Salisbury Plain, 5 Aug 2023
A factual report on the recent Tour De Salisbury Plain.
Form EXB54B was dutifully filled in and posted 1st class to God asking for nice weather along with gentle breezes and sunshine. However, the form must have got lost as God decided to deliver up the worst storm in August for 30 years (so I am reliably informed).
So it was a glorious 6 riders who assembled in the CO-OP car park including; Big Ring, Tonka, Maj Meccano, JC, Mrs Doyle and Smashie who was a little late as he had taken his pills and that always produces bladder problems.
First stop was a slap-up breakfast with the favourite dish du jour being a “regular breakfast” but no-one could fail to note that our very own Maj Meccano is showing “vegetarian” tendencies which is a cause for concern. He must be under some “mental strain” at the moment and of course we are all concerned.
Anyway we were all paid up and ventured out to find the bikes and fettle the kit. We were all ready when the ever observant RM noticed some flatulence in Maj Meccano’s rear tyre. The Travelling Community van had to be reopened and the “special pump” retrieved for reinflation.
A sheepish Maj Meccano admitted that a last minute decision to change bike resulted in a failure to check tyre pressures. See…. vegetarianism is no good for you at all!
Look even his wife has to wear a disguise to avoid being seen in his presence.
We then set off again up Pewsey High street and along the road to climb Pewsey Hill. We encounter our first stile and although we could have gone around, we decided to hoik all the bikes over the dodgy stile instead. All good, and we work as a team to get the E-bikes up and over – what a breeze with everyone working in harmony.
We then set off up the very windy, grassy and “groovy” trail to the top. These “grooves” are deep and thin resulting in two perils to the rider; pedal strike and front wheel over grip. Pedal strike is easy to explain; the groove is so deep that the pedals strike the shoulders of the groove on each side causing instability and possible feet down, so the rider stops, establishes stability, and goes again. The “wheel over grip” is where the front wheel tries to grip the side of the grove and half succeeds. The rider thinks they are climbing out of the grove but then the tyre loses grip resulting in an involuntary dismount. The precipitous fall to one side makes for a very disconcerting ride for all. Maj Meccano has a minor dismount that was ruled to be incompetence rather than a fall.
Smashie then suffers what will turn out to be a major mechanical although it was disguised as a botanical. Our hero has to stop and remove a small shrubbery from his rear gear changing mechanism. It was thought this was the end of the matter but we were to find out later this was the harbinger of a ride curtailing disaster. Unbeknownst to our hero the rear mech hanger has got ever so slightly bent. As all Bird owners will know, failure to recognise this fateful condition can be catastrophic.
Anyway, unaware of the true state of his bike, the RM led the peleton over Pewsey Hill and we rest in the lee of a large shrubbery to gather our thoughts. Although the heavy dew was probably more like light drizzle at this point, the 45 mph wind was making cycling through deep grass and soggy wheat chaff a tad exhausting.
We then head along the Pewsey Hill ridge past Down Farm and through the Everleigh Barrows ending up in Lower Everleigh.
Lower Everleigh – renowned as a place to have fun …. not
We then take the track less well travelled to East Everleigh and Smashie’s undiagnosed bent hanger starts to really play up. The chain is both on and off at the same time and frequently gets stuck between the big ring and the spokes. Smashie, always proud to keep his bike in tip top condition (no expense spared) is NOT amused, a puts on his “slapped arse” face. He beats his bike with a bit of grass “John Cleese” style.
We reach the top of the “false flat” and the nettles are causing much consternation with deep swathes of nettles, docks and grass meaning that it was impossible to see what the terrain underneath was doing. Subsequently Tonka takes a full face plant when his front wheel was swallowed up by a trench. He seemed highly amused but everyone was concerned. Perhaps the nettle lashing distracted him from what looked like a painful fall.
We then head down hill along a signposted bridleway that was not there. Freestyle riding through giant hogweed, triffids and nature was not really that exhilarating after all as it was hard work.
We then regroup on an army access road and head up another false flat only for the pedal and crank to fall off Mrs Doyle’s E-bike. Tonka is furious as he has made the crank and pedal falling off trick very much his own. Anyway no time for histrionics as we set about attaching the crank and pedal back to the bike. To accompany this endeavour the team put in a quick Mexican dance as is the tradition and when finished
Mrs Doyle offers everyone a cheese sandwich and a homemade energy bar.
Mrs Doyle really is a top chap.
A Picture of Mrs Doyle’s E-bike with crank reattached in roughly the right place
We get going again and Smashie is lulled into false sense of security but when we hit the claggy, sticks to everything mud section, the chain is on and off every six feet. The mud is horrendous and so thick the dropouts mould the mud on the tyre as it rotates.
Then we get onto the Plain and we take off down the long straight to Sidbury Hill and since we are against a 45mph wind this takes a while but least some of the mud has fallen off the bikes.
We then pass the parachute drop zone and the location where Slumpy had his first puncture.
Next it was the Bridleway mistakenly marked as a footpath and we pedal up another false flat with thick layers of manure and soggy chaff making the going pretty tough.
Down the other side as we experience a bit of heavy drizzle as we head to Collingbourne Ducis and the Shears Inn for lunch.
There was trepidation and many wondered if we would be admitted being plastered in mud but the Landlord was most accommodating and as long as we removed our muddy clothes, all was good. JC brought a complete wardrobe change which was very sensible. The Menu was excellent albeit a tad pricey and we munched and drank our way through a good meal. JC got a bit out of control with the cider but it didn’t slow her down after lunch.
Here is a picture of Big Ring just going crazy with enjoyment.
After lunch we started at a slow bimble pace and all was good until we reached a slight upwards incline whereupon Smashie tried to engage with granny. DISASTER – the rear derailleur gets stuck in the rear wheel and the hanger is snapped clean off.
No matter. Smashie is used to these setbacks and produces a spare. Major disassembly is required as the rear MAXLE would not unwind and there was much scratching of heads but as soon the Mexican Banditos started play it was all good.
Smashie sets off again and tried to change gear. DISASTER – the rear gear hanger is ripped clean off again and badly bent. This was a showstopper. With no gears Smashie was dead in the water and now had a face like two slapped arses on both cheeks.
Here is Tonka wondering …no just wondering
Here is a picture of the two broken hangers. They don’t look too bad but closer inspection will reveal a slight bend in each one – enough to really fluck the gear changing on a Bird.
However, Maj Meccano has not been promoted for no reason and having ushered the distraught Smashie into some shelter produced ANOTHER rear mech hanger. What a hero!. So while the heavens opened with a tropical downpour, Smashie sets to work putting the third hanger in place.
Now if you think the SHABI’s are a hard core bunch of miscreants now follows a tale of heart warning beauty – we are all a bunch of softies really. A little baby field mouse was caught out in the downpour and sought shelter under the wheel of Smashie’s prostrated bike. Maj M immediately recognised the poor animal was freezing in the rain and cupped it in his hands blowing on it to restore its body warmth. It soon revived and was much happier until the Mexican music started again and someone suggested that it would get the much warmer, much faster, if someone put it down their shorts. On hearing this the field mouse departed pretty quickly but seemed in high spirits and when it reached a safe distance turned and waved to us as if to say “thankyou”. Ahhhh
So Smashie’s bike is fixed and he resolved not to change gear for the rest of the ride as we are in “last chance saloon” on the rear mech hanger front. We then traverse the “gladiator fields” and make excellent progress to Aughton. However, the false flats are now beginning to tell and JC alerts everyone to a declining battery reserve.
Then as we climb out of Aughton Tonka is in the lead and a beautiful brown hare runs up and stops to stare about 10 feet away – incredible as they observe each other for nearly a minute.
After a refuelling stop a final climb into Everleigh Ashes and we emerge onto the arable plain atop Pewsey Down. Smashie points to the horizon and proclaims its nearly all over …. but there is disbelief in the Peleton who are now reaching “empty” in every sense of the word. Maj Meccano declares all this “we are nearly there nonsense” has to stop but nevertheless we plug on.
Then Big Ring, who has been a pillar of strength and fortitude till this point, notices we are back on the trail we started out on and has an “emotional moment” as everyone realised we really are on the home straight.
So it was back down through the shrubbery and the “grooves” and through the gate at the bottom rather than over the style.
We sweep into Pewsey High street covered in mud and foliage, assailed by vegetation and mechanicals and proud to be called SHABI’s.
We decide that the Indian meal at the Goa is too much as all want to go home and have a lie down.
Thankyou to everyone for making this another epic SHABI special in tough conditions. Your humour and patience was exemplary. I am proud to be your blogger.
I love you all ♥
Rock n Roll