Origami Phoenix Ride

8th January 2005 – Birmingham New Street to the Lickey Hills

Despite some rather alarming weather forecasts, and some light rain earlier in the day, the sun was out for the start of our first ride of 2005, which started from Birmingham New Street station. I decided to ride there, in view of possible problems with an industrial dispute affecting Central Trains, and found the canal towpath much wetter than I expected. Although I arrived rather early, a contingent of folders was already ensconced at the concourse cafe. I was uncertain whether they would speak to me, as I was using a conventional mountain bike, and not even one which folded! However, by the time the start came, no less than 4 riders has chosen large-wheeled, fully-suspended, non-folding mountain bikes - an interesting reversal of the situation at the V-CC ride a few days earlier, when small wheelers were a majority at an event where you would expect them to be outnumbered! Apart from my Marin, thee were 2 Dawes mountain bikes (Trevor & Irene Batchelor), and a Muddy Fox (Will Singleton) - there, we've named and shamed you. The 'respectable' members of the group were mostly riding Bromptons or SPs, with one each of Moulton (Rohloff gear and belt drive New Series), Micro and Fold-It. We were delighted to see such a good turn out - e5 riders in January is quite an achievement.

Ride leader Paul Evans had promised us a ride mostly on towpaths and quiet roads, so from the station we soon found ourselves at Gas Street Basin to join the canal towpath, which also follows the railway line to Cheltenham.

Not far into the ride we suffered the first mechanical problem, when the toggle chain for the rear hub broke on Paul Evans's Brompton. Unfortunately no one had a spare, so Phil Wray managed to get the hub fixed in a middle gear, and Paul had to ride the rest of the way with a single-speed. It's strange, people keep claiming that hub gears are less trouble than derailleurs, but it is the hub gears that more frequently give problems on our rides ...

Above: Phil Wray carries out running repairs on Paul Evans's Brompton after the toggle chain for the rear hub broke. All but one of the 15 riders can be seen in this picture - Chris Eley slipped out of the frame, but the photographer is actually visible too as a shadow in the foreground!

After following the canal for a while, we joined the Rea Valley Cycle Route, which took us out to Longbridge, where we took to some generally quite roads for a while. Up to this point the ride had been almost completely flat, and despite the recent rain, the surface of the towpath had been good, with just a few puddles. From here, however, we ascended towards the Lickey Hills via the roads - a fairly gentle ascent. We were making for the Lickey Hills Visitor Centre for our lunch stop, and the last half kilometre was via a bridleway. Paul had recced this only the day before, and been able to ride it without difficulty on the Brompton, but rather surprisingly it had become much wetter, and consequently muddier, since then, and this combined with the rough surface and the gradient meant that it was hard going - those of us on the mountain bikes felt rather smug at this point. 

A problem with rides at this time of year is that it gets dark so early, and as we were a bit behind schedule due to various stops (Phil Wray had also had to investigate a problem with wear on the rear rim of his Brompton, which resulted in reducing the rear tyre pressure and avoiding using the back brake), this was one of our shorter lunch breaks. Although the wind was making it rather cool, the sun was still out, and several of the group chose to eat outside.

For the return journey, we followed another bridleway for a short distance - just as muddy, rough and precipitous as the previous one, before joining the road back to Longbridge. Here Mark and Will Singleton left us to catch a train, as they had other commitments and time was running short. The rest of us made our way back to Birmingham via the Rea Valley Route and roads. Dick Hanson suffered a puncture on the rear tyre of the Micro, but fortunately sufficiently close to the station that it was simpler just to push the bike the short remaining distance. We were back at the station just before 4:00pm, which meant that by cutting the leave-taking a bit short I was just in time to catch the 4:06 train.

The weather was exceptionally good for January - no rain, quite a lot of sun, and only a rather cold wind to keep the temperature down. All in all an excellent day out - many thanks to all the 15 people who attended, and especially Paul Evans who planned and lead the ride.

Footnote to non-regulars: The comments on mountain bikes are meant as a joke - anyone is welcome at an Origami Ride, whatever they are riding.

Copyright (C)2005 Ferrets Anonymous
Last updated: 10 January 2005