…then over the Chilterns


Our route along the Thames, from source to Barrier, is based on a couple of naive assumptions: that heading downstream will, by and large, be a downhill experience….but let’s pretend the Chiltern Hills aren’t there; that the predominant westerly winds will always be at our backs…..except of course, when it blows from the east (and it did yesterday); that the tandem, after careful preparation and mechanical checks, is unlikely to let us down…..except, of course, when it does, and then almost terminally.
Climbing our first steep hill into the Chilterns, I tried to engage our lowest gear, and the chain jumped the largest rear sprocket and became (almost) irretrievably jammed between wheel and cassette. It took a huge amount of brute force to free it, potentially breaking both spokes and chain, and wrecking the gear hanger….but, fortunately, none of that happened, so plan B was not called into action (ie. how to extract two people and their unserviceable tandem from a remote spot in the hills).
Once over the Chiltern Ridge, it was an exciting descent towards Reading, to be reunited once again with ‘Old Father Thames’, now massively wider than just 50 miles upstream, and in full flow.




About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on September 24, 2015, in The Thames by tandem 295km and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Delighted to hear that the tandem has lived to ride another day! Lucky you have Jenny with you to supervise you getting the rear mech settings properly re-set 🙂

    I’ve ridden over the Chiltons to Reading. That too was on a Tandem, in our case starting from Hitchin, Herts. At the time I worked for a firm whose research base was in Sonning Common and was somewhere I used to visit on business around once a month, as did many of my colleagues. Driving there would normally take around two hours on the back roads (the route we cycled) but people often flipped a coin as to whether to take the M25/M3 or not. This could take 15 min less on a good day. Often however it took a good deal more. So having cycled it in four hours – I was sure always to point out to those who were stuck in long traffic jams – how long? I cycled there in less time….

    I expect the beaches on the Chilterns are just on the turn? They are lovely then.

    • Interesting reflections…… Despite the mechanical, the Chilterns crossing was great…….but, sadly, didn’t see any beech trees on the turn. Probably a bit too early still.

  2. Are you by any chance going to get to the Barrier by Sunday 27th, when it is having its annual test, which involves a full closure against the high tide? Probably best around noon.

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