Riding an Elephant (Bike) Over the Pennines

OP
IaninSheffield

IaninSheffield

Über Member
Location
Sheffield, UK
I did the 120 miles from Wallasey to Anglesey. And 120 back.
That was using Sturmey Archer.
Sleeping rough in barns when I could find a farmer to allow it.
BUT BUT BUT
That was 55 years ago when I was a fit young teenager and traffic was lighter :rolleyes:^_^
I could not even dream of it now.
Hats off to you @IaninSheffield and thanks for an enjoyable read.
Thanks Dave. Yeah, I can't see me seeking out agricultural accommodation anytime soon either ... at least not withstanding disasters! But a tent still has some appeal ... when the weather's reasonable and whilst I'm still physically able enough.
Traffic is definitely a concern though, which makes careful planning a priority ... whenever possible.
 

BoldonLad

Veteran
Location
South Tyneside
Very enjoyable read!

Now, I wonder if I can convince Mrs Boldonlad to give it a try?

Perhaps, I need to wait until she has had a couple of G&Ts before starting that conversation? ;)
 
Epilogue
Although this was an impromptu brief tour making the most of a sunny weather window, it also provided a testbed opportunity. First and foremost could I nudge out the limits of what might be considered a touring bike, and secondly, whether off-season (and therefore cheaper) autumn touring would suit me now that that time of year is open to me? In both cases the answer was yes, but with reservations. Let me go through some of my thoughts, whilst acknowledging that this was a relatively short tour in duration and distance.


The Elephant Bike
As a second-hand, but well-restored bike costing £250, the Elephant represents excellent value for money. It’s general load-lugging capability, simplicity and reliability (so far) proved tough to beat. The rear rack is both larger than standard racks and forms part of the frame, making it arguably less likely to fail. The front ‘basket’ was really useful and provided a simple place to quickly pop things for easy retrieval, however, I probably need to source a cover or suitable cargo net to keep everything in place. I also need to find mounts for water bottles and pump, though that shouldn’t be hard with the popularity of bikepacking and the add-ons now available. Coming with a set of Marathon Plus tyres, drum brakes and a hub gear system meant that mechanical problems were unlikely, and so it proved (although I have yet to resolve the bottom bracket squeal). When I first acquired the bike I chose to swap out the standard comfort saddle for something more appropriate and settled on the tan-coloured ‘Charge Spoon,’ not knowing whether it would suit my rear end; fortunately things worked out well and I had no problems in that department.

If you’ve read the preceding posts, my comments regarding gearing would have been hard to ignore. Maybe three speeds would have been enough, but I definitely needed a wider spread. I could just about live with the top gear as it is - cruising at about 16mph on the flat was comfortable - but the bottom gear just can’t cut hauling such a load up steeper inclines. Changing a sprocket of course won’t help here, but I wonder whether the five-speed Sturmey might be an option … but then would I be straying too far from the bike’s history and integrity? This has an impact on route choice and although I did my best to find a Pennine crossing of low demand, those short, stiff gradients often don’t show up when working at the larger scales of touring routes.

For ‘fun,’ when I arrived home I measured how heavy the load was; bike plus kit came to 40kg. Ouch! Naturally when the bike needed to be lifted, such as when loading it onto a train, it took some effort. I was just glad that each of the stations where I needed to change platforms had a lift and I didn’t need to manhandle the bike up and down stairs. As you may have noted in the earlier photos, the front ‘basket’ provided further challenges with bike spaces on trains; these simply aren’t amenable to a bike of this style. The hanging hook versions would be completely impractical.

Although the weather was mostly good, I had of course chosen the slot for that very reason, the temperatures of autumnal night times are starting to push at the limits of what I’m happy with. My sleep system proved up to the job, but getting up in the middle of the night and tramping across a soaking grassy field is no joy at this time of year. On the other hand, sites are cheaper, less likely to be full and are mostly quieter since the young folks are back at school. I’ve been wondering whether hostelling - cheap, but somewhat more expensive than camping - might be one way to extend my touring season?

So will the Elephant be accompanying me on future tours? It certainly attracts attention and initiated a few conversations I might otherwise not have enjoyed. It’s practicality is also to be commended, setting aside the issues of weight and gearing. Perhaps I just need to be mindful about the places we choose to go. I’ve heard the Netherlands can be nice ...


Expenditure
Accommodation: £21
Rail fares: £42 (with Seniors railcard!)
Refreshments/food: £45
Thank you so much for the travelogue Ian. I really like the look of that route. Today has given me the first chance to read your log in full. I have the maps out now and I think this is the route we will be doing next year. Looking at 3 or 4 B&Bs as well. Thank you once again. A great help.Ken
 
OP
IaninSheffield

IaninSheffield

Über Member
Location
Sheffield, UK
Thank you so much for the travelogue Ian. I really like the look of that route. Today has given me the first chance to read your log in full. I have the maps out now and I think this is the route we will be doing next year. Looking at 3 or 4 B&Bs as well. Thank you once again. A great help.Ken
Glad you enjoyed it Ken and you're welcome.
If the gpx files for the route would be of any help, let me know.
Here's hoping you're able to get things underway, and I look forward to reading your account 😉
 
Epilogue
Although this was an impromptu brief tour making the most of a sunny weather window, it also provided a testbed opportunity. First and foremost could I nudge out the limits of what might be considered a touring bike, and secondly, whether off-season (and therefore cheaper) autumn touring would suit me now that that time of year is open to me? In both cases the answer was yes, but with reservations. Let me go through some of my thoughts, whilst acknowledging that this was a relatively short tour in duration and distance.


The Elephant Bike
As a second-hand, but well-restored bike costing £250, the Elephant represents excellent value for money. It’s general load-lugging capability, simplicity and reliability (so far) proved tough to beat. The rear rack is both larger than standard racks and forms part of the frame, making it arguably less likely to fail. The front ‘basket’ was really useful and provided a simple place to quickly pop things for easy retrieval, however, I probably need to source a cover or suitable cargo net to keep everything in place. I also need to find mounts for water bottles and pump, though that shouldn’t be hard with the popularity of bikepacking and the add-ons now available. Coming with a set of Marathon Plus tyres, drum brakes and a hub gear system meant that mechanical problems were unlikely, and so it proved (although I have yet to resolve the bottom bracket squeal). When I first acquired the bike I chose to swap out the standard comfort saddle for something more appropriate and settled on the tan-coloured ‘Charge Spoon,’ not knowing whether it would suit my rear end; fortunately things worked out well and I had no problems in that department.

If you’ve read the preceding posts, my comments regarding gearing would have been hard to ignore. Maybe three speeds would have been enough, but I definitely needed a wider spread. I could just about live with the top gear as it is - cruising at about 16mph on the flat was comfortable - but the bottom gear just can’t cut hauling such a load up steeper inclines. Changing a sprocket of course won’t help here, but I wonder whether the five-speed Sturmey might be an option … but then would I be straying too far from the bike’s history and integrity? This has an impact on route choice and although I did my best to find a Pennine crossing of low demand, those short, stiff gradients often don’t show up when working at the larger scales of touring routes.

For ‘fun,’ when I arrived home I measured how heavy the load was; bike plus kit came to 40kg. Ouch! Naturally when the bike needed to be lifted, such as when loading it onto a train, it took some effort. I was just glad that each of the stations where I needed to change platforms had a lift and I didn’t need to manhandle the bike up and down stairs. As you may have noted in the earlier photos, the front ‘basket’ provided further challenges with bike spaces on trains; these simply aren’t amenable to a bike of this style. The hanging hook versions would be completely impractical.

Although the weather was mostly good, I had of course chosen the slot for that very reason, the temperatures of autumnal night times are starting to push at the limits of what I’m happy with. My sleep system proved up to the job, but getting up in the middle of the night and tramping across a soaking grassy field is no joy at this time of year. On the other hand, sites are cheaper, less likely to be full and are mostly quieter since the young folks are back at school. I’ve been wondering whether hostelling - cheap, but somewhat more expensive than camping - might be one way to extend my touring season?

So will the Elephant be accompanying me on future tours? It certainly attracts attention and initiated a few conversations I might otherwise not have enjoyed. It’s practicality is also to be commended, setting aside the issues of weight and gearing. Perhaps I just need to be mindful about the places we choose to go. I’ve heard the Netherlands can be nice ...


Expenditure
Accommodation: £21
Rail fares: £42 (with Seniors railcard!)
Refreshments/food: £45
Cracking tour report! Loved it.
 
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