
Spa Nidd saddle

For comfortable touring I don’t think you can beat the Brooks B17. OK, I know one saddle won’t fit all! Their titanium frame removed much of the weight problem with the old steel model, but created a price problem. In 2007 mine cost £85. The current RRP is £180!

Spa Cycles have introduced their own saddle range, with titanium models at half the price of Brooks. Tony Davis has recently broken one in and seems happy with it. The Spa Cycles Nidd titanium saddle costs £75, which is less than I paid for my B17 seven years back. Well worth considering!

Moore’s Law and Cycle Lighting

Cateye Volt 1200

Under Moore’s Law computers became increasingly powerful, as every couple of years the number of transistors on a chip doubled. Something similar seems to be happening to cycle lighting. In Cycle Chat last March I praised Cateye’s Nano Shot Plus front lamp, with 600 lumens output costing around £90. Now their Volt 1200 produces double that of the Nano Shot Plus at 1200 lumens, yet can be bought for less than £100.

Don’t confuse with the Volt 300, which is a cheaper and lower output lamp.

Landranger Maps

If you still rely on hard-copy maps rather than GPS to navigate you will know the RRP for the O.S. Landranger is £6.99. I found the Dash4it website now supplies Landrangers at £4.54 post free. That’s a saving of over one third.


Leicester Easy Riders

by David Smith

Our first ride in October took us to Tilton where we stopped for coffee it was rather crowded as there were 7 of us and a few local people, carrying on via Oxey farm to Tilton we headed to Illston for lunch after refreshment we all headed home. The next weeks ride was cancelled due to heavy rain. Cosby was our next ride passing through Wistow, Kilby and Countesthorpe we again rode home in heavy rain. Our last ride in October was to Thrussington this again was rained off with strong winds. A very wet month.

Colin led the November ride to Ashby Parva our coffee stop was to be the cafe in Cosby but it was closed so we went to the Golf Club a bit up market but they made us very welcome. On then to the Hollybush at Ashby Parva where we had our lunch, then made our way home via Dunton Bassett and Fleckney. A few of us rode to Loughborough to the remembrance service, afterwards a cup of tea in John Storer House then off to Mountsorrel for lunch. Late November saw us at Tilton once more then took the very muddy road to Skeffington and on to Rolleston and Illston for lunch.

We had our Xmas lunch at Forest Hill Golf Club where 21 of us sat down to a very good meal. A few members attended the Carol Service, and Andy Tokeley and Graham Black (in Leicester from his home in Plymouth) went to the Mince Pie run. Last day of the year we had a ride to Foxton led by Graham Black no rain but cold and frosty.

Our four rides in January had an average of 8 riders each week.


South Leicestershire Autumn/Winter 2013

by Tony Davis

Sunday 6th October

This was a lovely warm day and we had a good turnout at Broughton. Neil was there to lead us as usual but was struggling to throw off a chest infection. Thirteen of us sat down for coffee at the Sugar Loaf in Market Harborough. Mick, Andy and Judy left us after coffee. As I’m sure I have mentioned before despite posting a list of coffee and lunch stops for our club rides each quarter, you can’t always guarantee that we’ll actually visit the places named. It’s very rare for the coffee stop to change but weather, family life and health issues mean that lunch sometimes gets moved closer to home. Sometimes the decision is made on the fly – as we approached Haselbech heading for lunch at Guilsborough Neil chose to go straight home as he was still unwell and the rest of us consulted on an alternative plan. Gill Lord kept Neil company while we decided to go to Welford Wharf instead. When we set off the lure of lunch, good beer and even a cider for Peter meant that the group disintegrated. Unfortunately this was the moment that Rachel learned that the p****ure fairy visits the unprepared. To make matters worse the Schrader valve on Rachel’s tube was stuck in the rim. Brute force eventually won the day and Jayne lent a spare to get Rachel home.

Sunday 10th November

We didn’t know it at the time, but this Sunday turned out to be our last visit to the Bewicke Arms Tea Room before the business closed. There is major renovation work under way and we all hope that the new owners are as welcoming to cyclist as Alison and her team.

Sunday 17th November

On our way to coffee at Catthorpe we were passed by group going slightly faster than us. I kept pace with one of them to have a chat, finding out that the person I was talking to was called Guy and that they were an informal group from Blaby who sometimes meet on a Sunday. I took the opportunity to let him know who we were and where we met.

Sunday 24th November

There were eight of us at Broughton on this Sunday. As it was going to be a longer ride for many we took the most direct route to the Sugar Loaf at Market Harborough. Rachel, Jayne, Judy, Mick and Wendy headed for home after coffee, though not directly as it was Aldi cycling specials week. Neil, Peter, Shane, both Gills and I to set off for lunch at the Ward Arms, Guilsborough. Our route took us via Braybrooke, Arthingworth, Haselbech and through Cottesbrooke park. I was surprised when we were joined by Max Scott and Bill Simpson of the Kettering CTC. As usual out group requested baguettes filled with roast of the day, while Max went for the full Sunday roast dinner.

Sunday 1st December

The regulars were joined by Guy Briggs, who I’d met on the road a few Sundays previously and Ken Boyden who is in the process of moving to Leicestershire. Also there was Richard Gorman, who I’d shared a room with before PBP 2011. We collected Gillian Stocks and Shane Blower on route as they had been bell ringing at Monks Kirby. A short section of bridleway took us from Draycote village onto the tarmac track around the reservoir so that we could try a new coffee venue at Draycote Water visitor centre. It has a lovely setting but slightly disappointing cake. We got our usual warm welcome at the Green Man at Long Itchington, where the plates of sandwiches continue to be excellent value for money.

Sunday 8th December

While Peter enjoyed the Carol Service at Congerstone the rest of our group had coffee at Market Harborough (again), this time it was as an alternative to Hallaton followed by lunch at Bridge 61, Foxton.

Friday 13th December

The South Leicestershire group had their Christmas dinner at the Chandlers Arms, Shearsby.

Sunday 5th January 2014 New Year Lunch Sibbertoft

Dave Gair has taken over the reins from Gill Lord for this excellent social occasion. The numbers were slightly less than previous years but there were some welcome new faces as well as many familiar ones. If anything the quality of the food was even better this year.

On the 16th January 2014 I finally got round to trying the new café in Naseby. It is at the Old Vicarage and is not a conventional café. You are sitting in someone’s home. I went with the Kettering Thursday Club and our host brought out a selection of homemade cakes with a choice of a cafetiere of coffee or a pot of tea. A pleasant stop off though I understand that they don’t usually open on Sundays.

Sunday 19th January

The glorious winter sunshine brought out a dozen riders to meet at Broughton. Neil & Judy, Tony, Rachel (on her new light bike), Dave, both Gills, Rob (on his Ribble rather than a trike for a change), Richard, Shane, Alan and Norman. Mick Arnold and Peter were waiting for us when we arrived at the Sugarloaf. Shane’s asthma was playing him up so he rode direct to the lunch stop at the Chandlers Arms while Neil led us a by a round the houses route out of Harborough, though Foxton and Gumley then along the ridge road on the Laughton Hills. We were joined for lunch by Jane, Richard’s wife, and Jayne, whose bad back injury had prevented her riding with us. As Peter said in his Facebook posting “14 for coffee and 14 for lunch must be a January record!”


Charnwood Generals

Martin Bulmer, Keith Tilley

Lyn & Peter

The big event to open our Autumn season was, of course, Lyn & Pete's wedding, held at the Newton Park Hotel, Newton Solney. For their "Wedding List" they had requested that bicycle parts should be donated, rather than the usual toasters and bathroom scales, to be built up and presented in rideable form on the day. Unfortunately they came up short, with only one pair of wheels being donated, so a quick-thinking bicycle mechanic assembled a rather passable tandem. I say passable, but it's more than I can do to keep up with it, let alone pass it!

Our Autumn rides were mostly to old familiar destinations, though we tend to vary our routes. One route I have never ridden before was the canal towpath from Willington to Burton on Trent. This is not marked as a cycle route on the OS map, but armed with my old towpath passport (which no-one has ever asked to see), we ventured forth. The surfaced path narrows after a while and in places it disappears altogether, but after a long dry spell the going was firm, and we made it through to Burton, where it links to the Kingfisher Trail which runs parallel to the canal. At Shobnall it veers off through some football pitches to emerge by Marston's Brewery. We were aiming for Barton Green, so we followed the trail up to Tatenhill, then down to Barton-under-Needwood, where we always get a good welcome at the CAMRA award winning Royal Oak at Barton Green.

Other rides visited Whittington, Willington, Lullington (lots) and Burton. We were represented at the Carol service by Joe, hope he sang well! I missed the Mince Pie run this year due to family commitments, but I'm told it was a success as usual.

Some winter runs have been amended by the weather, as is to be expected, but so far (I'm writing this in late January to meet the deadline) it has not been particularly wintry. Naturally, writing about the weather provokes a response from Mother Nature, and a quick glance out of my window shows that retaliatory snow is falling. I don't think it will last, and I'm expecting it to have gone by the time you read this, but now I've said that, you never know! The weather was kind on the occasion of Keith Tilley's car assisted "Winter Wonderland" ride in Derbyshire. Keith has very kindly sent me a detailed report, so as I missed the ride, I'll let him tell the tale!

"Arrived at the old station Bakewell about 9am into cold drizzly conditions, fortunately the rain had stopped by the time we had taken the bikes off the cars.

I had decided to do the ride in the clockwise direction, that is to ride along the trail at the end of the trip coming in at the Wyedale end of the trail, this meant we had to cycle down into Bakewell town centre and immediately start climbing which continued more or less for the next 7 miles (I didn't hear any complaints maybe they were too breathless).

The route took us through to Youlgrave via the steep drop and climb at Lathkill bridge, then on undulating roads until we took a sharp left turn onto the High Peak trail (lots of large puddles for Lyn to enjoy!!!) for about a mile and a half. We then joined the Tissington trail briefly turning off at Parsley Hay with a longish climb and then a very nice high speed drop into Monyash and a well deserved breakfast.

Onwards and upwards (I didn't say it was going to be easy) to Taddington and again a nice downhill and onto the A6 for about two and half miles. Eventually we turned right at Wyevale for a lovely ride by the river then up onto the Monsal Trail. I have ridden this Trail six times in the last twelve months and never get tired of it. With the trees in their winter clothes you can see a lot more of the views. We stopped for afternoon tea at Hassop Station with its inevitable queues and then rode the last two miles to the cars.

A little over twenty seven miles ridden on what was a fairly hard route but enjoyed by all, I think?"

Keith and Jean Lakin organised our New Year's meal, once again held at the Charnwood Arms, where we were given a long table to accommodate all those from our section who attended. Despite the inevitable confusion, notably over who ate who's curry, we all enjoyed a good meal, and met again members who we do not often coincide with.

Our next social occasion will be the Anniversary meal in April.

For our Spring Holiday Lyn & Pete have booked us into a self-catering cottage near Cockermouth, although the word "cottage" doesn't really do it justice. Since we spent a freezing Easter in a Shropshire cow-shed a couple of years ago, there has been a noticeable increase in the level of luxury enjoyed in subsequent years. We look forward, then to returning from our rides to a warm welcoming house, with en-suite in each bedroom, and sweaty cycling shoes under the stairs! We hope to meet up with the Easy Riders who, hailing (and it might be) from hardier stock, will be camping nearby.


Playing Away!

Peter Witting shares his experiences of another area.

They say you pay a price for playing away. It certainly seemed true one Sunday morning in January in the Kent/Sussex borders. First I had crashed on black ice, and now I found my track through the forest totally blocked by fir trees felled by the New Year storms!

I was riding from Tonbridge to Horsham, while Barbara drove to visit her father on the south coast. Horsham was to be my lunch stop where Barbara would meet me. We had stayed overnight with Barbara’s sister in Kent, after plans to stay in Purley and ride out with the East Surrey CTC were dashed by illness. So I needed a new route at short notice.

For the first time I let Google Maps suggest the “Bicycling” option from Tonbridge to Horsham. The half-way point was East Grinstead. By co-incidence that was where the East Surrey CTC were planning their coffee stop. A quick exchange of emails established which café they would use.

The 8.30 start, to cover 19 miles to coffee in two hours, did not seem a problem – ‘til I discovered the icy roads! Most of the lanes were untreated and still running with flood-water after the storms. I rode through running water, believing I was safe. But the wet road beyond wasn’t covered in water – it was black ice! The wheels went sideways allowing my gloved hands to hit the road first before sliding some yards. Nothing broken and just a bruised thigh which had hit the brake lever hood.

All the other cyclists were riding equally gingerly. I spoke to two who had both fallen! My pace slowed, walking in places, passing Bough Beech Reservoir and Hever Castle before reaching East Grinstead.

While looking for the café I head a shout. The riders were emerging from an alley alongside the café, where they had just stowed their bikes. What timing!

After a lingering café stop I set off to locate the disused railway line – The Worth Trail. An old steam train was arriving at the station like something out of “The Wind in the Willows”. The unsurfaced track was busy with dog walkers, families, cyclists and runners. I had sensibly chosen my touring bike to cope with the surface.

After 6 miles I arrived at Worth on the outskirts of Crawley. I had printed off some A4 sheets to show the road network needed to reach the track through Tilgate Forest south of the M23. It was here on NCN route 20 that my way was barred by red and white tape and dire warnings of danger from fallen trees. I simply followed the footprints of others who had used their initiative to reach the footbridge over the motorway.

The forest track had turned to sandy heathland which needed lower gears; but I soon regained the tarmac that led to Pease Pottage.

A quick call to Barbara to confirm my delayed ETA, and I was away to enjoy the last seven miles free from the fear of further black ice.

My collaboration with Google Maps and the East Surrey CTC had proved successful, with more excitement than I had bargained for. Time for a relaxing Sunday lunch at the Lynd Cross, before driving home with Barbara.


Land’s End to John O’Groats September 2013

Part 2 – Tony Davis

Part 1

Slaidburn to Penrith 100k

Slaidburn Youth Hostel

Slaidburn Youth Hostel is a very traditional hostel run by volunteer wardens. The stone built village nestles in the valley surrounded by the moors of the Trough of Bowland. We slogged our way up a long climb onto the tops in gentle rain. We were rewarded with some of the most spectacular rainbows I’ve ever seen. Our highest point of the day at 429m came just 10k into the day’s ride. This was followed by a long descent into Bentham where we were met by Julie with the road side picnic. We continued to drop down into the Lune valley which we then followed uphill in the sunshine into the Howgills. From close to Tebay it was downhill almost all the way to Penrith. Just after Kings Meaburn it turned to rain and by the time arrived we were soaked. That evening we went for a pub meal in town joined by two friends of Tim and Jane from their Corsica touring holiday earlier in the year.

Penrith to Crawford 124k

In the morning we were met by Martin and Maxine. Martin was going to ride the second week and Maxine take over on support duties from Julie. Tim and Jane’s friends joined us for the ride as far as Carlisle. We followed lanes roughly parallel with the A6 to Carlisle then followed a national cycle route out of the city to the retail park at Gretna where Maxine had parked the huge camper van which was now acting as our mobile base. The route from Gretna followed the B7076 (the old A74) all the way to Crawford. We were staying at the rather grandly named Crawford Arms Hotel. Unfortunately it didn’t live up to its name. It was actually a very run down truck stop serving really bad beer. On the good side we found out why it was so popular with truckers – the food. The bed was uncomfortable, the shower unusable but the food was really good.

Crawford to Dunoon 145k

We continued up the B7076 until Douglas where we turned west and followed a river downstream towards the coast. We picnicked in the car park for Dundonald castle before picking up the Ayr coast road at Irvine. We followed this in the sunshine through Saltcoats and Largs. Close to Wemyss Bay it clouded over and the rain started. This turned into a torrential storm – ideal time for a visit from the p****ure fairy. We were a wet and bedraggled bunch on the ferry over the Clyde estuary to Dunoon. We had a warm welcome at the B&B before taking the short walk into town to eat at the only place which was open –it was a Monday.

Dunoon to Inverary 68k

This was our second short/rest day. The sun shone, the hills were gentle and we found a really good café at Strachur on Loch Fyne. When we arrived at Inverary youth hostel we discovered that it was the last week that they would be open as a SYHA though we understood that it was being taking over to be run as an independent hostel. We split up to spend the afternoon wandering around Inverary, where a piper struck up a lament for every new coach load of tourists.

Inverary to Ballachulish 97k

Another day with a significant climb at the beginning of the day from sea level to 200m in the first 10k of the day. After the Pass of Brander it was mainly down to the shores of Loch Linnhe. We stopped for lunch at a café near Portnacroish then followed the shore line to Ballachulish. The B&B here had a proper bike shed and was directly opposite a pub with good food and beer.

Ballachulish to Inverness 132k

The next morning started with a gentle roll down the hill to the Ballachulish bridge. I sat on the front of the group and waved as I saw one of my audax friends Toby Hopper taking photos, with Judith Swallow stood at his side. Our group obviously thought it was inevitable that I would see someone I knew at some point on the trip. I had arranged to meet Mark Hummerstone for a drink at John O’Groats as I knew that he was riding a lumpy 1900k audax version of LeJog finishing on the same day as us. What I didn’t expect was to meet him on the road as the only common parts of our routes were the section from Ballachulish to Fort William and Tongue to John O’Groats. About a mile after Ballachulish we caught up with him. Toby and Judith had been riding with him to keep him company.

Commando Monument near
Spean Bridge

Our morning coffee stop shortly after Fort William was at the Commando Monument near Spean Bridge. Maxine found this particularly poignant as her son is a commando.

We had no choice but to follow the surprisingly quiet A82 as far as our lunch stop at Fort Augustus. Here we took to the B862 into the hills and minor roads to Inverness. The weather was creating a new tradition of a dry morning followed by a soggy afternoon. Inverness youth hostel was a culture shock after the rural hostels we had stayed in before. It was full of international students and community groups. That evening the three bellringers in the group, myself, Tim and Jane went into Inverness to ring at the Cathedral. The local band was a little short handed and the extra help was welcomed.

Inverness to Altnaharra 118k

In the morning we rode through the industrial estates of Inverness before crossing the Beauly Firth then turned north to follow the coast of the Cromarty Firth. At Alness we turned west into the hills for a steady climb up Struie to a great viewpoint over the Dornoch Firth. We descended to meet the A836 which led us through Bonar Bridge and past Carbisdale Castle. At Invershin we turned onto a back road which runs parallel with the main road before stopping for lunch at the Falls of Shin. We rejoined the A road at Lairg just before it became a single track road with passing places. We called in for a beer at the Crask Inn, the most remote pub in Scotland. It was a good job we were in need of a rest because beer took an awful long time to pour. Crask to Altnaharra was an 18k descent alongside the River Vagastie. The Altnaharra Hotel is a famous salmon fishing hotel and the contrast with the night spent at the Crawford Arms was almost comical. I earned a beer from one of the other guests as they had forgotten the charger for their tablet computer and I happened to have the appropriate adapter.

Altnaharra to John O’Groats 121k

Martin and Maxine joined us with the camper van having camped on a divine campsite alongside Loch Naver. The temperature when we were ready to leave was 3C. Such a contrast to the mid 20s when we were in Cornwall and Devon. We followed Starthnaver to Bettyhill on the north coast of Scotland where we had coffee in a wet and windy car park. The road from Bettyhill is a tough rollercoaster until you eventually drop out of the Sutherland hills into more gently rolling Caithness. We stopped just outside Thurso town centre overlooking a park for lunch before tackling the last few kilometres to the finish. John O’Groats had been totally transformed since my last visit in 2007. Then it had looked run down and uncared for but the old hotel has been refurbished and extensions painted in vibrant colour as well as the development of new Eco-lodges in the grounds.

There was a party atmosphere in the Seaview Hotel that night. All of our group had successfully completed the ride and there were dozens of others in the hotel all celebrating the same feat. At around 9.30pm Mark Hummerstone came in and I bought him a drink to celebrate completing 1900k in audax time limits, though he still had to ride on to Wick that night to his pre booked accommodation.

When I rode Lands End to John O’Groats as a 1400k audax in 2007 I got a sense of achievement but this ride, kindly supported by Julie and Maxine and ridden in the company of good friends was just a marvellous touring holiday exploring our beautiful island home.


Tales from the Bike Shed
The Mighty Zoncolan

Alan Staniforth continues with his story of an epic climb in the Dolomites

Part 1

Alan has set off with friends to climb the feared Sella Monte Zoncolan, situated in the north east corner of Italy on the south side of the Dolomites. Wikipedia describes it “as one of the most difficult climbs in Europe”, usually compared to the Alto de El Angliru. It climbs 1,120m in 10.1 km with a summit elevation of 1,750m. They have already been climbing, hard, for many hours and the top is nowhere in sight…….

Monte Zoncolan is located in Alps
Monte Zoncolan
Monte Zoncolan

As we ground our way upwards, a very impressive storm emerged from the Dolomite peaks to our right. We took momentary glances across the valley through gaps in the trees to see the torrential downpour and lightning accompanied by terrifying thunder claps. Would we die from our cardiovascular systems giving up, or be struck by lightning? At this point the second option looked quite appealing. Through my rasping breaths I said to McDave that I thought the climb had eased a tad and we had probably entered the first 15% kilometre – over halfway up. The averages over each kilometre hide the real gradients. I’m confident that we rode up short sections of 20-25% where we had to get out of the saddle to keep moving. Wikipedia mentions stretches of 22%.


At last we found a bend and the trees opened up to our right affording spectacular views across classic jagged Dolomite peaks and a spectacular sunset left by the passing storm. We stopped for a photo and a nibble on our diminishing rations. Within 3-4 minutes we were off again confident that we were over half way. The 15% sections merged and once again long straights caused us to look down at a point just ahead of our front wheels to reduce the sense of apprehension.

On the right-hand side of the road were elaborate kilometre markers. I didn’t recall seeing these start where we had taken on water. They were counting the kilometres covered rather than the distance to the summit. All very confusing when under enormous physical stress and just about running on fumes in the fuel tank.


As the incline eased at the 8% kilometre we turned left into the first of three narrow unlit tunnels. On emerging from the first I looked upwards and could see the horizon above, an indication that we were nearing the summit. Once out of the tunnels, which had an incline of about 4-5%, we started the last kilometre. The road zig-zagged the last 1,000m and the climb ended abruptly in a large grassy open space. On the right was a monument bearing a modern sculpture of three riders. McDave and I shared the last half of the remaining energy bar and gulped down most of our drink. We took the obligatory photos of each other to demonstrate to the remainder of our group that we had reached the summit.

We then realized that there were two roads off the summit but no signposts and we needed to be heading for Tolmezzo. McDave’s impeccable logic and inspired sense of direction led to us ignoring the turning to our right and heading straight on. It felt a bit counter-intuitive but after about 1k we realized we could see the valley bottom and the compass on my Garmin told us we were heading east towards Sutrio.

We both agreed that the climb was the hardest that either of us had completed but worse was yet to come.

As we descended, we lost the benefit of the last rays of warm sunshine from the sunset. The storm we had watched on the ascent had dumped a deluge on the descent, chilling the evening air, although it had stopped raining. These two factors, combined with the chill factor from us descending at speed, resulted in us both getting very cold almost instantly. McDave had a slightly thicker windproof top on and this ace descender quickly left me behind as I started to shiver and find it hard to brake smoothly approaching the corners. It was 13 km of hell going down. I had to slow down, resulting in me lingering even longer in those bone chilling conditions. These circumstances emphasise how quickly hypothermia can get a grip. As I shivered uncontrollably and found it harder to grip my brakes I could sense my judgment deteriorating as I entered and exited bends unsafely having to brake and correct my line in the bend. In the Raid briefing on the evening when we all met, we had been told that in these circumstances, the only way to warm up was to turn around and ride back up hill. With nothing left in the fuel tank and dusk approaching, even in my impaired state, I knew that descending was my only option. At the summit we had tried to contact James Thompson, our leader and organiser from Marmot Tours to let him know of our success and our ETA at the hotel but the phones wouldn’t connect. We left messages we couldn’t be sure that anyone knew where we were.

McDave stopped after about five km when he realized I had dropped back. We agree through chattering teeth that “the only way was down”. We set off again and within 3-4 kms we saw roof tops below in the village of Sutrio which marked our turning point onto the main road to Tolmezzo. We quickly reached the valley floor, immediately noticing a huge temperature difference. The road from Sutrio to Tolmezzo (15km) was gently downhill. Having made some form of recovery I took my turn on the front and wound up the pace to try to outrun the encroaching darkness. McDave had lights but I didn’t. The severe climb had aggravated a knee injury that McDave had sustained. I eased back and we took full advantage of the gentle descent.

Our route sheet took us onto the Tolmezzo ring road. We were looking for an industrial estate with the land mark of a fighter jet aircraft in the centre of a roundabout. After consulting with the locals and following McDave’s keen sense of direction we found the landmark and took a right at the next roundabout. We could see the hotel. As we got closer a great cheer went up from a roadside crowd. This was the remainder of our group who had just emerged from a bar opposite the hotel. There was lots of back slapping and shaking of hands. We learnt that only three other riders from the group of twenty had ridden over Zoncolan. Two of these were from a crack team of six South Africans and the other was young George, a recent graduate, who had demonstrated his climbing prowess by mixing it with the S.A. guys.

We got showered and changed. McDave was so tired that he just sat on the bed until coaxed down in the lift. He couldn’t immediately eat the excellent meal that had been kept for us by the hotel staff. I, on the other hand, had secured a large beer from one of our generous colleagues. It went down without touching the sides. I’m sure medical opinion would advise against drinking alcohol so soon after strenuous exercise but I didn’t care. I tucked into all four courses with gusto accompanied by more beer and a glass or two of wine. McDave recovered his appetite. We sat in the company of a few of the others trying to describe the horrors of the climb and descent, just adding to the folklore for those who had not yet had that character-building experience.


The next day was the last day of riding. We had to cover 140km to Trieste. We saw more of the other riders on this day than on any other day and had coffee with a small group and lunch with another. McDave and I decided to mix it with the big boys on the last 65km into Trieste. We were both going to contest the sprint with me leading him out and getting whatever scraps I could. However, it had been a very hot day and as we approached the coast before Trieste, thousands of people, and their cars, bound for the beach narrowed the main road almost right into the city centre. Our nominal leader on the road, Malcolm, declared conditions unsafe for sprinting so we made an orderly entrance into this magnificent historic city. McDave and I had to wait for another day to demonstrate how this pair of intrepid grimpeurs also had the sprinting prowess of the “Manx Missile”.


Replacing the “Nuts” behind the wheel?

John Catt writes about attending a conference where a “blue sky” talk was given saying that it may be possible to improve the safety of cyclists and other road users by using driverless cars.

One such car has now completed 300,000+ miles on public highways without the intervention of a human being or causing any crashes and similar vehicles can now be licensed in the state of Nevada. These vehicles use:-

  • the navigation technology already employed in SatNavs;
  • external people/obstruction detection (already standard on Volvos);
  • wireless (wi-fi) to communicate with the internet and other cars;
  • A small computer controlling the steering, braking and power (all electronically controlled in modern cars).

Such a car is claimed to have :-

  • all round awareness of everything in its environment;
  • knowledge of its position and ability to navigate;
  • the rules of the road programmed in;
  • the ability to “talk to” other vehicles to allow negotiation of road space;
  • the ability to maximise fuel efficiency, and report faults etc;
  • The ability to travel in tight aerodynamically efficient “trains” with other driverless cars;
  • wake up passengers on reaching its destination
  • .

Google has successfully shown the concept and the technology is available and steadily getting cheaper. Lorries and buses, with all round detection of people and vehicles, may be much safer than a human driver who is overloaded with the tasks required of him.

The obvious use for driverless cars is as taxis. No driver, together with a better safety record bringing down insurance premiums means the cost of taxi travel will be less. Cheap taxis would be more economical than running your own car and would mean that they would be common and readily available. You could be offered discounts if prepared to pick up other passengers or pay full price for a direct service. This may result in the taxi and bus businesses merging.

The majority of cars are static most of the time, wasting space. A move to sharing driverless cars means no need to build estates where a third of the space is needed for the residents’ cars and car parking in towns will no longer be required.

It may be possible that this all leads to an irresistible force for the banning of “driver” cars from the public highway. If the public highways were limited to driverless cars there would be no need for segregated cycle facilities because such vehicles would be programmed rather like Asimov's robots to obey “the laws of driverless cars” : - A car may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; A car must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; A car must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law; Such vehicles would always give pedestrians and cyclists plenty of room and drop their speed to an appropriate level.

We can but dream.


Mince Pie Meet

Loughborough CTC held their annual MINCE PIE MEET at Belton Village Hall on Sunday 22nd December with hundreds of local (and some not so local!) cyclists attending. The riders had made their own way to the hall and ate all the mince pies and cakes on offer whilst exchanging season’s greetings and saving postage on Xmas cards.

The raffle held at the end raised much money in aid of Rainbows Children’s Hospice. This is the East Midlands’ only hospice for children and young people, where life-limited children and their families can find care and support. Their team of people helps relieve symptoms, improve quality of life, support parents and siblings through their bereavements and care for children until the end. - See more at: http://www.rainbows.co.uk.

Many thanks to Loughborough Section for their efforts.


Photographic competition 2013

Keith Lakin

Pictorial:1. Ron Johnson2.Dave Binks3. Jim Gerrard
Club life:1. Jim Gerrard2. John Allen3. Dave Binks
Humorous:1. Ron Johnson2. Alan Hartshorne3. Dave Binks
"Reflections" theme:1. John Allen2. Ron Jonson3. Dave Binks

No entries in the slides section this time.

To all who entered please accept my thanks.

This year the number of photographs entered was 119 , the judge was Mr Steve Marriott of Coalville.

The event was very successful and enjoyable however the attendance was very disappointing with only 17 people present, this total included the presenter Jeff Burton from Nottingham.

This event surprisingly made a profit of £1-90p


Sunset by Jim Gerrard
Crinian Canal, Argyll by John Allen

Award Winners 2013


Freewheel (the Charnwood Salver)
1.Nick Tudor Jones2.Stuart Jones3.Martin Bulmer
Family (Bull Family Shield)
The Jones Family - Stuart, Teresa, Heather & Sadie
Highest place rider in the National CTC Tourist Competion (CTC Trophy)
Joint winners Mike Gould and Stephen Ralphs
Oldest successful gent 100 miles (Moulds tankard)
Mike Gould
Best All Rounder - 48 Sundays and one Saturday throughout the year, local group rides, County CTC events, Audax and national CTC tourist competition.
Peter Witting
Open Road Trophy
Peter Witting
Junior B.A.R. (Kibworth Cup)
Heather Jones
Ladies B.A.R. (Ladies Cup)
June Mills
Overall B.A.R. (The Open Road Trophy)
Peter Witting
Hames Award to a lady for services to Leicestershire & Rutland CTC
Jean Deacon
Clubperson(s)) of 2013 (Bill Seager Trophy) - Junior, Lady or Gent
Jean and Keith Lakin


- By Dave Binks width="100%"
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14
Part 15
Part 16
Part 17
Part 18
Part 19
Part 20
Part 21
Part 22
Part 23 Part 24

The story so far.

Dave has taken a job in France, working as an assistant for a UK based holiday company (Susi Madron’s “Cycling for Softies”) in Angouleme, near Cognac. His duties are to act as local mechanic and representative to ensure the holidaymakers have a good time as they cycle between the top class hotels in the area. He has seen the season out and is now cycling home to Leicester. He has just spent the night in Nantes, on the River Loire.

The story continues…..

Monday October 1

The owner of the little hotel (a rather grand name for little more than a cheap B&B!) was himself a keen cyclist and we chatted about cycling. I asked width="100%"about the bridge over the Loire at St Nazaire that I had avoided yesterday and if it was possible to cycle over it. He said it was indeed possible, but the wind can be very strong and I had probably done the right thing by avoiding it.

I left Nantes by the simple strategy of heading westwards to the coast by following the Loire along its northern side. For quite a bit of the way it was very industrial, but not intolerably so. By this time, the river was a very big one indeed, with very large ocean going ships able to navigate its waters.

Submarine pens, St. Nazaire Photo: Dave Binks

After a picnic in a small village en route, I arrived at the major coastal town of St Nazaire. It is, and probably always has been, a major port and shipbuilding centre, but is very famous for its WWII use by the Nazis. The port had been converted into a major submarine base and to protect the boats from aerial attack massive concrete structures, named “pens” had been built to protect them. These were so strong, no bomb ever penetrated them and they are still there today. These are really quite awesome structures and you can see them from quite a way off and to my surprise, freely get into them and wander around inside. Being so solid and large, they are very slow to change temperature and it was quite cool, almost chilly inside, despite both ends of the bays being open to the outside world. One end of each pen opens directly onto the water, thus allowing the submarines to glide inside and be protected from overhead, and the other is onto the quayside, to allow access from the land. You can walk down the quays that the boats would have tied up alongside whilst being provisioned and refuelled and still read some of the German numbers and other signs painted onto the walls. On top of the pens were anti-aircraft guns and their bases are still clearly visible. Despite not having been used for their real purpose for nearly 60 years, they are somehow still very sinister and threatening.

Even more famous was the British Commando raid on the port halfway through the war when an old naval destroyer, HMS Campbeltown, loaded with explosives, was rammed into the lock gates at the entrance to the harbour. This was to deny the German Navy the repair facilities in the docks. The raid was successful, albeit at high human cost, both to the attackers and defenders and a memorial plate describes and commemorates that heroic event.

Not so well known, because it was hushed up at the time for fear of causing despondency, was the loss of the civilian cruise ship “Lancastrian” being used to evacuate troops and civilians on 17 June 1940 as part of Operation Dynamo. This was the official name for the embarkation of the British Expeditionary Force from France, effectively part of the Dunkirk operation. The civilian ship, commandeered by the Royal Navy to help, was hit by 3 German bombs and sank within minutes with the loss of 4,000 troops, sailors and civilians. This was all within sight of land as the ship had only just got underway. A memorial plaque describes this terrible tragedy.

There is a shipbuilding yard still in St Nazaire and being finished off was the largest ship I have ever seen in my life. I have seen large vessels before but this took my breath away. Unfortunately I couldn’t see the name on it, but have since realised it was a massive cruise ship.

Le Pouliguen
Le Pouliguen Photo Wikipedia

I moved on further up the coast, looking for a cheap hotel. Just north west of the well known seaside resort of La Baule with its massive sweeping sandy beach, I came to the small port of Pouliguen. There I found my cheap hotel, so cheap in fact that the “towels” were simply tea towels! No doubt this had been, in its 1930s heyday, quite a classy hotel with a fine location directly on the quayside overlooking the small port, now filled with rather expensive lumps of plastic boats of all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately it seems the owners have not realised it is no longer the 1930s and modern hotels don’t have a smelly drain in the bathroom, nor such a long wait for the hot water to come through that you are about to go down and complain before it finally arrives through the ancient plumbing system.

It had been a warm and humid day, with a slight tailwind to help, so I wasn’t too tired, but nevertheless needed some grub inside me. My meal was found in what was little more than a snack bar but I was pleased to find it was filling, nutritious and also good value. It was dark when I left the restaurant, but was too early to go back to my room so I had a stroll around the harbour. This became one of those magical evenings that you remember for a long time. It was warm with no wind, the harbour lights were reflecting on the gently rippling water, the halyard sheets (ropes) on the boats were gently slapping against their masts, the boats were gently moving against their mooring ropes and there were only a few people around. I was actually reluctant to go back indoors to the hotel, but the bed won the argument.

66 miles

Tuesday October 2

Stone windmill Photo: Dave Binks

I awoke to a warm but humid day with damp roads and a very low level of dense cloud, the sort of day where it is so close to rain you almost wish it would. After a rather inadequate and poor value for money breakfast in the hotel, I set off across the salt pans that surround the northern area of this part of France. I was a bit puzzled by these, as I thought there would be insufficient sun and warmth to do the evaporating, but soon found out I was wrong. At some point I passed by a windmill where the main tower was made of stone, something I had never before seen. I have seen lots made of timber, some made of brick, but none of stone blocks. The photo I took was one just for the record because the heavy grey skies robbed everything of colour.

Gathering sea saltPhoto: Dave Binks

The town of Guerande was a surprise as most of the ramparts that surround the ancient town were still intact. Despite the grey day, I could see this was a lovely place, and the evidence of the ancient art of making salt from the salt pans, that I had been so doubtful about, was plain to see. A museum telling you all about it and then shops dedicated to supplying you with the finished product were very prominent. For those who don’t know, shallow ponds near the sea are dug and then allowed to flood with seawater. The entrance is then blocked off from the sea, thus trapping the seawater. The action of the sun then evaporates the water, leaving the salt as a deposit. This is then scooped out and sold as sea salt (Sel de Mer). This has a different chemical content and taste than the salt dug out from underground. Many cooks swear by it.

What I hoped would be quiet lanes took me north to Camoel. I thought they ought to be quiet as they were so marked on the map, but the traffic density and speed in this part of France were both much greater than I had become accustomed to over the summer. After stopping for a short coffee break at Arzal, I had to put my waterproof jacket on as the humid air could no longer hold back the rain. Fortunately the rain did not last too long, and by the time I got to Muzillac I took it off again.

A portion of Lasagne heated up in the micro-wave in the local butcher’s shop served me well for lunch, eaten whilst seated outside the Tourist Information Office. I was planning to go to see the seaside town of Vannes in the afternoon, but as this did not quite appear on my map, I popped into a shop to buy a map. However, on checking to see which map I needed, I also saw that Vannes was much bigger than I had expected, and also was not actually on the coast. My experience in the large city of Nantes, where I got very confused amongst the busy traffic also told me not to bother, so I left the map on the shelf and Vannes for another day.

Questembert was proud of its 16th C market hall, but unlike that at Villebois Lavallette which still had its original roof, this one had been re-tiled not too long ago. By now the villages and place names had a real Celtic feel to them, and even the awful plain grey stone that most of France seemed to have used for building had given way to a more colourful variety. The hills were also more in evidence, and the one from Elven to Plumelec was quite a considerable drag with a full set of panniers attached to the bike.

Aficionados of cycle racing may be able to tell you that Plumelec is famous for holding many major cycle races, and in particular the French National Road Race Championships. Even the “Bienvenue a Plumelec” (Welcome to Plumelec) sign has an illustration of a bike race incorporated in it!

After a short detour to see the memorial to the French members of the British SAS who had been killed during the weeks surrounding D Day in 1944, I was soon in the large village of St Jean-Brevelay. This was the home of exiled racing man, club mate and past President of the Leicestershire Road Club, Dave Bowman and his French wife Fabienne, in whose house I was to stay for two nights. Also there, much to my surprise, was another life member, ex racing man and also ex President of my cycling club, Brian Billings and his wife Wynn. A pleasant evening was spent chatting and eating, but poor old Brian, having travelled overnight on the ferry, was soon falling asleep in the chair. So we all took the hint and retired for the night.

64 miles

Click here to continue


Views expressed in letters, articles or editorial are not necessarily those of the CTC or the Leicestershire & Rutland CTC.


Part of
Cycling UK

Facebook link

Report Potholes


Minutes of Cycling UK Council Meetings

Are your
details correct?

Cycling UK Members,
please help Cycling UK
and us stay
in touch with you
by updating your
contact details.

Cycle Journey Planner

Tandem Club

Rough Stuff Fellowship

Audax UK icon

Cyclists' Touring Club East Midlands logo
Cyclists' Touring Club East Midlands

image from www.pixabay.com
Leicestershire Road Club
(affiliated to Cycling UK)

CTC Holiday & Tours

Commercial Offers
Businesses with products and offers that may be of interest to cyclists.

tumblr counter

View site Stats (since25/7/12

Coffee Cup Icon
Map of Tea Places

Easy Riders

Cyclists' Touring

Cyclists' Touring

Soar Valley Cyclists' Touring Club

Wednesday Cyclist Logl

Nuneaton Cycle Club

Northants Cyclists' Touring Club

CTC Winged Wheel
Cycling UK is a trading name of Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no: 25185. Registered as a charity in England and Wales charity no: 1147607 and in Scotland charity no: SC042541. Registered office: Parklands, Railton Road, Guildford, Surrey GU2 9JX.