Canal 25, clockwise.

I rode the cyclocross with MapMyRide+! Distance: 25.88km, time: 02:02:36, pace: 4:44min/km, speed: 12.67km/h.

Habits can be hard to break, especially when you don’t think about them. Today, my Saturday early ride was changed simply by taking the route the opposite way round. It made all the difference.
We’re getting closer to winter, the ground is becoming softer, almost too soft for these tyres. For now, these gravel treads will do, but the winter knobbies will be needed soon.

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Need a holiday.

12°C, dry and fresh, dark early.

I rode Mustang with MapMyRide+! Distance: 29.98km, time: 01:30:04, pace: 3:00min/km, speed: 19.97km/h.

Moody sunset.

I need a holiday. I feel tired physically such that even running up the stairs is hard. But on the ride, my head felt better as the miles wheeled by. Towards the end, putting on a burst was quite a pleasure. So its head tiredness, not legs.

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Typical Sunday.

I rode Jake with MapMyRide+! Distance: 59.60km, time: 03:07:05, pace: 3:08min/km, speed: 19.11km/h.​

Autumn is the start of the Cyclocross season, so it’s fitting to ride on the Jake. It’s windy today which makes the fixed gear a poor choice. There’s always a long leg into the wind, not much fun.

Today, the ride was largely gravel tracks and canal towpaths. Not so many fishermen were out today. They can be a bit annoying when I have to wait for them to move those enormous poles out of the path.

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Looking for a bag.

I’m after a winter sleeping. I’m in the Mountain Leader consolidation period where I need more mountain days (and nights). While I’m searching for a new bag, I can’t develop my mountain Dlog.
Why hesitate then? You may ask, but not that many bags meet my requirements:
Long, at least 215cm internal length,
Warm, cosy down to -6°C,
Compression, packed down, it must fit into my expedition rucksack.​

This one is top of my list.

There are a few bags that may suit. Mountain hardwear, Montaine, and Snugpak.

Once equipped, I am free to have adventures. Camp near Llyn Edno, explore Moel Hebog and then the Berwyns. I plan to go in a few weeks, at half-term. At least one wild camp too.

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Gold and Silver qualifying expeditions.

One cool and windy week in the black mountains, South Wales.​

On the road to Cafl-y-Ffin

Chris took the Gold group and I did the Silver with Carl.
Silver do 3 nights and Gold 4. Carl took the Silvers home and then I stayed with Chris to cover the Gold’s last day. Most of the Silver girls were carrying heavy bags, up to 16Kg which is a bit much for the smaller ones. It turned out that the excess was clothing. Many brought a change of clothes for each day. The Golds didn’t make that mistake, but conversely, they were cold at night. Mind you, the Gold group complained of cold too. Especially the sole male in the group. He was the only one sleeping alone, (as far as we know).
The picture above shows a defaced sign in one of the narrow lanes. Many were so narrow that both sides of the minibus were scratched at the same time by overhanging vegetation.
The staff base, a youth hostel, was up to am hour away from the kids’ camps. In response, Carl and I drove over after supper and pitched in near the gold and silver groups’ site. They were all quiet and inside tents, probably asleep by then, 10pm. It turns out that most nights, they were asleep by 7.30pm. That means nice, long sleeps which can only help their daytime progress.

In the end, they all passed easily. On the return journey, they seemed less tired and generally satisfied. So were we.

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Packing for DofE, last expedition of the year.

12°C, rain.
Gold and Silver groups go on qualifying this coming week. I think they’ll be fine, but the conditions are very different to their summer Practice trip. A new terrain, The Black Mountains, earlier sunset and cold nights.​
Staff are staying in a Youth Hostel, but a few of us are taking light camping gear for a planned wild camp. The kids will break camp before dawn and we would like to be on the ridges before the get there. So Carl says, why not camp up there. He wants to bivvy, I will take both a bivvy and the small tent. We both want some mountain days.
It would be nice to appear at the and of a long climb to encourage the kids. Or, help with any problems.
I hope they did some preparation over the summer to keep fitness. Their practice was very good.

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Clearwater canal.

I rode The Jake with MapMyRide+! Distance: 23.61km, time: 01:35:13, pace: 4:02min/km, speed: 14.88km/h.

Canalside apples.

An early morning short outing to warm up for the day. Only 14 miles and a familiar route along towpaths. The ground is softer now, rain has done that. In summer, all soil was as hard as rock. All the ruts are jarring on hands. Today was much easier. One stretch with more clay in the soil was slippery, but even that was fun.
I like that bike.

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Colourful commute.

I rode the Mustang with MapMyRide+! Distance: 36.86km, time: 01:46:41, pace: 2:54min/km, speed: 20.73km/h.

A treat to witness such a fine sunset on the way home. Each half minute, the light would change. Fascinating.

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Review: Raleigh Mustang.

I’ve had this bike a few weeks now and it’s time to write a review.
Firstly, some context: I’m not a cycle journalist and haven’t ridden many bikes. This one will compared with my others, a couple of steel roads bikes and an aluminium cross bike from Kona.
The Mustang is an entry level ‘gravel’ bike from Raleigh. Others in the range have uprated drive trains and lighter wheels. Mine is the 62cm 2016 model with 8-speed Claris transmission. I bought it for commuting and soon changed to a higher ration cassette and fitted narrower wheels and tyres.

Delivered, it came with a carrier and mudguards that I asked for. Off the peg, you would buy it bare of this kit.
My personal top priority is fit. The frame on this 62cm model has a 60cm effective top tube. That’s what attracted of to this bike initially, I stand a fair chance of getting a machine that fits. Raleigh saw fit to spec wider bars and longer cranks in proportion (44cm and 175mm respectively). On paper, at least, something I can work with.
As you can see in the photo above, there is clearance for mudguards with the supplied 35C Schwalbe CX tyres.
My first proper ride included the added rack and guards but original tyres. I went on all terrains: road, trail, canal towpath and Southport was great on all of them. Unless you want to compete, you wouldn’t need a cyclocross bike. Most modern bikes have 10 or more closely spaced ratio gears, this one has 8. The larger gaps are noticeable. It’s inevitable when spread between 12 and 32 tooth cogs. I decided to change that before starting rides to work. I ordered a 13-26 considering the very low 34t chairing.

Now, it feels about right. Handling is impressive, even when loaded up with my bag. The most noticeable feature is improved stiffness over my old steel audax bike. Even though the frame geometry is more slack here, the handling is more nimble, probably because of the stiffer frame keeping the geometry true under load, especially out of the saddle. It’s easy to keep your path true and easy to nip around pot-holes. There are still huge numbers not repaired from last winter, it’s now late September.
Did I mention how much I like the colour? This fees blue almost glows in the ultra violet. I hope the paint is resistant to chipping.
Disadvantages: first, weight. It’s only slightly lighter than the Columbus steel bike at about 12kg. Lighter wheels would help this hugely, as would the next item.
Chainset, square taper bottom bracket and heavy looking cranks look like a good area to upgrade.
Saddle, I had to change this immediately. The Charge Spoon solved it easily. The supplied seat was too narrow and put too much pressure on the edge of the chamois.
Geometry: the front of the frame holds the handlebars very high. I have moved them as low as possible, but it still seems high to me. I can get used to it though.
Wheels : they’re a bit heavy with weight at the rims but also strong. I have a second pair with lighter rims and 28C tyres

Overall, there is one word that summarised this bike- versatile.
Road, trail, grassy paths and even sandy beaches are accessible. It’s a go anywhere bike that can do a decent turn of speed on the road. It’s both solid and comfortable enough for distance sides, including touring.

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Sunday fixed.

I rode the Paddy Wagon with MapMyRide+! Distance: 81.64km, time: 03:07:59, pace: 2:18min/km, speed: 26.06km/h.

This isn’t the Paddy Wagon, it’s the cross bike I rode yesterday. That was a 25 mile ride in fine sunshine.

Took a variant on a familiar route that includes Bannister Hill. This is a benchmark for me. Today, it felt tougher than previous ascents this year. That’s the effect of not climbing anything serious for months.
On the other hand, the overall average was higher so my basic fitness is sound. It’s just that some climbing strength gap diminished.
Wasp sting: has swollen up all round my ankle. It looks like a sprain. There’s no pain of course, but it does itch.

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