The Beast from the East

Not much progress to report this week on anything crafty, other than half a sock. This is the second Diversion and I’ve just turned the heel.

Diversion socks Lana Grossa sock yarnFor once, I haven’t tried to create identical twins. Even if I’d had enough yarn to do so, my attempt would probably have been doomed to failure because the all-over pattern of short-row lozenges would highlight any tiny inconsistencies in tension. The colour changes in this Lana Grossa yarn are quite abrupt, with the result that a shift in colour that comes a few stitches earlier in one sock than the other could well end up in the adjacent lozenge, completely altering the look. I will be content with fraternal twins, these socks are complicated enough as it is.

Why the lack of progress? We’ve been too busy dealing with the 8” of snow that landed on us. Journeys that would normally be made by car or bike have had to be done on foot but I spent 2 hours on Thursday shovelling snow off the drive so that we could get the car out of the garage if we needed to. The garage is up a steep slope from the road and I didn’t fancy slithering down it and not being able to stop at the bottom.

I’ve mentioned before (I think) that, for the first time since I was an impoverished student and had no option but to cycle everywhere, I’ve kept my bike out this winter instead of putting it into hibernation in the garage from November until March or April. It has undoubtedly helped my fitness, because I didn’t suffer too much from all the snow clearing and stomping about through deep snow. I’ve been using the bike for short journeys in all but the worst of the season’s rain, ice and wind, but I’d held off fitting the new drive train components I was given for Christmas until the weather was good enough to be able to work on the bike outdoors.

Well, the weekend before last I rode into town and could hardly hear myself think above the graunching noises coming from the gears and chain. A quick inspection revealed that the winter’s salted roads had hastened the deterioration of the drive train – the chain was already very worn and the gears were missing the odd tooth anyway, thanks to various airlines and their habit of treating bicycles like suitcases. I was on borrowed time if I wanted to avoid a catastrophic failure.

When I got home I found a spot in the garden that was in the full sun and stripped off the chain, pedals, cranks, sprockets and rear wheel. I wrestled with the freewheel and couldn’t shift it. By the time I’d admitted defeat, the sun was too low in the sky to get over the hills to the south of us and the temperature was only just above zero. I retreated indoors.

The next morning, Monday, dawned very cold but bright again. I enlisted my dear husband to use brute force on the freewheel and he eventually got it off. He nobly offered to stay outside in the bitter wind and reassemble the bike with the new chainrings, cranks, gears, freewheel and chain while I went in and warmed up.

Bike with new drive train

Almost like new

I had no desire to go for a ride later to test the set-up and make final adjustments to the gears and chain length, as by now the so-called Beast from the East weather system was blowing in. And then, on Tuesday, the snow came, and on Wednesday and Thursday more snow. The roads were near-deserted as everyone decided it was just too perilous to risk driving, but there were a lot more pedestrians than usual which was rather nice. We all stopped and chatted to those we passed on the icy pavements and lanes, whether stranger or friend, in that terribly British way, making comments about the unnecessarily apocalyptic weather forecasts, the lack of snowploughs and gritters, the cancelled rail services, late milk tankers, school closures, empty supermarket shelves and so on. There’s nothing we Brits like more than some proper weather to discuss and administrative shortcomings to moan about.

My bike with its shiny new components has remained untested for the last week because the local roads still have more snow and ice on them than I’d like, although the thaw is now well advanced and flooding is the next risk. I’m looking forward to trying out the new gears – they’re lower at the bottom end of the range, and that should make a welcome difference when tackling the hills around here and when touring with my usual 10kg of luggage. I didn’t particularly go looking for lower gears, it’s just that this bike is over 20 years old and the 18-speed gear sets that were common then are somewhat harder to find nowadays. And mountain biking has taken off in a big way since the 90s, with the result that there’s a lot more demand for gears that will allow MAMILs and MAWWWBSDILs (that’s middle-aged women who wouldn’t be seen dead in lycra, like myself) to get up hills.

When I do get to go for a test ride, I’m rather hoping that I’ll need to shorten the chain by a couple of links and then I can make another chain-and-cork key ring. The old chain was so worn that it wouldn’t even be strong enough for that, I have no idea how it didn’t break.

Wine cork and bike chain key rings

About yorkshirecrafter

I live and work in West Yorkshire.  I've always enjoyed crafts of all types, from woodwork to lace-making.  I also enjoy anything mathematical, which makes knitting a favourite pastime, especially complicated designs.  I've been advising businesses and industry on environmental matters for 30 years and also have an interest in green living, especially where it saves me money. I live with my husband and our Maine Coon in a 100-year-old cottage that constantly needs something doing to it.  Fortunately, I enjoy DIY too.
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2 Responses to The Beast from the East

  1. Aussie says:

    Wow, that’s a lot of snow! It doesn’t snow here in Sydney. So you could ride all year round. I have yet to fix my old bike up. It is a very tall ladies bike from the 70’s or 80’s and im a bit short. I keep meaning to work on it, I need to sand back the rust to see if there is enough good metal left to be safe to ride. The gears aren’t working so I need to replace them as well.

    I have just fudged the toe on a sock. The first sock toe was going well (toe up, concurrent dpn’s) I was knitting on the bus, got distracted and increased every round for a while. It’s quite a rounded toe, which I think will be fine, so now I’m trying to copy that on the second sock, before moving on to the sole and instep (might make up a waffle pattern in purl) .

    Your socks look fantastic and you’re nearly there, so knit on!

  2. Believe me, it’s not a lot of snow by some standards – I have friends in Switzerland who’ve had 8 metres of the stuff this year. I too have a 1980s ladies’ bike that I haven’t used in years. It has a mixte frame which was all the rage in those days. I’ve been meaning to get it out and see if it’s worth resurrecting, or else give it away – maybe this year.

    I know the feeling of knitting on autopilot and then realising that you’ve ended up with something unintended. But nobody’s going to notice if one sock toe is slightly different from the other one. Thanks for your kind comments on my Diversions. I’m on the foot now so it should be plain sailing.

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