A Breath of Fresh Air

How I'm getting back out into the countryside whilst living with MS

Archive for the tag “Electric bicycle”

Hibernation

I’ve decided to place my blog into hibernation. I started it as I wanted to share the difference in outlook that our tandem had brought to my life, now that MS is part of it. I hope that I’ve been able to get across how it’s helped me, not only to get outside again, but to actively try to be out in as many different ways as possible. And not just to be outside but to be immersed in the countryside once more, to get muddy and rained on and to smell the grass in sheep-nibbled fields again.

enjoying a summer evening

enjoying a summer evening

I don’t want to become repetitive so I thought I’d take a break. I shall only be taking a break from writing the blog though – definitely not from having adventures! We shall continue to cycle, bumping along uneven paths, to track down more bird-watching haunts and to splash about in the canoe. I might even try something new again if something catches my eye. I know it would be worth my while.

by Hebden Water

by Hebden Water

In the meantime, I’ve loved hearing from other people who have tried out new ways of adventuring, be it by adapted cycle, tramper or horse riding.

a little damp on the Camel Trail!

a little damp on the Camel Trail!

We have a weekend away coming up with EMpowered people which I’m looking forward to. It will be good to mix with others who have similar tales to tell again, and to swap our experiences. There are many more Lakeland tarns to glide across and the wheelchair is getting used to being pushed along unlikely paths.

muddy Pennine paths

muddy Pennine paths

Then there’s the Paralympics coming up soon, and when I start to feel a little bit inadequate in the face of their superhuman efforts, I can remind myself of just what I am achieving. Just as the Olympics inspire people to try something out, the Paralympics remind me that I have adapted my life to get out there and do something – there will be no hibernating for me!

tandem happy amongst the sheep

tandem happy amongst the sheep

Camel Riding

start of Camel Tail, Padstow

start of Camel Tail, Padstow

… along the Camel Trail in Cornwall! We have just taken the tandem on its longest journey away from home yet. We were staying in Padstow, which is at the start of the cycle route along the Camel estuary.

low tide in the Camel estuary

low tide in the Camel estuary

We went on a ride from the beginning of the trail along to Wadebridge, following an ever-changing view as the tide gradually ebbed, revealing many levels of wet sand, and rivulets heading out to sea. We sat and watched oystercatchers foraging about in the shallow water, and even saw a little egret – we were very proud of that sighting!

little egret

little egret

The trail was popular, not only with cyclists of all ages, but walkers too, many of whom had their dogs scampering along beside them. And all along the route there were many primroses – more than I’ve ever seen before! I’m used to seeing the odd cluster half hiding under a larger bush, not banks of them splashing the grass bright yellow.

banks of primroses

banks of primroses

close-up!

close-up!

We supped a refreshing cuppa bought from ‘treats on trikes’, a portable bike kiosk by the side of the path. The weather was somewhat cooler than we had hoped that morning and the warming tea was most welcome!

It was five miles to Wadebridge and a good place for me to have a longer reviving stop. Unfortunately, the weather had deteriorated when we got back outside for the return journey.

'treats on trikes'

‘treats on trikes’

At this point, the electric wheel came into its own – Pete pushed the magic button and we whizzed back in double-quick time! The rain splashed sharply on my cheeks as we went along but it’s always a good way of knowing you are definitely outside!

The extra adjustment of the crank shaft was also noticeable, both in reducing the rotation of my legs so that I was using significantly less effort, and in the increase in comments that ‘hey, you’re not pedalling at the back!’. I used to think they were just jokes but now I’m beginning to think it’s a genuine cry when they see that my legs are moving so much less than Pete’s!

bridge at start of trail

bridge at start of trail

I should add that we had some lovely sunny days whilst we were in Cornwall too, and the views were glorious!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

high tide, in sunshine

Back in the Saddle

It was one of those dull overcast days where you just wanted to stay in all day … preferably under the duvet! But we decided that the best way to counter this was by pushing through the heavy weather on the tandem. Looking up at the threatening sky, we did waiver a little!

In order for me to have a different experience and to get further afield, I drove up the valley to Todmorden, leaving the car at the railway station. Pete cycled there on the tandem (to the obligatory cry of ‘you’ve lost your passenger!’ from a passer-by).

Canada goose with goslings, Rochdale canal

Canada goose with goslings, Rochdale canal

We then found the canal towpath and headed forth. I soon felt better for being out, even if the weather was a little cool (in June!! Not allowed!). There were many Canada geese with fluffy goslings to enjoy, and a few other cyclists were also using the route.

Just on the edge of Todmorden is the highest canal wall I have ever seen. The train runs just beyond the top of it. It is an immense pile of bricks! More amazing Victorian engineering – I really am in awe of it all!

towering wall along the canal

towering wall along the canal

It’s a wonderfully rough and wild landscape, sometimes passing by the backs of people’s houses, their gardens stretching right down to the towpath. It’s unlandscaped, even scruffy in parts, but very restful.

We spent many happy minutes watching swifts (we think – they were very fast!) flying non-stop up and down the water, high and low, swerving, swooping, never still. It was quite mesmerising.

peace

peace

Our destination was Hollingworth lake, about eight miles away, on the outskirts of Rochdale – and after three miles that felt like a lot too far! However, we could only do half the distance along the canal as, from its highest point onwards (around the border with Lancashire), there are an evil set of narrow gates which make it practically impossible to take the tandem through, as we found out on an earlier trip that way.

It turned out all right in the end though as, although we had to cycle half the distance by road, it was a far quicker half and it left me much less time to worry about how I was feeling! I have to say that lunch at journey’s end was extremely welcome and it was a while before I felt like communicating!

Once I’d recovered, I watched the sailing boats jumping across the lake in the now brisk breeze, then went back inside the warm cafe to wait for the train.

sailing boats on Hollingworth lake

sailing boats on Hollingworth lake

The station at Littleborough is only a mile or so from the lake and I made it there without a problem, now fortified by food and a mug of tea. Pete waved me off on the train and had the task of cycling the whole way home by solo tandem. He used the electric motor more than usual due to the now very threatening clouds (or so he tells me!) and found out just how long the battery lasts … to the bottom of the very steep hill leading up to our house (ouch!).

Canalside Cycle

It was cold and the sky was hidden under a solid bank of cloud. But it couldn’t be helped – we were definitely going out on the tandem. I’d not been able to get out properly for what felt like ages. Tedious reasons: Pete’s Knee and a virus. And whilst the snow was pretty (for a day, anyway!), it wasn’t compatible with using the tandem.

icy waters, Rochdale canal

icy waters, Rochdale canal

So, dull weather or not, we were going! We wrapped up well (I had on six layers, and three for my legs!). It was a while since we had made use of the canal and we decided that this flat route would be a good one to get us back out again. I left the car at the station and then we were off.

Signs of the cold spell covered the water – breaking ice stretched over many sections. I felt even colder. Several barges were moored along the path but there was little sign of life, just a few geese padding along the ice. The canal felt asleep, hibernating, but it was still beautiful and restful.

We cycled on, passing the odd group of few walkers. It felt like there were just a few of us who knew of this path. A couple of mountain bikers sped past, covered in mud (as they should be!).

homely barges

homely barges

My layers did a pretty good job of keeping out the cold – it’s a distinct concern when you aren’t expanding lots of energy pedalling. However, I was wearing thin footwear and the cold really got to my feet. It made me very aware I was outdoors, so there was some good out of it (she said desperately!).

But when we had our soup stop I held on to my cup very firmly. I felt the warmth extending down to my poor feet, and acting as a hot water bottle on my hands. Pete insisted on giving me one of his fleeces as he assured me he was warm enough after his exertions (so lovely!). It was the vital seventh layer! I was now perfectly snug and I did a good job of forgetting about my feet, cycling on happily and enjoying the quiet landscape.

canalside soup stop

canalside soup stop

After a tasty lunch in Todmorden we carried on for a couple of miles with the aim of dropping me off at Walsden station to get the train back to the car.

One of the great things about this route is that you get the chance to appreciate lots of Victorian engineering – there are many locks along the way as height is gently gained. You can also spot the old lockkeepers cottages as you pass. Sometimes there’s a little hamlet around the lock, then it’s out into the wilds again.

railway bridge near Walsden

railway bridge near Walsden

Past Todmorden we were able to admire a wonderful Victorian railway bridge complete with turrets, crossing above the canal. And the sun came out!

We had to employ a slight change of plan regarding the train – there was only one train an hour from Walsden (with a long wait until the next one) so we headed back to Todmorden where there were two an hour – and one was almost due! We sorted a ticket out as fast as we could then I turned towards the platform … only to be confronted by a tower of stairs. There was no way I was going to get that train; it would be a very slow haul up the steps, especially after being on the bike.

Then a man who had just got off the train saw me and ran back to the guard to say there was another passenger on the way, and the guard waited the train for me. These kind acts gave me an extra glow to go with my tandem glow!

sunshine!

sunshine!

New Year Bites

Hebden Water in Hardcastle Crags

Hebden Water in Hardcastle Crags

It wasn’t raining and it wasn’t blowing a gale … indeed, the sky was blue and tempting. It looked like I would be able to get out my new Christmas helmet and we could set off on the first expedition of the year. (Hooray!)

at Walsden

at Walshaw

We headed off for the woods of Hardcastle Crags, making good progress now that we were used to the bumps of the stony track. The sun slanted through the trees and I took full advantage of my non-steering back seat to look at the beautiful shapes made by the bare branches. Very happiness-inducing!

Fortified by soup at the cafe in the woods, we then headed up the steady incline, until we were above the trees (thanks, again, to the electric wheel!) Then we continued along a rough road, stopping in the isolated hamlet of Walshaw to enjoy the views in every direction and to peer into a barn of wintering sheep. We were rather envious of them –  stopping in this  exposed place made us realise just how cold it was, despite the sun!

towards Widdop

towards Widdop

We looked along the road as it disappeared over undulating moors to see where we might explore on another day, then turned back on ourselves. However, instead of heading back down into the woods, we kept our height and bounced along the top road. We passed a few walkers, all, like us, enjoying being able to get outside during this welcome break in the stormy Christmas weather.

peering in at the cosy sheep

peering in at the cosy sheep

As the sun lost some of its height, (too soon at this time of the year!) its light softened, creating beautiful yellowy oranges in the sky and in the fields below, whilst to the west the light was sharper and brighter, interspersed with long shadows cast by the hilltop houses. We stopped to take it all in but, despite our warm flask of coffee, (we remembered this time!) we had to hop back aboard the bike quite swiftly as the weather was definitely not getting any warmer!

The only problem with getting up on to the tops is the descent afterwards – it is quite steep and very bumpy, though I think I must be getting more used to it as I didn’t find it too bad this time. I am becoming an experienced (back-seat) rider!

looking west

looking west

News Round-Up

Some cheering things to report: a member of my local MS Society, having read about my tandem adventures, is looking at cycling again for himself, post MS! He’s looking into the possibility of using a three-wheeler bike to help with balance.

In other bike-related news, we heard that electric bikes are no longer limited to one-person bikes and that it’s now feasible to get an electric tandem. We did not want to have to trade in our lovely bike so, after much surfing of the internet, Pete has tracked down a motor that will fix on to our bike.*

A few hours spent making the necessary adjustments later, it is now attached and we are raring to go on our very own electric wheels! We should be able to power up the Yorkshire hills no problem now on 250 watts of (road and bridleway legal) raw power! Especially as The Knee is improving steadily and should be up to doing a spot of pedalling now.

the new electric wheel

the new electric wheel

Elsewhere, I had a chat to my MS nurse, generally bemoaning the fact that there aren’t any suitable drugs for me for my MS circumstances. However, she told me about a recent course she attended where one speaker was emphasising the importance of keeping active so far as you can, along with healthy eating, so that you can cope with any relapses and underlying myelin damage.

It was a good reminder that doing what I can is important. Well, I knew really but it’s always good to hear it again out loud, and being able to do anything that might help against this condition is welcome – even better if it’s fun as well! Better check the kitchen cupboards though as I’ve been getting a bit slack on the healthy eating front recently!

And finally, I’ve booked to go on an archery course in the autumn …

* Details of how we added the electric wheel are on the About the Tandem page

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: