There is always at least one day on a cycling holiday when anything that can happen, does happen and the world seems against us. That was today – but the good news is that I am writing this in a pub with a full pint, where we intended to be and having eaten a delicious one pot meal. So what could possibly have gone wrong?
Well we started well – up, breakfasted and broken camp by 8am. That felt good. Soon after we started Bernie started to notice her gears were not working properly. The new front shifter which the bike shop had put on yesterday was slipping, the gears were out and it was generally not as good as it should be. I stopped, fiddled with the settings (front mecs not being my forte) and thought it was working. But it was not. If anything it got worse.
The road was delightful but it was overcast and there was no sun. The wind was not a problem to begin with but gradually it built through the morning. Another half hour with me attempting to be a bike mechanic slowed us down but it was really difficult to mend the gears on the side of the road, but it was more or less OK.
We stopped for coffee in Dorchester. It may be Dorset’s county town and Hardy’s birthplace, but it was cold, rainy and windy when we got there. The cafe kept the door open for extra ventilation – which would have been fine in May but this was November (or seemed like it).
We ambled off – attempted further repairs and again the front mec on Bernie’s bike seemed fixed, but we had not taken the next 5km into account. First there were the sheep – sheep you might say – what sheep? The answer is the sheep on the only road out of Dorchester which were being steered from one field to another a mile away. So we sat behind the flock cycling at sheep pace. And as we went along slowly, so the weather got worse and the road became a track. The track bounced the bikes around and, of course, bounced Bernie’s front mec out of alignment.
We decided (a) to avoid gravel tracks until we got the bikes 100% and (b) get to a bike shop if we could to get Bernie’s front mec sorted, as it needed professional. Those decisions meant that our only option was to head for Bridport on either minor roads or a seriously major one – opted for minor roads – mistake.
The road climbed a 15% hill up to 200m with a 20mph wind against us and driving rain. At this point I wondered what lack of sanity meant that we were doing this for pleasure. But the wind going up was nothing – I repeat nothing – compared to the wind over the top. Full blown blizzard (but hail not snow) and wind so strong that it picked the bikes up and strung them across the road. It was a good job it was so quiet or we would have been toast.
On the plus side, the scenery in this part of Dorset is staggeringly beautiful. It was just that all we could see was waves of rain coming up the hills. So we ambled on and the rain eased off and we made Bridport at 3pm. If Dorchester was a disappointment, Bridport was not much better. There were 3 bike shops listed. The “Weelie Good Bike Shope” turned out to be a shed in someone’s garden – and the someone was not home. The “Ride” shop was staffed by someone who had taken customer relations lessons from the DWP. “No, he could not assist. They had a single mechanic and there was a 5 day waiting list”. So be it – it is their business and they can run it as they like. But there is an informal understanding that passing cyclists are always given a bit of hand – but that “understanding” has not reached Bridport (or at least this part of Bridport).
Lastly we tried “Bridport Cycles” which, of course, is not in Bridport but a small village outside. There we met the delightful Ron with his even more delightful dog Norman, a Spanish rabbit chasing white and brown dog. He knew Bewdley, used to visit our friend Mark Young when he ran Overspoke, and was a generally good guy who restored our faith in the cycle trade. He deserved lifetime free membership of the ACT (Association of Cycle Traders for the uninitiated).
We chatted, got Bernie’s bike up on the stand and worked on it between us. I had eliminated all the simple problems and together we diagnosed the problem, refined the settings and it was “good enough”. All 3 chain wheels worked and none scraped (or not too badly) and Bernie could change between them (with effort). Mark Young may need to perfect things before our next trip but this should get us to Argyll.
Ron would take no money for his work – sorting out fellow cyclists and fellow dog lovers seemed more important to him. We left him with thanks and genuinely wish him well in his endeavour to get all the over 65s in Bridport onto ebikes.
The next section was on main roads – so the downside is lots of traffic and even more trucks. The upside is normally that the gradients are not that tough. Here we had trucks and 15% gradients – and multiple ones as well. The rain had eased off but the wind was as bad.
We struggled into Lyme, bought supper and then found the campsite; arriving at 6.30pm. It was not too windy or rainy so we got the tent up and had a one pot meal – totally delicious. No showers though because the chap who showed us around the campsite forgot the vital information that we needed 20p pieces for the shower. The assurance that the now long closed shop kept a stock of 20p pieces was not worth a great deal.
Then to the pub for a couple of pints and a blog-writing session. A tough, difficult day with lots of frustrations but it’s amazing how quickly all that can be erased with a full stomach and pint in your hand. All seemed well in the end.