A dire warning and a small diversion

“Some serious advice. Stop. Get a bike with some decent gears. It’s a BAD idea!!” A few encouraging words from ‘Gearoldmuar’, November 17th 2011 on the Cyclists Touring Club (CTC) discussion board, in response to reading about my plans.

When you consider that Sturmey Archer (a Birmingham, UK, company) was selling over 2 million of its 3 and 4-speed hubs every year around 1950, and to all corners of the world, I think that Gearoldmuar’s suggestion that the product is not ‘decent’ is more than a little condescending, particularly when you consider that so many of them are still in service today, many of them probably having never been serviced. I wonder how many Shimano cassettes will be giving good service when they´re 60 years old.
All things considered, I think that my August 1949 Sturmey Archer FW 4-speed hub is unlikely to be the weak point of this trip, or my 1950 Williams C1200 chain ring. However, I do take the point that around the Pyrenees can be a tad hilly, so we fitted the hub with a 22 tooth sprocket. For the technically minded, I will now have a bottom gear of about 38 gear-inches. Gearoldmuar went on to recommend at a bottom gear of 27 gear-inches or, better still, 20. 
A really ‘decent’ set of gears: the legendary Sturmey Archer FW hub.  Every one is date stamped.
This one is from 1953, the one on my Thanet Silverlight is from 1949 and when stripped and examined by an expert in these things, he declared that everything still looked like new.
Despite my confidence in the set up, I am conscious that avoiding the worst of climbs is a good idea. So, when a cyclist overtook our car whilst traveling down the C61 from Sant Celoni to Arenys de Mar on the way to Barcelona yesterday, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and opted to find an alternative route to the descent that was to have been tomorrow’s first big climb. So it is that in 10 hours from now, I’ll be setting out from in front of the cathedral in Barcelona (the original one, started in 1298 and finished in 1448, not the Gaudi “it will be finished soon, honestly” one, the Sagrada Familia, which is actually a basilica, not a cathedral and is still under construction) to head north-east from the city instead of due north. It’s a 30 mile climb to Sant Celoni, but none of the hills is big enough for “MapMyRide.com” to categorise it numerically. That must be a good thing, mustn’t it?
The starting point: Barcelona’s only cathedral was built between 1298 and 1448.  The scaffolding is just coming down after several years during which all the stone work has been cleaned, so it will be looking its best again very soon, but there’s still a lot of scaffolding to go (March 31st, 2012).
I’ve just enjoyed a fabulous dinner with my brother-in-law James, his wife, Pepi, and their 3 children – Victor, Arthur and Ivan –  in their lovely apartment two blocks away from the cathedral. Home-made paella with a veritable fest of seafood that always tastes so good here, a modicum of fine Spanish red wine and plenty of water to keep up the hydration. I’ve read all about the importance of hydration!
I plan to set out at about 7:30am, and hope that the confusion of directions we’ve prepared to get me out of Barcelona city make more sense in the morning than they do now. I also hope that being 60 tomorrow doesn’t suddenly make me feel much older. I’ll know for sure one way or the other tomorrow.
My first destination is Girona, or maybe a bit beyond if all goes better than expected. The temperature should hit the low 20s Centigrade and there’s no rain forecast. 

About Bob Jones

Cycling enthusiast living in Wiltshire, England.
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