For any bike boffins – here’s a quick boffin update: a few months ago my first Roberts (a ‘hot pink’ one which I first sat upon in late ’88) underwent a facelift care of Chas and Brian at Roberts Cycles. It is now a shiny bruised bashed-about-looking blue-black with a Rohloff hub. My Shimano XT rear derailleur had taken me far and wide without a hitch so I took some persuading to swap it for a Rohloff. When I first set eyes upon my new fat hub I peered at it a tad suspiciously – after all – what on earth goes on in there behind all those closed curtains of wrapped metal? In the event, it took me all of a good … ooh … thirty seconds to become an immediate convert to the super-gear-gliding ease and joy of it all. And all in one hand too! Admittedly, things took a little while to bed in – mostly the middle gears around 6/7/8 which were a bit noisy for the first 500 miles or so, but nothing that bothered me unduly – after all, Molly makes far more cooing, tra-laaing chatty racket attached to my rear so rather handily drowned it out. Apart from it all being so easy on the gear-changing front, one big benefit is that whereas derailleurs eat chains, Rohloffs don’t. I have yet to test it in lands a-far but that’s where I ultimately aim it to go with my boisterous cargo attached.
Meanwhile, apart from a flurry of poppers popping their poppers and some weak and wobbly stitching on the flagpole-mounting pocket (all easily self-mended), my Burley trailer continues to come up trumps. This Molly Mobile has hauled the aforementioned and ever-weightier Molly some 3000 miles over local and not-so-local hill and pothole. Her seat on my rear rack now seems to act mostly as a receptacle for carrying her potty, though I’m pleased to say she’s learning fast to go at the roadside or behind a conveniently positioned bush in true cycle-camping manner.
Over on another foot (any toe-clipped or clip-less will do), for those interested in the CTC (Cyclists’ Touring Club’) I have now had what is apparently called my Vice Presidential ‘induction’ – luckily nothing to do with bringing on a birth but more to do with meeting all those at the handlebar helm at CTC HQ in Guildford and hearing what a sterling job they do for cycling King and country. Then at the end of April, I dragged the builder and Molly up to Chester with me for the club’s AGM and National Dinner. I was expecting to be crawling around on our hands and knees sleeping in a waterlogged tent (much like at the York Rally), but instead we were put up in the swanky and centurion-themed Queen Hotel where we thought it was only polite to unleash our bottomless-pitted cyclists’ appetite at the breakfast bar. We survived an hour of the three-hour or so AGM (full of special resolutions and ordinary resolutions and proposers and proxy voting and the odd punchy ex-councillor) but AGM’s are not made for two-year-old Mollys (especially not freshly toilet-trained ones) so we slid out of the back and wandered off to the market square where there stood a colourful cluster of cycling-flavoured stalls (CTC, Chester Cycling Campaign, Sustrans etc) advertising the merits of cycling and all throwing freebies our way. At one point I was intercepted by a friendly woman who wanted to shake my hand and thank me for writing my books (I think there must be something in the Chester air that can make people act a little light-headed but I enjoyed the moment while it lasted) and then she shook the builder’s hand to thank him for being the man who slowed Josie Dew down. I assured her it was only a temporary slow-down and that once Molly was big enough to fit on the back of my tandem without toppling off to starboard things will speed up again.