Of late, more Origami rides have been arranged away from our original Meriden base than they used to be, and that will continue to be the case for 2004, but at least for our February ride we were back to the familiar surrounding of The Tearooms in Meriden for the start of the ride. Just getting there proved a problem for some regulars though - two of us arrived separately at different stations between Wolverhampton and Birmingham expecting to catch trains to Hampton in Arden, only to find that engineering work meant no trains on that line at all. I cycled from Tipton station to Smethwick Galton Bridge, caught a train the Birmingham Snow Hill, made my way across Birmingham to New Street, and picked up a train to Hampton from there, arriving just before the ride started. Martin Woolley suffered his disappointment at Sandwell & Dudley station, and decided to travel to the start by car instead.
By the time the ride started, just after 11:00, we had an excellent turn out of 18 riders. After the unexpectedly large number of big wheeled bikes last month, we were back to just one - a tandem - this month. Once again there were two Rohloff hubs present in the form of Chris Eley's SP and Mark Singleton's New Series/Speed Moulton, but, as we shall see later in the report, on this occasion this was to prove a less happy event for bikes so equipped. Phil Wray was riding a smart yellow Micro on this occasion - apart from this and the home made tandem, the rest of the bikes were Bromptons, Moultons and the two Birdy Reds of ride organisers Trevor and Irene Batchelor.
Our ride took us via a different route from usual out to the University of Warwick. Making a right turn at an island on the approach to the university, Mark on his New Series hit a patch of spilled diesel, and came off. Chris Dent very nearly suffered the same fate on the same slippery patch - both are experienced cyclists, so it was definitely not rider error. Unfortunately the fall upset Mark's Rohloff hub, or the changer, which left him with only top gear. This alone would have been bad enough, making even gentle ascents difficult, but the belt drive his bike, while generally trouble free, is rather more susceptible to breakage when under loads imposed by being in too high a gear, so he had to be additionally careful to avoid possible breakage of the belt.
This section of the ride was bit of a busman's holiday for me, as I work at the university, but despite this, Trevor managed to find a route through the campus which used several tracks and roads I had not encountered before. From the university we rode on to Stoneleigh and Bubbenhall, where we took lunch at the Three Horseshoes. We were outpaced at one stage by a very energetic dog, much to the consternation of its owner, who had to resort to his car to chase after it!
The weather had gradually got more miserable during the morning, and we were glad to retire indoors at this stage, but to our disappointment, the light rain was just resuming as we emerged after lunch to continue our ride. Shortly before lunch Chris Eley had developed a slow puncture (well, his rear tyre had actually). After 2 punctures last month, Chris has come to the conclusion that his SP does not like visiting the Midlands! Chris and John Hall left us to ride towards Kenilworth after lunch, so we don't know if Chris managed to get back with just an occasional stop to pump up the tyre, or whether in the end he had to repair it - or perhaps he even got another puncture?! The rest of us rode on to the Midland Air Museum at Baginton, where we stopped briefly for tea. This looked a sufficiently interesting place to be put on our list for another visit in the future, when time would be allowed to look around. The short days at this time of year meant that there was not time to look around.
Our return route from here took us back trough the campus of the university, where we safely negotiated the other side of the infamous island. However, it was at the next island that a further problem struck us. We had somehow become separated into two groups at this point, and a brief halt was made at this island by the second group while I tried to persuade them that we needed to turn right, as going straight on would take us into an industrial estate, and a dead end to boot. Restarting in top gear proved too much for the sorely tried drive belt on Mark's Moulton, and it broke. We watched with interest as he replaced it (fortunately he carries a spare!) - this turned out to be a relatively simple process - much less hassle, and a good deal cleaner, than dealing with a rear puncture on a Brompton! By now, though, the second group had completely lost touch with the first, but we decided to carry on along the route we thought was planned towards Tile Hill station, where we might have to fall back on a known route for the return. This took us down Charter Avenue, one of the worst road surfaces I know, and the reason I have retired my Bromptons and Bike Friday at present - fortunately the ride in this direction is not too bad, it is the surface on the other side of the road that is the real problem (especially when it wet, and it difficult to spot the damaged road surface). Happily, as we reached the end of Charter Avenue we found the first group waiting for us, so we were able to get back together for the remainder of the ride.
The light was beginning to fail as we rode back into Meriden, which gave Mark an opportunity to demonstrate the amazingly powerful lights he has fitted on his Speed. In view of the weather, the failing light, the fact that I had taken the main lights of my bike that morning, and the lack of local trains, I took up Martin's kind offer of a lift back to Dudley in his car - the first time I have travelled in a car to or from any of the Origami rides. In view of the conditions, I was very grateful for the lift though - thanks Martin.
Although the weather had been a bit dreary, and we had suffered some mechanical problems, which contributed to a slightly later return than we had planned, this was a very enjoyable ride, and our thanks go to Trevor and Irene for once again organising an excellent ride. Thanks also to the members who came to the event - a very good turn out, despite the fact that some regulars were not able to get there this month.
PS: Mark tells me that the problem with the Rohloff was very minor, a damaged cable which causes a jam, which he has experienced in the past. It's now fixed (next day), and the bike is back to normal. Mark's own bruises and stiffness, as so often in these circumstances, developed the next day - we wish him a speedy recovery.
Those on the ride will know that I swapped bikes part of the way back, and rode a 1965(ish) 2-speed Moulton Stowaway for part of the ride. I rather enjoyed it (my single-speed Stowaway is really a bit limited, and although I bought a Duomatic for it many years ago, I discovered it would require surgery to fit it, and I did not want to do this). I'm now looking out for a decent 2-speed Stowaway - excellent joint, operational suspension and forks are the basic criteria, as I would quite possible do minor upgrades on the rest anyway. If you come across a candidate, please let me know - email@example.com.
Copyright (C)2004 Ferrets Anonymous
Last updated: 16 February 2004