Monday, December 08, 2014

Tool News

We like to keep it local here at PunchBuggy. So here is our new can opener, similar to the old one on the left. The old Swing-A-Way, made in the USA, is being supplemented by the new EZ-DUZ-IT on the right. The story here is that Swing-A-Way outsourced production to the PRC, while selling the tooling to the John J Steuby Company of Hazelwood, Missouri. So we have a new heartland, midwest-made can opener, built to last. $14.63 including tax at Williams-Sonoma.

While getting gas on Saturday we spotted a sign for a local estate sale. I couldn't get there quick enough. The selection of thirteen tools above was picked for $5. All but one Canada or U.S. made, the exception being the small Oxwall bicycle wrench from Japan. The pick of the crop is the Ford branded antique open-ended wrench, inscribed Ford Made In Canada. Also included a Scrulox Robertson screwdriver and my first Mac Tools screwdriver, from Ohio, somewhat abused by the previous owner but good for the 'user' pile.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Autumn in Angoulême

Pic by RLT.
The cycling season is coming to an end here in Toronto. This summer I have covered some 550 miles on three tours. Here is the report of a trip to Angoulême, France in September.

Tues 16 Sept:
An early start. We caught the 05.23 train from Lewes to Ashford, changing at Eastbourne. The connecting service was running late, so we scramble at Ashford for the 07.28 Eurostar to Lille Europe, arriving at 09.30. The early departure is dictated by the limited Eurostar service from Ashford.
We ride the short distance to Lille Flandres station, coffee out front at Restaurant Le Napoléon in the Place de la Gare, immediately panhandled. There are too many beggars hanging round the station. France is doing everything it can to make life unpleasant for tourists.
11.06 Lille Flandres (1st class) to Nantes arrive 15.59. Cycle about 15 miles south, out through the suburbs of Nantes in rush hour traffic, using iPad navigation, a bit stop-start but better than getting lost. Overnight at Château-Thébaud at the winery. The owner had mixed up her days and wasn't expecting us, but all was quickly sorted out. Good digs.
We ride our bikes to beer and buffet supper at Au P'tit Sarment, "Le Bulay" R.N. 137, 44690 Château-Thébaud. Exceptional value for hungry cyclists. Three courses for three people, Euro 40 including drinks. Back at the Cave, on the farm, we are gargling two more bottles of wine, Muscadet and Rose from the fridge.

Weds 17th
Cycle 54 miles. We set off at 09:00. Snacks at St Martin des Noyer, drinks at Bournezeau.
This is the deep end. I am not sleeping (jetlag) or feeding well, it is blazing hot (86 Fahrenheit), and the camions are getting closer as we tackle a long switchback sector on a main road. I arrive exhausted. My companions think I'm faking it. Despite all difficulties I am on my best cycling form.
Overnight at Sainte Hermine, Vendée, in an old chambres d'hôtes with a Citroën 2CV parked in the yard. We have a five room suite at Euro 125 for three.
After lying prostrate we walk out in the town which appears to be closed. We retrace our steps to the main road. Luckily we blunder into Le Minage, 17 Route de la Rochelle, 85210 Sainte-Hermine. They are not yet open so we take a beer in a nearby bar, Au Père La Victoire, in the Place Clemenceau. The supper is quite upmarket, considering the setting, and a proper treat commencing with Kir Royal and seafood starter.

Thurs 18th
Cycle 58 miles. After breakfast in our suite, which is brought on a tray, we set off through the Vendée. We are following the Michelin cycle route, which in places is more suitable for mountain bikes. I am happier back on the blacktop. The first two hours is crucial, as a good launch phase sets you up for the remaining ride. This is windy country with windmills everywhere. Arrive at Mouzeuil-Saint-Martin, Pays de la Loire, on the D104, where we stop at the boulangerie, opposite the Mairie. Exit D68 for Le Langon.
On to the linear village of Vix, which seems to go on forever. Gathering supplies at a pâtisserie we lunch at the bus stop. Then across the ancient canal and on to the Sèvre Niortaise river, which we follow for a while before getting disoriented. We drift south-west to Courçon, where we have a pitstop by the church, then a supermarket stop at Intermarché, Rue de la Distillerie, Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon. Try finding a cold drink in a French supermarket!
Overnight at Vergne in a cheap motel, where we have an inclusive stopover deal with a meal at the Relais Tout Y Faut, out front with the truckers. Overall good. Not sure about the S&M club in back.
A great day in the saddle.

Fri 19th
Cycle 50 miles. News that Scotland voted No.
We make a flying start, teamworking our way south-east on the D115. We divert for a pitstop for Orangina and Perrier at Aulnay, outdoors in the town square, at the Bar Tabac Le Concorde. The weather turns wet at lunchtime as we snack in a bus shelter at Verdille, then exit D66. To Vouharte on the D737, where we meet the dreaded route barrée sign. Always a dilemna for cyclists. Do we divert or press on? We press on passing some road works with ease. We are continuing by the Charente. We want to stop for a drink, but nowhere presents itself. Eventually we stop at our old favourite Bar Le Donjon, Montignac.
On the last travelling day collaboration vanishes as I get tailed off heading uphill on the D737. A sign for Champniers leads to a navigational snafu, resulting in a long downhill on the D37 to the village of Argence, followed by an inevitable climb, all avoidable. (The hotel is not really in Champniers, which may not matter to motorists but is important to this cyclist.) I reach the Hotel Kyriad on a frontage road totally baffled thinking I'd finished. Ride on to Bouticycle shop and all becomes clear.
Arrive at Hotel F1 Angoulême Nord for 3 night stay. Meet up with Pete Webber who joins us for the weekend on his circa-2000 green Brompton bicycle. Beers in the bar at the adjacent Ibis Hotel. Supper at Restaurant La Boucherie, Les Grandes Chaumes, 16430 Champniers.

Sat 20th
Cycle 23 miles. Easy ride (without luggage) to Bric-à-Brac at Vindelle, on the Charente, where Richard snags a cheap road sign. Drinks at recently-opened Le P'tit Varsois, Vars, then D115 to Montignac for beer at the Bar le Donjon once more. We return via Rouhenac. The party splits at Courcon, after the first hill on the tour nobody could cycle up. I am secretly pleased. I lead the charge back to the hotel for a snooze, while the rest take further light refreshment at the Cafe de Pontouvre by the roundabout. Supper at Ristorante Pizzeria Anfiteatro, Zone des Avenauds, Gond Pontouvre.

Sun 21st
A day at the classic car races in Angoulême. We take a taxi into town, encountering a large display of Alpine cars, in the Place des Halles. Paddock tour. Lunch near the Champ de Mars: Latitude Pub, 10 Rue Raymond Poincaré, Angoulême. Indifferent service. The acid test is would you go back? Probably not. We finish at familiar watering hole: Café Bulle, 36 Rue de la Cloche Verte, 16000, Angoulême.

Mon 22nd
Ride into town, then idling at the outdoor station café. 12.27 Angoulême to Lille Europe (1st classs) arrive 16.38. 17.36 Lille Europe to Ashford arrive 17.37. Change for Lewes.

Total: 205 miles approx.

Plus Points: GPS navigation; weather (sometimes too much of a good thing); new gilet suitable, especially in the dark; health benefits (the gift that keeps on giving); no punctures; avoided Paris.

Downsides: Too many professional beggars trading on public stupidity.

Learning points: The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyre is definitely suitable for a Brompton, and desirable on long trips. Cut down on luggage even further.

Overall: Good tour in interesting part of France.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The treno tour - Part 3

Part Three: Italy
The contrast with Switzerland is jaw-dropping. We ride the scruffy local train to Monza (say it Mont-za) amid dereliction and decay. We flee the railway station where undesirables lurk. The first night in Italy, 31st July, we check-in at Locanda San Paolo, Piazza San Paolo 3, Monza, 20900, Italy, +39039325994.
Birthday supper outdoors in considerably warmer weather: Trattoria Caprese, Piazza Roma, 10. Chain restaurant. Overordered at Euro 48.80 for two.
Next morning transfer to: The Penthouse, Via Italia, 44 Monza, 20900, Italy, Tel: 393939119439. Good digs with self catering. Drop off luggage for two nights. Take the bus to Missaglia, meeting friend Rosita at the bus stop. After brief tour, by car to Montevecchia, climbing the 174 steps to the Shrine of our Lady of Mount Carmel, splendid walk and views, then delightful lunch and kind hospitality at Albergo Ristorante Maggioni. The bus goes via Arcore where Silvio Berlusconi has a house. However he was not using his bus pass when we visited and there was no sign of a bunga bunga party.
Luna Cafe, Via Italia, for breakfast, 3 x brioche, 2 x capucci, Euro 7.30, deal. To the station to buy our train tickets for Padua. Then walk to the bike rental location in the massive Royal Park, to tour the autodromo monza. Two bikes, two hours, Euro 12. The park is much run down in places, largely deserted early morning. We pick up beer cans and bin them. Fantastic views of the old banked motor racing circuit, which they are in the process of restoring. They raced on this track in Indy front-engined roadsters in the fifties - outrageous. Cycled round the paddock where there is a cheerful lack of security. At the bike hire place they recommend lunch outdoors at Cascina del Sole, in the park. Good service and value at Euro 30 for two, including tip.
Next day take local train to the magnificent Milan Centrale station, where we change for Padua, boarding the Trenitalia Frecciabianca. The train is five munutes late in arriving and we take a taxi to the hotel: Hotel Albergo Verdi, Via Dondi Dall'Orologio, 7 Padova, 35139 for four nights. Soon we are in "Piazzaworld" lunching in the Piazza Dei Signori, where a storm is brewing and the staff are hurrying to clear the outdoor tables.
This splendid country does grow on you despite beggars, hookers, con artists, etc. We have dodged any depradations so far. All transactions here are strictly cash - "My machine is not working - I do not know why." Gets a bit like a stuck record for the umpteenth time. The real economy here is probably twice the size of government figures. When you have a dysfunctional government you get on with life by other means. The Euro has done nothing but add to Italy's troubles, much industry being shuttered and emigration the chosen option for many.
Hereabouts is the land of the no-gears bicycle - shoppers and roadsters - all ages aboard and in all states of repair. Many derailleurs but hub gears virtually unknown. I did see a few remnants of Sachs and Sturmey Archer days, and the red local hire-scheme bikes had Shimano three speeds. Everybody on parade in the evenings - lights an unlikely optional extra. Electric bikes spotted including with Bosch drivetrain.
Visit to Botanical Gardens, founded 1545, part of the Università degli Studi di Padova. Wonderful oasis away from the crowds, contemplating scientific endeavour over such a sustained period. Spotted Physalis plant, which may explain the name of the charmless bar in Spay, France.
Early start for half-day trip to Venice, travelling by 07:21 train, a journey of about twenty miles. Walked to the Rialto Bridge, St Marks Square, Bridge of Sighs etc. We are amused by the sight of a gondolier glued to his mobile phone. By mid-morning everywhere is bedlam with waves of tourists in grupo tours. So many people overwhelming the place when they could visit Montevecchia in peace. By midday we can take no more and head for the station, taking the 12:05 to Padua.
Lunch at Cafè Il Padovano, Via Martiri della Libertà, 17, 35137 Padua. Sampled local Lugana wine. Supper at Osteria dei Fabbri, Via dei fabbri, Padua. Notable for black pasta. Annette says:

The orecchiette servite con code di gamberi e broccoli (ear-shaped pasta with shrimp and broccoli) and tagliolini neri serviti con vongole veraci e funghi porcini (black noodles with clams and mushrooms) are heavenly! Add excellent ambiance and service and you've got a meal to remember.

Our last full day is spent promenading and shopping. Pizza in the Piazza dei Signori followed by gelato. Also frequented Bar Caffe' Missaglia, Via Santa Lucia, 47 Padova.
Next day Busitalia from Padova to Venice Marco Polo Airport, Euro 8.50 x 2. Air Transat home.
Pleasing to see cultural exports on TV: Top Gear in German, Wheeler Dealers in Italian.

Coffee spoons x 12. Euro 2.50. The cheap variety that make french cafes irresistible. La Vaisselerie, 80 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris, Tel: 0145 22 32 47. Bodum bistro spoons (6 x 14cm Sfr 3.90; 6 x 20cm Sfr 4.90) Bodum 70th Anniversary book, gratis. Bodum Store Luzern, Weinmarkt 7, 6000 Luzern 5, Tel: 041 412 38 38. Bargain bin cycling vest in outlet store, 63 Sfr. Discounted 60%. Outlet Sport by Balmelli, Via Maderno 16, Lugano, Tel: 091 922 67 77. Bodum bistro coffee mug (Sfr 2.40, reduced from Sfr 4.90). Coop St Moritz Bellevue, Via dal Bagn 20, 7500 St. Moritz, Tel: 41 81 837 56 60. Duralex Lys Coupelle or Coppetta x 2, Total Euro 1.80. laRinascente, piazza giuseppe garibaldi, 35122, Padua, Tel: 39 049 8760166.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The treno tour - Part 2

Part Two: Switzerland
The Swiss leg of the trip starts in Basel. We catch the #30 free bus from the train station to the Steinenschanze Stadthotel, Steinengraben 69, 4051 Basel, Tel: +41 61 272 53 53.
We take a walk round town taking in the bookshops and stationery shops, then a tram ride. I spotted a lovely Puch roadster bicycle mit Fichtel und Sachs dreigang. There are many Sturmey Archer survivors en Suisse, which has a strong cycling culture. I read that there are 250,000 e-bikes in Switzerland. Back at the hotel it is time for happy hour, help yourself to a couple of generous glasses of wine with snacks on the house. Recommended.
We take breakfast next morning at the train station, apricot croissants, and coffee, then ride the train to Luzern, via Olten, arriving for early check-in at Waldstaetterhof Hotel, Zentralstrasse 4 6003 Luzern, Tel: +41 (0)41 227 12 71. Comfortable and conveniently close to the station.
After multiple Duralex sightings in France, I found a Bodum shop in Luzern. Bodum are celebrating 70 years and I scored a free commemorative catalogue. Roesti lunch at Restaurant Fritschi, Sternenplatz 5, Lucerne 6004, Tel: +41 41 410 16 15. Afternoon stroll uphill to the Museggmauer (old town wall) which does not seem to be on the tourist beat. Supper at Dean & David Luzern, Morgartenstrasse 4, Lucerne 6003. Close to our hotel. Yogurt afters from Migros.
Next day we catch the steamboat "Stadt Luzern" to Fluelen, a three-hour boat cruise on Lake Lucerne, lunching in the first-class cabin. We change onto the Wilhelm Tell Express Train. Winding though the Reuss Valley, climbing through the St. Gotthard range and through the Gotthard railway tunnel to Bellinzona, where we change trains for Lugano.
We check in to the Continental Parkhotel Lugano, Via Basel, 28 - CH-6900 Lugano, which is near the station. Next day we need to do some washing, so we roam around in the rain to find Lavanderia Il Girasole, via Giuseppe Bagutti 8, Tel: 076 503 79 64. I bought a bargain bin cycling jacket or gilet, reduced from 139 Sfr to 63 Sfr, in an outlet store. Avoided remaindered Lance Armstrong gear. Outlet Sport by Balmelli, Via Maderno 16, Lugano, Tel: 091 922 67 77. Lunch outdoors at the Birreria al Forte, via al Forte, where we managed to eat a whole meal without being panhandled. There is also no graffiti in this part of town, although the Italian-part of Switzerland is far from free of it. We ride the funicular which connects the town centre with the station above.
Next day we catch the big red bus from Lugano station, past Gandria and into Italy. Empty factories indicate a hurting economy. The bus is the first leg on the Bernina Express, to Tirano in Italy, where we board the train for St Moritz. Lunch in Tirano is spoiled by a grumpy waiter who objected to us trying to order coffee! The Bernina train is the highest adhesion railway (no rack and pinion) in Europe, with a maximum gradient of 7%. We see some adventurous types out on mountain bikes as we came along in the train. We arrive in St Moritz and take a taxi to Hotel Soldanella, Via Somplaz 17, CH-7500 St. Moritz. Supper at an outdoor pub, where a tuneless geezer was singing to backing tapes, improvising the words to covers, he would have been at home in Morecambe.
On our free day in St Moritz we stroll in the town, then by the lake to Bad St Moritz where I purchase a Bodum Bistro coffee mug, 4.90 Sfr reduced to 2.40 Sfr at the Co-op. Lunch back in town outdoors at Le Lapin Bleu at the Steffani Hotel, spendy but a real treat at Sfr 75 for two. We retreat under an awning as it starts to rain. Next day we board the Glacier Express to Zermatt via Chur, Andermatt and Brig. A snafu with our tickets means we leave an hour late at 09:02, after one more coffee in the station buffet at St Moritz. This is the train that derailed spectacularly a few weeks later. A stop in Chur enables us to photograph the train. Chur is allegedly home to the first cathedral north of the Alps. We follow the Rhine River into the mountains and pass by Disentis, home to religious dissenters. Thanks to Luther Protestantism took hold early in these parts.
After a huge roast lunch on the train we arrive at car-free Zermatt. We walk to Garni Sarazena Hotel, Bahnhofplatz 14, 3920 Zermatt.
Next morning a herd of goats comes down the high street, cowbells clanking, and we follow them out onto the pasture, where paragliders are landing. We then walk on to the English church, where many who perished climbing the mountains hereabouts are buried. Edward Whymper, the Englishman first to climb the Matterhorn, said:

“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are naught without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste, look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end.”

After a visit to the Matterhorn Museum we take lunch outdoors in chilly weather at Walliserkanne, Bahnhofstrasse 1, 3920 Zermatt, Tel:+41 27 966 46 10. Chef's menu, 3 courses, 22 Sfr.
On departure next morning we retrace our steps to Brig, changing trains for Andermatt, then again for the steep descent to Göschenen, where we rush across the platform for the southbound train. We change at Chiasso, where our Swiss rail pass runs out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The treno tour - Part 1

For our summer tour this year we decided on a train trip in France, Switzerland and Italy. Starting in Paris, finishing in Venice.
Part One: France
We arrive on Air Transat at Paris CDG early morning for five nights in France. A Concorde aircraft is on display. This dated airport relies on a coach transfer to the terminal.
We were quickly on our way on the RER train to Chatelet-Les Halles, in the centre of the city, for transfer to St Germain en Laye to the west. As advised we waited for our destination to appear on the indicator panel on the platform. It never did, so we finally boarded a train to Le Vésinet-Le Pecq, one stop down the line, where a shuttle bus was waiting. A veritable herd of railway employees were supervising at the bus stop.
After a quick breakfast of coffee and croissants in St Germain and consulting with the tourist office, we caught the #4 bus to Chambourcy. A short walk from the bus stop to the Campanile Hotel, Routes de Mantes, RN13, 6 Allee de Pomone, 78100 St Germain en Laye, Tel: +33 1 34 51 59 59, for early check-in, cheap and cheerful. After shopping at Lidl we are watching the Tour de France on TV, and crashing out. Reading an obit for Johnny Winter in the bar in the evening.
First morning in Chambourcy we walk into the old village and on to the modern shopping centre. I finally hit Duralex paydirt - the hotel in Chambourcy has the glasses in the bar, and they are for sale in Carrefour, first time I have seen them for sale in France.
After lunch we walk on to the Desert de Retz, a folly garden outside Chambourcy, for a guided tour lasting about 1½ hours. As we start to walk back we are offered a lift to the hotel, by an English-speaking couple. Supper at Maotai, 78 route de Mantes, 78240 Chambourcy, Tel: 33 (0) 1 30 06 09 75. Trip Advisor: “Desperately needs a restaurant make over. Food is very tasty and well priced but dining room, printed menus and service are in need of critical up-grades." 3 of 5 stars. Reviewed 23 July 2014.
Next day fellow-researcher Emmanuel Tilloy picks us up for a splendid lunch at Chesnay and a tour of the gardens at Versailles. We are discussing the history of the coalfields in the Crowsnest Pass. On this holiday I am reprising many places visited when a youngster, for example staying in the Paris hotel where I stayed in 1960, Lugano, Venice etc.
So next morning we take the bus to St Germain and RER train to Auber, for early check-in at the Hôtel Saint Petersbourg, 33-35 rue Caumartin 75009 PARIS, Tel: + 33 1 42 66 60 38. Comfortable but the wifi isn't working at this three-star hotel. We haven't been on the street ten minutes, near the Opera, before a woman, who looks like a witch, tries to work the 'gold ring' trick on us.
Next day we walk to the Parc Monceau, a folly garden, notable for being the site of the first parachute jump. Bought a dozen cheap coffee spoons, in a hardware store, as found in French cafes, after years of searching.
On departure we are waiting for the crowded RER train to leave for Gare de Lyon but it fails to leave the station. We scramble onto the metro, changing at Pyramid. Fare dodgers jumping the barriers are a feature of the Paris transit system. Also avoid young ladies with clipboards, working in pairs, who intend to rob you. Paris is living up to its reputation as a 'scam city.'
With some relief we board the TGV Lyria train 9211, bound for Dijon, Mulhouse, Basel and Zurich. A splendid lunch is served before we reach our destination in Basel.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Ancient spanners aid Sachs comeback

After a lengthy search I finally managed to acquire a pair of period Fichtel & Sachs bicycle spanners at a most acceptable price. Even got a sprocket snap-ring thrown in!
For Raleigh equivalent see PunchBuggy Passim.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The joy of Sachs

Took out the Supercycle Traveller for proper test run, five miles round the neighbourhood. What fun! There is a buzz to be had from putting an old bicycle back on the road, especially when it features the iconic Sachs three-speed gear. This particular bike is an unlovely specimen from Canadian Tire which just happens to feature this gem - a bit like fitting a Volkswagen with a Porsche gearbox. Ideally the Sachs needs stripping and regreasing but for now it will have to make do with a few squirts of oil down the hollow rear axle.
I gave the bike another thorough clean, including 'flossing' with a length of woolen yarn. I coated the Swallow tyres, pre Schwalbe from 1977, with Meguiar's Hot Shine Tire Spray:
"Water resistant polymers combined with patent antizonant technology keeps your tires looking blacker longer while preventing cracking, browning and premature aging. Gives tires deep, black wet look for weeks."
I would add saves old tyres from giving up the ghost.

Technical description: Supercycle Traveller folding bicycle, circa 1977, distributed by Canadian Tire Corporation, Toronto. The bike features a maple leaf sticker. The frame is chromoly steel almost identical to the Austrian-made Auto-Mini, but with proper butted bottom bracket. 44-tooth chainwheel, 18-tooth sprocket. No-name pedals with reflectors. 3-speed Sachs Torpedo Dreigang gears with coaster brake and Torpedo shifter. 36-spoke wheels by Sun Metal Products Inc. Shimano 535 front hub. Pletscher rat-trap type rack (made in Switzerland) and stand. Mattress-type sprung saddle.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Supercycle spindle switch

The improvised front brake on the Supercycle Traveller was frankly dangerous. The 90mm spindle was too short, having only a few turns of thread exposed at the back. The locknut could not be secured.
These bikes were originally supplied with only a rear coaster brake, which might be OK cruising on the boardwalk but marginal on any sustained descent. I managed to source a 100mm spindle from an old Weinmann 730 brake and now the bike can be used with confidence. Having two brakes has more than doubled the stopping power. It is now suitable for use round the neighbourhood.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bicycle Design

This rather uninspiring headline is in fact the name of a book - Bicycle Design, an illustrated history by Tony Hadland and Hans-Erhard Lessing. If you want to know about the history of the development of the bicycle this is the book for you. The authors make a good case for the bicycle originating from 1817, with the bicentennial coming up in 2017.
Which leads me to the picture of my latest restoration. Hadland and Lessing say on Page 226: "Coaster brakes became popular in North America (where they had been invented) and in Germany, whereas rim brakes were preferred in the United Kingdom and in France."
This Supercycle Traveller bicycle from Montreal is a mishmash of parts, but features the German Sachs dreigang (three-speed) gearbox with rear coaster brake, neatly illustrating the quote from the book. These bikes were supplied with rear brake only. I have fitted a front brake because I value my personal safety.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Nice work if you can get it

Finally the BBC catches up with events at Gad's Hill School in Higham, Kent. PunchBuggy published news of Headmaster David Craggs exaggerated claims and large salary back in November 2011. See PunchBuggy passim. Mr Craggs is allegedly a graduate of Newcastle University.