I will always reply to comments and always re-reply to re-replies.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


It has been a weird and upsetting year for many. On the local and international front unexpected political changes have caused dismay and mistrust. Also the terrible situation in the Middle East, that supposed genesis of civilisation and the original home of someone who preached, "Love thy neighbour as thyself", shows no sign of abating.

So it is hard to wish everyone a "Happy Christmas", a phrase which trips lightly off the tongue. Let me just hope that yours will be peaceful and that as we enter yet another year, somehow, things will, gradually, resolve. That very Middle East was the originator of this phrase:

"This, too, shall pass
(Persian: این نیز بگذرد‎‎, īn nīz bogzarad; Arabic: لا شيء يدوم‎‎, lit. "nothing endures"; Hebrew: גם זה יעבור‎‎, gam zeh ya'avor)
it is an adage indicating that all material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary.

In this year, too, Leonard Cohen entered "The Tower of Song". I published this clip some years ago, but make no apologies for sharing it with you again. After all, shepherds are supposed to have heard angels singing "Hallelujah" on that first Christmas Day.


Saturday, December 10, 2016


I would normally answer comments to my posts in the section relating to that post, but R.R 's comments on my last post need some answers that might be of general use to others contemplating getting an e-bike.

Firstly I would put his mind at rest. Modern e-bikes will be perfectly capable of easily tackling the type of rides he contemplates. (Although I cannot comment on the traffic conditions since I don't know the area) The latest batteries are lithium-ion, like those used in hybrid cars and are much lighter than of yore, mine (the larger long range version) weighs in at 3.5 kgs. My bike weighs 24 kgs including the battery. For comparison a classic modern touring bike (not electric) such as the Pashley Roadster Classic weighs 19 kgs. Actually its weight is only apparent when moving it around when off the machine. Once under way it feels like a normal bike, indeed I often ride with the electrics off when the going is level.

The pedal assist will augment power up to the speed you dial in. It will increase its assistance according to gradients/headwinds . The separate, power only, twist grip provides exclusive e-power without pedalling, but I only use this for start-offs if stopped on a gradient, for instance. As soon as I am under way pedal assist takes over. Unfortunately recent EU regs are outlawing this facility and all future e-bikes will be "pedalecs" only, although most dealers seem to be able to get round this legislation in the UK.

Batteries: come in two sizes 10 amp hour and about 16 amp hour. Always go for the larger one (in output) , they are very similar in weight, but their range increases by about 30%. The larger is about 30% more costly too (you get what you pay for). It really depends on how far on a ride you intend to go, RR's rides will be OK with the smaller battery. Batteries are often located on a carrier, high up over the back wheel (like my first conversion at blog-head) and this compromises handling, I had experienced the "tail wagging the dog" on occasion. A much better position is low down, in the centre of the bike, behind the seat tube (like my current one) or on the down tube from bars to bottom bracket.

Motors: Located in front wheel, back wheel or bottom bracket. Front wheel compromises handling, back wheel is fine. The latest, and most expensive, are in specially constucted ebikes and built into the bottom bracket,(see image at the top of this post) supplying power direct to the pedals rather than the wheels. I have not experienced them but others say that they are better on really steep hills, so if contemplating the Col du Tourmalet I would go for one of them! I think the worst option would be a rear carrier battery driving a front wheel motor (as was my first one).

In RR's locality I have found Hereford Electric Bikes, which looks a good dealer and if really interested I should go along and see what's on offer and discuss things with the staff. They stock, and I can recommend, the "Freego" brand as my wife has one, also my regular cycling companion, Peter, who was instrumental in getting me on e-bikes. If difficulty is experienced in "getting your leg over" (the bike!) most makes do a dropped frame version, popular with ladies and older folk. (My future purchase, no doubt).

Saturday, December 03, 2016


As I seem to have concentrated on posting about motorcycles recently I thought it time to give details of my main mode of pleasure transport these days. My motorcycles have always been a means of release from my "trap" in the south eastern corner of England - trapped by Cobbett's "Great Wen" of London (and even greater now than in Cobbett's day) which effectively cuts Kent off from the rest of the UK and my glorious Wessex.

I tend to travel less far these days (age and health) so motorcycling is less and I have reverted mainly to my old love of bicycles. I am a life-long club cyclist, but, post stroke, I am only able to continue with the help of electric assistance and my roamings are usually delineated by my neighbouring Romney Marsh. Less is more; I cover less ground more slowly and see in greater detail than I would have done on a motorbike - although when the sun is up and winter gone I shall be looking forward to riding them again.

Abroad e-bikes are proliferating. (A friend has just returned from a week in cycle-friendly Holland where they abound and the streets are thronged with thousands of bikes of all types. Incidently amongst all those thousands he only saw one rider wearing a cycle helmet - the Dutch are far more relaxed about such things - probably why cycling is so popular there.)  Let's discuss my own bike. Its source of power is the battery behind the seat tube and this drives the electric motor in the rear wheel. My first e-bike conversion (of my own Claud Butler, ) had a motor in the front wheel and I said "never again" when I rode it over ice and the front wheel, losing all traction, spun at peak power and the bike deposited me, very hard, on the road.

The bike has disk brakes, very powerful, I have learnt to use the front one cautiously. It has sprung front forks and a sprung seat post so Kentish potholes are taken care of. The side stand is a boon, one does not have to look around for somewhere to lean the bike. Since my stroke I sometimes have difficulty knowing the position of my feet on the pedals, so I have substituted the toe-strap pedal clips I have always been used to for open ones that are easier to locate. Front and rear lighting is driven from the battery and I have fitted puncture resistant tyres (try removing a rear wheel with a motor therein to get a tyre off!)

Day to day luggage needs are taken care of by the neat top bag.

Note my club badges, I am a life member of the Cyclists' Touring Club and a member of the Veteran-Cycle Club (the bikes not the members, although that is sometimes a moot point on meets!). The faded pin brooch, given to me by my daughter, has an appropriate quote from Tolkien, "Not all who wander are lost". The side panels unfold if required to give two panniers bags - useful for the weekend papers or to take our Christmas parcel for Australia to the post office.

A comfortable seat is essential. I dumped the squashy foam item and fitted a Brookes leather one which has a cut-out for male comfort in the perineum area

Let's talk about the controls:

I like foam grips on my handlebars and the "horns" give a change of position and better "pull" if needed. "1" is a twist grip throttle, independent of pedalling which will take the bike, illegally, (15.5 mph is supposed to be the limit) up to 20 mph. However I only use this to give me a push as I move off on hills, or for quickly crossing busy roads. Usually I use pedal assisted e-power which only works if you are actually pedalling. This has 5 modes, first gives assistance up to 3 mph and is practically useless, second assists to about 10 mph, third to 12 mph (the most used by me), fourth to 14 mph and fifth to 15.5 mph, the legal limit. The more power you feed in the shorter the distance between battery charges. (Nothing in life is free)

 "2" in the image is the control panel, let's have a look in detail:

It is controlled by the grey buttons on the left, these are almost impossible to operate, particularly if wearing gloves, so I have glued brass rivet heads to them to use as "braille". Top one turns power on/off (it can be ridden without power if conditions are easy). Third one down increases power levels and bottom one decreases. Power level is shown bottom left (on "0" at present). Top left section gives battery information (as I use it, I can go about 60-70 miles before a recharge pedalling at a steady 12 mph). Top right shows road speed, bottom shows total distance covered. (I have managed 2,664.7 miles to date).

Back to the previous image; "3" is a separate computer I have fitted so I can keep tabs on distance since last battery charge (it's on 15.3 miles above) and also shows speed. "4" is the twist grip change for the derailleur gears (7, but I seldom need more than the top 3 because of e-assistance).

The bell is essential. Ashford has many cycle paths shared with pedestrians and it can be amusing to see  such checking their mobiles when I ring it! Not so amusing when they walk towards or across me, head down to their phones away from this world. Another essential is the mirror, especially since this old geezer has trouble turning his head behind him (arthritis).

Well this seems complete so I am now off for a ride and get lunch some place, before commiting to publishing it.

Some three hours later. Back from a pleasant ride down to the Marsh and across to the little seaside town of Dymchurch. About 25 miles in all. The weather overcast, cold, but frost-free and completely windless. I rode the last mile to the town along the sea wall, the tide was in and the sea was like a mill pond. A hearty meal of fried eggs on toast, sausages, hash browns and baked beans seemed appropriate, followed by a large mug of steaming tea. Total cost only £4.50. (you get the picture of the type of cafe it was).