Major Nichols ride again

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Great ride out on Saturday morning with a few Major Nichols bikes from across the Black Country diaspora.

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One or two new bikes not seen before that will appear on the website eventually. Since it was started it has helped increase the known record by at least ten new bikes. Bear in mind there are probably only a couple of hundred of them left.

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As much as the recording of the frames it is those who ride them that carry the stories with them and rides like this provide the opportunity to reminisce and share stories. Who knows, a few of them may get recorded and saved for another day.

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After lunch a second stop at Fradley Junction for well earned cups of refreshment. Will people be preserving examples and stories of the carbon fibre bikes in 50 years? Only time will tell.

Cycle Rides For All to the National Memorial Arboretum this Sunday

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The August Cycle Rides For All is this Sunday to the National Memorial Arboretum (not the last Sunday as usual). 15 flat miles through the Sittles for a lunch stop at the Arbo before the ride back via Fradley.

Meet at Freedom Cycle by the bus station in Lichfield for 10am. Bikes will receive a quick check over and there is no cost to take part. Under 16’s must be accompanied. For more information contact Freedom Cycles on 01543 411633 or Karl at Lichfield District Council on 01543 308846.

Major Nichols and Brummie boikes ride this Saturday

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Subsuming his absent friends ride from last year, Alan from the Major Nichols website has organised a ride this Saturday as a precursor to a regular Major Nichols ride beginning in the late summer of next year with its start and end points in Lichfield. This will compliment the early summer memorial ride now in its tenth year.

MN’s, Brummie bikes or real steel rides are most welcome, the route is above and will include a stop in Whittington for lunch. Meet at the café in Beacon Park at 10 for a 10.30am start this Saturday morning for a ride down the lanes and through the valley. More details can be found on the Major Nichols website here.

Warm showers (or a bath)

We came across an interesting community for touring cyclists and hosts on one of our timelines recently. Warm Showers enables people to connect with each other and be able to arrange not only free overnight accommodation but a chance to meet fellow cyclists and stay in a supportive environment with the chance to get some home cooked food, a shower (or a bath in our case), free wi-fi, some local insight and knowledge, even someone to borrow a tool or an inner tube from if needed.

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We registered recently and our first cyclist stayed over last night. John was travelling from Cambridge to visit family in North Wales. The trip was pretty much organised on a whim and he registered with the site on a recommendation from a friend who has used it to arrange overnight stays the world over on one of his many cycle tours. After a long soak, some food and a nights sleep we took John on a tour of Lichfield, showing him some of the sights.

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We stopped at the market to pick up some goodies and bananas for the journey. One advantage of travelling this way is you don’t have to carry as much stuff with you. John was doing a short leg today, staying with another person in Stoke tonight and also using Youth Hostels to fill the gaps in his journey where Warm Showers users can’t be found.

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After a rant and some lunch I rode with John halfway on his way to Stoke, accompanying him to Amerton via some of the quieter lanes before pointing him in the direction of Stone for a late afternoon cuppa, before he tried to locate the towpath to take him into Stoke. It was John’s first experience of Warm Showers as well as ours and hopefully he got as much out of it as we did. If you have the time and space to put some one up, do have a think about registering. We are planning to go touring as a family a lot more in the future so might be able to use the kind offers of other hosts at some point too.

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Out of the Euro zone – thoughts from our roam correspondent now home

Marion’s previous reports here > (part 1) (part 2) (part 3)

This final report contains many links to images, reports and video clips.  It would be impossible to cover everything seen and experienced in just over 4 weeks without boring the pants off everyone. Speaking of which, I think the funniest incident occurred while riding through some woodland.  Seeing a woman disappearing into the bushes on one side of the road I judiciously looked the other way; only to be confronted by the huge bare bottom of someone who obviously wasn’t expecting another cyclist to come along. I nearly cried laughing!

If you don’t have time or the inclination to follow any other links do enjoy the Vimeo film at the end.

After leaving Texel I cycle through more familiar areas of the Netherlands, the polders of Noord Holland and the dunes of the west coast.  On the way I spent a night in Heemskerk Stayokay Hostel.  45 euros for dinner bed and breakfast in a castle!

I spent a day in the surprisingly large city of Haarlem and finally made my way down through the dunes near Egmond and Katwijk to Scheveningen on the outskirts of den Haag.  I will always associate Egmond with Allium Globemaster, which was bred there and the dunes with their fascinating landscape.

The journey back on the ferry was smooth but arriving home was a shock to the system after getting accustomed to the cycle friendly nature of all the countries I visited!

Arriving at Harwich railway station the only lift to the platform was out of order and no running strip on the stairs.  Several touring cyclists made it down onto the platform by helping carry each other’s bikes. On the train to Cambridge another cyclist had the mudguard smashed off his bike by an impatient woman barging through the train.  From Cambridge to Nuneaton was a nightmare on the train with 3 ‘supposed’ cycle spaces.  It turned out to be the Stansted Airport to Birmingham service of only 2 coaches. I would be prepared to pay for a cycle ticket if I knew I would get a space.  Here, on Virgin Trains, which I frequently use, you must book a free space but the National Rail computer system is not up to counting how many have been booked so you can still find them all full and be ‘put off’ the train, as I have in late evening at Lancaster on route to Lichfield.  When will we ever catch up?

I arrived home having cycled a very interesting and enjoyable 1780Km door to door and with the germ of an idea for next year, health and finances permitting, already forming in my head.

Everywhere I visited: France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, utility cyclists were well provided for and part of everyday life rather than being seen as eccentrics or a nuisance on the roads.  There was also provision for sport cycling or mountain biking but, to an outsider, there appears to be a much more emphasis on the bicycle as transport. On the negative side smoking, not drugs but normal cigarettes, is commonplace and very unpleasant on station platforms, in the street and outside all cafes; here permitted inside the yellow lines painted on a station platform.

While we, in Britain, often cite the Netherlands as cycle heaven all is not perfect. An increase in ‘anti-social cycling’ there was reported in the British cycling press in 2014 and, there are cycling deaths.

Also, although seemingly this causes few accidents, mofas/bromfiets (mopeds) are allowed on or in some cases must use cycle paths in all the countries visited.  This may seem madness but you always hear or smell them approaching; check the details in this article by David Hembrow.

So, enough of all the bad points.

My friends always say, “Well it’s easy to ride in Holland or Belgium because it’s flat.” Although this is not strictly true and there can be ferocious headwinds directly off the North Sea, it is pleasanter for these reasons: I feel safer than here, there is an extensive linked up infrastructure making cycling a quick and convenient method of getting from A to B, signage and the knoopunte system are excellent, traffic signals do not favour motorists over cyclists and pedestrians.

With reference to traffic signals there is, almost always, mutual respect between motorists and cyclists and equal compliance with the signals.  Often cyclists and pedestrians have different lights at the same junction and they do not necessarily change colour at the same time.  Why should a cyclist ‘nip across’ a red light on a Toucan or other crossing because there is nothing coming?  We would not expect a driver to do the same.  Also be aware that a bell on your bike is a legal requirement.

With reference to journeys being quick; this is partly due to priorities where property entrances or minor roads join more major roads.  Cyclists on paths running parallel to a more major road have the same right of way as a motorist on that road.  Therefore you can ride, unlike here, without having to stop at each junction.  Vehicles of all types and sizes turning in or out of minor roads wait if they would impede your travel or create a danger.  In fact sometimes drivers get upset with ‘foreigners’ who can’t believe this and stop!  No stop start journeys for the cyclist.  Have a look at this short video to see how neither cars nor cyclists are held up.  You will see the angry look from the one woman ‘cut up’ by a car and  although in this clip there is an area for cars to wait the same applies  where this does not exist but there are stop lines on each side of the cycle path.

Cycling facilities and driver attitude in all the countries I visited is better than here but to see more pictures of Dutch cycle infrastructure, yet another article by David Hembrow.

Although there is anecdotal evidence that fewer children are cycling to school in mainland Europe compare these articles/images; from Belgium, from the Netherlands,  from the Guardian.  

Also from Belgium and the Netherlands, streets where the car is the guest.  Think Tamworth Street, Market Street, Bore Street route and compare; I’ve been on them in Castricum.

Finally be amazed by this long Vimeo presentation, a compilation of short clips from Street Fillms. It begins with some history of cycling in Amsterdam but persevere.  I think I’ve seen practically all these situations and more on my travels, some completely illegal here but what fun.  It is almost as if, the Dutch in particular, love and are at one with their bikes in a way we have lost here.

Building a library in Lichfield – one bike at a time

Just one example from the Lichfield Re:Cycle project to give a flavour of the sort of thing we can do. We got a great donation of a bike from Heather in North Lichfield who had decided that cycling on it wasn’t for her. It was tucked away in a shed and when she heard of our scheme, she gave it to us. There is some superficial rust on it and signs of wear but it didn’t take much to get it back into shape and ready to go out again.

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Just as we had done this we received a message from Manon (above) who had moved to Lichfield to start a month long internship at Faurecia at Fradley. We were able to loan her the bike the next day and she cycled to work on it. She told us the time saved from having to walk allowed her to join a local running club and was very grateful to have the use of it. You can read her testimonial here.

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The bike came back last week and now it is being made ready to go out another person. Heather has problems with chronic back pain but used to cycle and hopes to build strength by riding, just round her road initially but hopefully further. If it isn’t the right bike she can return it and we can look for another one. All the projects bikes are offered on free long term loan for as long as they are needed. If we can build a library of bikes, taking them from sheds and garages where they are gathering dust and rust, our volunteers can use their time and skills and put them in the hands of people who will make the most of them. No library card needed – just get in touch if you think you might want to be part of the project.