Saturday, 6 November 2010

Cycling in the Time of Climate Change

Bikes in the mid-day shade.
Nahal Livnim

You don't have to be a meteorologist or scientist to notice there is a change in the seasonal weather patterns. You only need to be a mere outdoor enthusiast who marks and notes the conditions each time when venturing out for an activity under the open sky. Something is definitely happening up there in the vast blue yonder

I have been noting temperatures for twenty years now whilst logging the rides of the Carmel Mountain Bike Club. The ride last Shabbat had unusually high temperatures for the season, as indeed had two of the three previous rides - tyre melting mid 30's ! Riding up mountains (struggling in my case!) towards the middle of November with a sun beating down at 37C is definitely cause for concern. This is a new experience for us all in the club, and affects the performance of the riders and the planning of the routes.

For those of you who take an interest in the burning issue of cycling in the time of climate change here are the temperatures over the last 5 years taken on approximately the same date of a club ride (early November, in Israel):

2005 20C
2006 22C
2007 29C
2008 28C
2009 32C
2010 36C
One doesn't have to have a degree in statistics or climatology, to take note of the pattern above.

And so it was , on the ride, last Shabbat, when the club met at Rama in the Lower Galillee in Northern Israel.

The early morning climb through the olive groves to Deir el Assad was pleasant enough. The olive picking season is underway (perhaps a little earlier this year - the climate, again!) and we had to bypass the local villagers in their beat-up pick-ups scrambling up the slopes to start the tree beating. We continued up the road to the sound of music from the fields at Parod, a more commercial festival of the Olive Season.

We went on up to Shefer, by way of a very over-grown, un-rideable, jungle of a trail, but at least we were pleased on the shade it afforded. By the time we reached Amirim we were ready for a breakfast-break, admiring the fantastic view over the Galillee Mountains.

Afterwards, the temperatures were climbing, but we didn't really care, as we were descending, down the dusty 500 metres drop to Nahal Amud. This is one of one of the best mountain biking descents in the country, and we made the most of it. Broad smiles all round.

The atmosphere changed in the mid-day sun, as we climbed up from Nahal Amud to Ein Livnim. My energy levels were draining away in the heat, and others were suffering too, especially the local wild-life. We saw little mammals (hyraxes ?) stampeding to the cool shelter of a tunnel under nearby road #65.

The push up Nahal Livnim was slow and labourious, and the punctures were beginning too. This is no coincidence either, as I am sure the temperature levels affect the preformance of the anti-puncture inner tubes . Also, the continuing dry conditions have made the terrain very sharp and thorny.

By the time we reached the foot of Har Hazon, the mood in the group was to cut the ride short and leave the ascent of this peak for another time, perhaps in cooler conditions. We had already climbed over 900 metres in just 30kms, so that was quite sufficient for the majority of the riders.

I await with concerned interest to see the conditions that await us on our next monthly Shabbat ride in December in the Judean Desert. Mud, flash floods, snow ?? Stranger things have happened and will happen, while cycling in the Time of Climate Change !

GPS Track of the ride for GoogleEarth
Slideshow of the ride

Freewheelin Jon 2010

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Wales Compleat, Solo, End to End

On Saturday, at 17.15, I entered the train station at Swansea by riding up some small steps in a tunnel under the tracks - my very last technical section, just metres away from my final destination. Quite fitting really, after 413kms, some of the most challenging riding I have ever experienced. My Wales End to End was complete.

Sorry I wasn't able to post everyday, but tiredness, lack of WiFi, or technical problems with my pod conspired against this.

Body and machine held up well to the strains and stresses of the riding, the weather, and the accummulated grime of a mineral and animal nature that stuck to me and my bike. Even a car power-wash didn't succeed in removing it all and I had to put my shoes into quarantine on the return journey on the train !

To take up the account from day 3 when I last posted:

Day 4. Devils Bridge to Rhayader
The rain continued, so I decided to take the National Cycle Network from Devils Bridge to Rhayader. This involved less off-road, but rather narrow roads that climbed over the Cambrian Mountain Range. I passed through deserted mining villages, huge dams, and reservoirs, with finally an asphalt single track along the scenic Elan Valley.

I was soaked through, chilled, by the continual rain and was pleased to see that my next B&B could also provide me with a hot bath.

Ride Stats: 53kms, 6.5 hours, 651m climbs, 476 max alt, 14% max grad, 0 punctures.

Day 5. Rhayader to Brecon
The day dawned damp and misty, but gradualy improved. After a full Welsh Breakfast with extra beans and hash browns I was ready and fuelled for anything the countryside could throw at me. I rode a combination of the National Network Route 8 and the Sarn Helen. This involved very muddy farm-tracks, climbing grassy slopes of two mountains, and a great road descent to the Wye Valley at Buillith Wells.

The final part was the hardest, over the moorland and forest north of Brecon. Lots of the tracks were not rideable due to over use by 4x4 (somthing I am all too familar with in Israel) or had been closed off entirely by the authorities. I had to climb and lift my bike over numerous gates and styles. In the Brycheiniog Forest my GPS would not work , I got lost, and fell twice in deep rutted pools. Eventually I broke through and found the road to Brecon.

The land-lady of my B&B was waiting with a hose and brush, the Welsh are so thoughtful !

Ride Stats: 71kms, 9.5 hours, 1374metres climbing, 447 max alt , 18% max grad, 1 puncture.

Day 6 Brecon to Swansea
My final day and my best day! The weather was great and I was about to cross the third major mountain range in Wales.

I rode westwards from Brecon to pick-up the Sarn Helen Roman Road that climbs up to one of the highest peaks of Brecon Beacons, Bryn Melyn, and then continues on to the sea. I passed a group of MTB riders getting ready to ride, the first I had seen on my whole trip, besides those concentrated at the Coed Brenin MTB Centre. In fact, I hadn't seen on any other rider on the trails during my whole trip: In Wales you are alone in the wilds, except for the sheep.

The Roman Road is broken up and is indistinct in many places, rocky steps, wth deep ruts and parts were flooded. The riding is technically demanding and I was under pressure to finish in time to catch my train. I also had no spare inner -tube, and if I punctured again, I would have been in trouble to get out of this remote area in daylight. Luckily, I managed to ride this final stretch without further incident and it was with great satisfaction that, I saw Swansea Bay in the distance, as I descended from the hills near Neath.

My mission was complete, another end-to-end under my wheels.
Ride Stats: 72kms, 9 hours, 982 metres climbs, 18% max grad, max alt 473m, 1 puncture.

Hwyl fawr am nawr ! = See you again soon. My Welsh is improving !

Friday, 24 September 2010

Wales Day 3: Devil's Day

Machinelleth to Devils Bridge

When I set out on this stage, there was little indiction that the weather would change so dramatically. It made a tough day even tougher as I was
climbing the highest peak on my tour.

I started winding my way up the picturesque narrow lanes , through farm yards, and then the lower grassy slopes of the mountain. All good so far. Then the trail got steeper over a very slippy rock face that had me hauling my bike centimetre by centimetre higher. No wonder the MTB Magazine graded this route: Killer.

I conquered it eventually to be rewarded with a wild plateau with a small lake, wide rideable tracks, and a view to the sea. Then the clouds rolled in and with them the rain. The tracks became indistinct, very boggy, and i was having to wade raging streams. Luckily my GPS held out and I could navigate my way out of this wilderness to the nearest road. All good fun!

Needless to say, In these conditions I continued by road to the hotel at Devils Bridge ( named for tourist waterfall) and I don't think I've appreciated a hot bath so much. A day to remember.

Ride Stats:
Distance 44 k, 8 hours, Agg climbs 981 metres, max Alt 512
m, max gradient 18%, 1 puncture (repaired under extreme conditions of mud and sheep shit)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Wales, So Far

Wales So Far

I haven't been able to post a daily report of my riding in Wales but I have now fixed the problem with my pod, and so here is a summary of my first 2 days on the Coast to Coast:
Day 1. Conwy to Festiniog
Rain had stopped but the off-road sections were still very wet from the huge amount that has fallen in the previous days. I enjoyed pushing up trails that were flowing with water but other parts were quite boggy, so progress was slow. The vistas were quite magnificent under an ever changing sky. Finished by riding on the road over the high pass from Betwys Coed to Ffestiniog to my fully ECO B&B which had a sauna which I used to dry my sodden shoes.
Distance 63k, Duration 9 hours, Climbs 1130 metres, max gradient 25%, max altitude 452 m, 0 punctures.

Day 2. Festiniog to Machinelleth
Great day of riding over the mountains of Snowdonia. The terrain was still wet but rideable, got stuck in a bog only once ! Visited the famous MTB centre at Coed Brenin and had a little fun on the trails. I finished the day in darkness as the route was longer than i had expected. All the locals are sympathetic to riders !
Distance 110 k, Duration 10 hours, Agg climbs 1453m, Max Gradient 19%, max altitude 371m, 0 punctures, 2 very tired legs.

Bike and body are standing up well, but wait for next post to see how I fare with the weather to take a turn for the worse.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Wheels Across Wales

Tomorrow I will embark on my fourth Coast to Coast, C2C, End to End, ( Englandx2, Israelx1) , all epic experiences, but crossing Wales raises the bar above all the others.

The plan is to follow ( very approximately in places) an old Roman Road, The Sarn Helen, north to south, from the Irish Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. Six days over some of the highest and roughest mountains in the UK.

Today I arrived on a very crowded train to the North Wales town of Conwy (with it's impressive castle) and from here it is just another 350k to my finish point of Swansea. Weather and WiFi permitting, I will try and post the dirty details of each day's ride. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Monday, 23 August 2010

Dirty Wheels in Wales

Coming soon. How to ride the Welsh C2C, in 6 days, (avoiding the sheep-shit) .