After 2020 I had hoped that things may start to return to some normality, but in hindsight, I was expecting too much.
Once we got the go-ahead to travel again in April, I managed to get away a few times, mainly to the north.
With the whole country coming out of four months of lockdown and being restricted to taking vacations in the UK, accommodation soon filled up and prices started to rise as owners tried to recoup some of the money lost in 2020.
Martin and I were lucky in June when we did the King Alfred Way, as the weather was poor and people were still apprehensive about travel, so we managed to arrange that trip without too many issues.
I think there was still a feeling that this thing was in the air, which meant keeping your distance, spending time only with people you knew, people you trusted to have taken the same care as you had to limit the spread of COVID.
Because of this the trips were to familiar places with familiar friends, until the vaccine roll-out kicked in and confidence built.
Towards the middle of the year, I started to get larger group rides together, joined club rides again and catch up with a wider circle of friends. It was then that you start to discover how the long winter lockdown and the second year of this pandemic had started to affect people’s motivation.
Friends I have who are always positive, active, and full of life, all started talking about losing their mojo, having no drive, thinking of giving up cycling. It’s at that point, the feelings I have had about lack of energy to arrange trips, and preferring to just keep rolling locally, that I realise I need these friends around me to help push through and rekindle that drive.
As I write this, overseas travel is becoming easier and the ability to return to travelling next year should be possible and I am starting to put plans together.
This is a quick run through of 2021, mainly to remind myself that it wasn’t a wasted year. In fact it has been a great year, with great friends and some cracking memories.
The Yorkshire Dales, June 2021
Early June I was getting cabin fever and just needed a change of scenery, so called up friends in Cumbria arrange four days away, a couple of days walking and a couple of days on the bike.
East Yorkshire, July and August 2021
These were only short trips, a walk along the Trans Pennine in Hornsea to the seafront, which I really needed after so long locked down in the centre of the country.
Prior to the trip to the Dales, I had another couple of days in Hull and it was also nice to get a spin out to the Humber and revisit the Trans Pennine between Hessle and Ferriby on the bike.
The Yorkshire Dales, August 2021
After a weekend in Hull, it was straight up to Settle in the Yorkshire Dales. I had come through Settle when I rode the Way of the Roses and fancied using it as a base for walks and rides.
Arriving at lunchtime gave me the chance for a walk to Janet’s Foss, Goredale Scar and Malham Cove, which due to the state of the UK holiday situation were absolutely mobbed. So many people, very few with masks, no one keeping a safe distance and I found it very disturbing, having spent so long protecting myself and others.
Despite that, the locations were spectacular and definitely worth a visit, when it is a bit quieter.
The following morning was stunning blue skies as I headed straight out and straight up on to the hills, climbing for the first 10km before taking a turn off-road and over into the River Skirfare valley. I then returned over the top and down into Settle in time for a late lunch.
When I got back to Settle, I noticed that there was a series of amazing bits of artwork created from plant pots.
On my final day in the Dales, I made a dash to a friend’s house in Levens and we spent the day noodling around on and off-road, taking in some cracking sights. A great part of the country.
The Mason finally finished, September 2021
When I built the Mason back in February 2020, I repurposed the brakes, drivetrain, and wheels from my Cannondale CX bike, mainly to get the bike on the road with the idea of finalising the build later. Then the pandemic hit, and components were not freely available.
I did manage to get my local bike shop to rebuild my old 700c wheels with DT Swiss tubeless rims, which worked really well and I was really happy with them. Being in lockdown for so long meant I could not travel, so I managed to save enough to have a set of 650b wheels made by my LBS using Hope hubs and DT Swiss tubeless rims. These were a revolution, no pun intended, but what a difference they made to the off-road capability of the Mason. Using 47mm WTB tyres, tubeless and running at 30psi (2 bar) has cushioned out most lumps and bumps and offers something more capable than my early rigid mountain bike from the early 2000’s. I had forgotten how raw and visceral the feeling of that kind of riding can be.
The weak point were the brakes, nothing to do with the great TRP Hy/Rd’s, but they were post mount on flat mount adaptors. The back worked fine, but there was always a howl coming from the front. I did everything I could to make sure the alignment was perfect, but there was no difference. I think this was due to the ponderous nature of the 160mm bracket on to the flat mount allowing resonance to build up, like running a wet finger round the top of a glass.
The solution was to fit flat mount hydraulic brakes, which needed hydraulic levers (GRX). This meant the new levers would not work with the current Shimano 105 rear mech, so I moved to GRX. OK, if I go hydraulic, I’m going to fit Hope RX4 calipers as I love Hope components, they last a lifetime, rebuildable throughout.
I made a decision some might find odd, in these days of 13 speed gears, but I stayed with 10 speed as that is supported by the GRX 400. Why? Well I have noticed as the gear numbers have gone up and chains have got thinner, chain lifetimes have dropped dramatically, especially off-road. I do quite a lot of miles so this is a consideration.
It took until August 2021 before I could actually order the levers, rear mech and calipers, as nothing was available before that date.
Then in early September the new parts arrived, and I went through the process of installation. I had never installed drop bar hydraulic brakes on a bike before and was surprised how easy it was. They have made a huge difference, quiet and super powerful and so much feel. That’s it now, the Mason is as I imagined it would be when I first started the project.
I had also bought a pair of brand new/unused Mavic Aksium QR disc wheels from a friend, which I fitted to the old Cannondale, all it needed were the Hy/Rd brakes and that would be usable/saleable. Once I completed the Mason, I refitted the brakes using TRP’s un-compressible cable, which transformed their stopping power.
The bike looked and rode really well, but when a friend showed interest in it for a winter bike, so I let it go. A great value winter bike.
The Mason now has the mudguards on, and I have fitted a set of Goodyear F1 tubeless tyres to get me through the winter. I must say, the F1 tyres are the easiest tubeless tyres I have ever installed. There was no need for a compressed air tank, they pumped up using the track pump, sealed without sealant and ride fast and comfortable at 50psi (3.4 bar). The grip is reassuring on wet roads and I will see what the durability is like over the next few thousand kilometres.
Local normality, October and November 2021
There is a degree of normality coming back to my day to day, while there is still a cloud hanging over the travel situation.
The weather has been unseasonably warm enabling me to get plenty of local miles in, taking the opportunity to spend quality time with great friends, cycling round the quiet, scenic, country lanes, picking up a brew in the local cafes. Being able to sit inside a cafe this winter is going to be a real luxury that I missed last year.
And so we start again, December 2021
As I start to write, Omicron, the latest strain of Covid has hit and we are all now wondering if the normality we have right now is just about to evaporate. Any plans for 2022 and travelling overseas are pointless. So I need to start looking at knocking the hell out of it in the UK, so over January Komoot is going to get a beating, plotting possible trips, then if Europe is an option….Bonus!
What with the travel restrictions, and nearly a month out of it during July with shingles, I reset my goal for this year’s total milage down to 7,500 miles (12,000km) and by the beginning of the month I had hit 7,000 miles (11,200km). At that I decided to take the foot off the gas for a while, and as it turns out, just in time, as the weather has turned, and the rides are getting colder and a bit sketchy in some cases.
It was great to meet up with Ady for a brew and see how he was getting on with my old CAADX, the perfect winter bike.
A walk across the local fields and I finally located the Judith Stone, thought to have been deposited in the field by a glacier, before even I was born 😉
The month got colder and wetter, I even took the bike up north when visiting family, only to be greeted by a pea soup of a fog for four days.
My main focus now was the two main goals for the year, 1000km (600 miles) walking and 7,500 miles (12,000km) of riding on Strava.
The walking goal was hit on the 20th of December, and the riding goal was achieved on the 26th of December. This month seems to have been grey and miserable throughout, so it was nice to get that under my belt. Time to get on the turbo until the weather picks up in the New Year.