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Exeter Bike Bus - Ride Reports - December 2011

Thursday 29 December - Uffculme, Cold Harbour Mill

Bike bus leaders badge.png

The main service (1) from Exeter proceeded smoothly to Uffculme ... on the alternative East Devon Service (2) (on which Keith was attempting to earn his Leaders Badge) things became rather fractious ...

... a number of reports have been received ... the following are a representative sample.

John reports (soberly):-

As far as I can tell there were four buses on my route. Keith BB2 A was tasked to depart at 0855 but left at 0830 arriving at Uffculme by 1010. There were no passengers.

Tim and Judy turned up at 0855 and with no one else there started the route as BB2 B.

Then Ted and Susan arrived at 0857 and made their own way as BB2 C.

Don cycled from Exmouth to arrive at my house for 0930 thence the two of us made our way to Uffculme arriving at 1105. Presumably as BB2 D.

We saw no one else, there was little traffic but it rained a lot.

Stephanie reports (analytically):-

Today’s ride provided good illustrations of the ideas presented by Prof Bruce Hood in this year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, Meet your Brain which a number of the Bike Bus Passengers had watched over the last 2 evenings (briefly, these explained how our understanding of visual and auditory experience is dependent on the structures responsible for memory influenced by previous experience).

Bike bus timetable 2011 12 29.png

Seven met up at Talaton Inn (Tim, Judy, Sue, Ted, Richard Tuckett, Warren and Steph), at 9.30 am in accordance with what was undeniably written on the Bike Bus time table. Lack of apparent leader was noted but at 3 minutes passed departure time, this was not considered to be of significant importance.

Bus set off for Dulford whereupon we almost separated as some passengers had failed to note the timetable labelling Kentisbeare as a through point (example 1 of brain’s failure to accurately integrate stimuli to visual cortex with hippocampus and other memory areas).

Safely rounded back into the fold, we moved on through Kentisbeare arriving at Uffculme to find the nominated leader about to tuck into his second cup of coffee! It clearly hadn’t dawned on Keith that having no passengers was a tad unusual for the Eastern Bike Bus because as far as he was concerned departure time for Talaton Inn had been written as 9.15 am (example 2). I think we now have a physiological explanation for why Bike Bus Exec’s humble servant sometimes despairs over some passengers inconsistent and unpredictable behaviours. Does this mean, it’s not really our fault?

Keith writes (resignedly?):-

Ah Well! I am their leader, I really ought to follow them (Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin 1857)

It is with very great reluctance I have to decline the award of the coveted Bike Bus Leadership badge.

Stupidly, I thought I had what it takes to follow in the footsteps of other great British leaders like Stephanie Houghton, Mike Booth, John Rowland etc. How deluded can a man be?

Having never led a bike bus ride before you can imagine how very honoured I felt when John Rowland, concerned he might not be in a fit state after his Christmas revelries on the Isles of Scilly, delegated his leadership of this ride to me. I rose at dawn, like a thousand great leaders before me, ready for action. I even donned fresh under-shorts and my best Lycra, lest I fell, and set off to face the challenges of the elements and the terrain with fire in my belly (there was nothing else there; I had to miss breakfast to get to Aylesbeare in time).

But alas, when I reached the rendezvous point at Aylesbeare Cross, there was no-one there. Shaken but unbowed I pushed on to the next RV point at Talaton. There was no-one there either.

I knew then my chance of glory was gone: that the fates had determined I was not, indeed, fit to follow in the giant footsteps of the likes of Steff, Mike and John. Very much alone I wended my disconsolate way to the Coffee Pot at Uffculm, a broken man.


At Uffculm I was ready for the ridicule inevitably to come my way. I was not to be disappointed. Ian, whom I thought to be my doughty and trusted lieutenant, was the first to strike, cruelly exposing my leadership shortcomings. Nor was I spared Judy’s particular brand of Antipodean contempt.

On my homeward journey in the wind and rain I had plenty of time to reflect. Had I failed because I hadn't bothered to read John’s or Kirby’s emails or was it because I had forgotten my wristwatch? Whatever the reason I accept that my fate is to remain a mere passenger leaving Bike Bus leadership to those more worthy. What a fool I was to think I could reach the pedestal on which my Bike Bus hero’s rightly stand.

I remain, sir, your humble and loyal passenger.

Keith A Portlock OBE QPM

It will not come as a suprise to anyone to learn that Keith has been given a double Black Sheep Award.

Thursday 22 December - Exmouth, King's Garden Centre

This week the Bike Bus went to King's Garden Centre ...

... and nothing unusual happened.

Tuesday 20 December - Exmouth & Broadclyst

Ian reports (for the last time this year)

This week, the bike mini-bus celebrated Xmas with an easy ride to the Docker’s Cafe in Exmouth for bacon sarnies and then a trip up to Broadclyst, for a beer at The Red Lion. Both feed stops are already on the Lindsay Cafe List, so no new scores.

Lot’s of riders out – Ian, Richard, Liam, Ian, Tom, Sue, Roy, Keith, John, Diane.

55 miles covered – no ride next week due to Xmas holidays, so next ride will be 3 January – haven’t been to Dartmoor for a while!

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to all!!

Thursday 15 December - Willand & Otterton Mill

Stephanie reports on the Coffee Pot's Xmas Lunch at Willand:-

Rainbow xmas 2011.jpg

Debbie and Don arrived simultaneously at Steph’s for the start of the ride to Coffee Pot Christmas Lunch, (Debbie arrived courtesy of the Wheelers with the understandable explanation of handlebars for Pippa). As an elite little group, we decided to try something new: Coffee and a chocolate at Steph’s house before the ride. Bike Bus passengers agreed it was highly successful so had another, whilst contemplating how to make the necessary mechanical adjustments needed to our bikes, using tinsel.

Coffee pots xmas lunch willand 2011.jpg

Onward via Luton, Dulford and Kentisbeare (where Debbie made an important diversion into the Wyndham Arms). Icy rain caused much pain to faces, but immediately rewarded with fantastic rainbow! Lively lunch included: more awards, false lips (totally unkissable), Tom’s neverending tie, Pippa’s next venture, Lexi and Graham's Spanish Exploits and Jingle Berry Pie.

Debbie dashed off as all mums can, to do ten things at once involving offspring whilst Don and I pedalled back to Cheriton via Cullompton, Plymtree and Payhembury.


Meanwhile the errant Bike Bussers headed off towards Otterton ... through numerous, heavy, cold showers ... via the ford at Greedale, Sanctuary Lane, Hawkerland (where we lost all but three of the party) and onwards through the ford at Stowford.

A wet and bedraggled party arrived at the Mill to find the equally wet Aylesbeare party huddled around the only heater.

After coffee some decided to head straight home, a brave party of four headed to King's Garden Centre for lunch, and the remainder decided to get lost.

Tuesday 13 December - Ian's Mum's House (Somewhere in Somerset)

The Official Report

Ian reports (officially) ...

This week, the Tuesday Bike Mini-Bus split into 2 groups and made their way to Ian’s Mum and Dad’s house for a brunch. Ian lead the standard bike riders via Talaton, Holman Clavel (picking up the Wellington Wheelers), before descending into Ilminster. Mike lead the Under 21 inchers from Exeter to Taunton (via British Rail) and then a ride via a flood to Ilminster.

Ian’s Mum and Dad put on a superb spread – sherry, fruit juice, bacon sarnies, sausage sarnies, quiche, crackers, crisps, 4 types of cake, 3 types of chocolate, tea, coffee, etc, etc ...

Alzheimers society.png

Having stayed over an hour, we tried our best to finish all on offer, but couldn’t quite manage it – 15 riders in total, £120 raised for Alzheimer’s UK.

Message from Ian’s Mum & Dad ...

"Thank you and everyone else for that huge donation to Alzheimer's Research - £120 is an enormous amount and we will send off the money tomorrow. Please make sure you thank all your fellow cyclists for their generosity; it wasn't needed. We’re just glad the bacon wasn't burnt black!"

Obviously, they stay top of the Lindsay Cafe Leaderboard, the only outlet with the maximum of 25pts!

Next week, the Bike Mini-Bus Xmas ride, consisting of bacon in Exmouth and beer in Broadclyst

The Unofficial Report

60th Birthday Party.jpg

Tom Roncarelli reports (unofficially on Facebook) ...

Just in from a wonderful bike ride to Ilminster with friends!...

Thanks to both Ians, both Hughs, Richard & Ian Lindsay's Mum & Dad for the wonderful Bacon, Butties cakes, coffee and all! ... Covered about 60 miles on my 60th Birthday! ...

Went through all types of weather, from being hot and sweaty to damp, cold and wet! ... We went through rain, high winds, sleet and even snow coming back over Dukeswell plateau (very exposed)! ... very grateful to the warming SUNSHINE that occasionally broke through on our travels!

The Cryptic Report

Ms Yvonne Tomlinson writes (in the style of Judy Knowles)

Yvonne tomlinson.jpg

Second person lost cannot actually blame Mr L (since said lost person started out with Wellington Wheelers persons) who have since concocted their own story, i.e. waited, went back, tried to phone etc etc. (yeah, right). However, Wellington Wheeler persons actually got lost themselves and ended up climbing back on to ridge (they didn't need to) and taking a packet along the ridge until they were able to drop back down into Wellington. This was, of course, fault of person who got lost for not catching them up and directing them.

Incidentally, person who got lost managed to negotiate the lanes (muchly sheltered) so probably had a slightly easier ride home thanks to kindly motorists.

PS Moral of the story - who needs a map??

The Subversives Report

The subversives decided to mount an undercover operation to visit the secret Grid Reference only divulged to the privileged recipients of the 'Tuesday Bike Bus Email'. However planning for the trip was stymied when we realised that we didn't know what a Grid Reference was.

Windmill hill.gif

We visited the Geography Department at Exeter University to get help in decoding the Reference and discovered that it was a remote and unvisited location deep in Somerset. I carefully cut out the relevant square and put it in my wallet for safekeeping.

We quickly realised that cycling there and back in a day was nigh on impossible - so we explored the possibility of using public transport. Six volunteer subversives wanted to go - so this immediately ruled out buses and full-size bikes on trains.

Geoff and Penny suggested folding bikes - but this gave Mike & Sue a problem as they don't own any. However as Xmas is approaching Mike decided to lash out on a pair of titanium Bromptons. Problem solved!

Lift alarm button.jpg

At 8 am on Tuesday morning six cyclists silently approached St David's Station, quietly purchased return tickets to Taunton, tiptoed along to the lift ... where we carefully squeezed in ...

... and Penny set off the emergency alarm ... and we were immediately surrounded by a cohort of British Transport Police.

We were not at all confident of finding the secret Grid Reference and so decided to make use of the platform cafe to ensure we wouldn't starve later in the morning. The train then arrived earlier than expected which caused panic folding of bikes.

On the train the ticket inspector came along ... and Pauline blabbed that we were going to a charity lunch in Somerset ... in no time at all the whole carriage were made aware of our secret mission.

Folders at taunton station.jpg

Quite amazingly we all managed to get off the train at Taunton ... where we hid in a corner and sliently and inconspicuously unfolded our bikes.

We then set off along the canal towards the notorious 'Somerset Levels'.

We were close to exhaustion when we arrived at Curry Mallet and we had abandoned all hope of ever getting to the wretched secret Grid Reference. Quite amazingly we discovered that the local Post Office sold hot drinks as well as stamps. No discussion was required and we all headed inside for warming refreshments.

Windmill hill map with missing square.jpg

I then realised that I'd left my wallet at home ... and that it contained the secret grid square. We weren't sure whether to be elated or just relieved that the quest was over ... until Geoff pointed out that we could cycle towards the blank hole in the map. Penny gave him a withering look ... and the rest of us just groaned.

On the bright side the cafe was very friendly and threw out an old lady to make room for us.

After coffee we irrationally decided to continue towards the secret missing square.

Flood near curry mallet.jpg

Anyway all this is irrelevant ... as we soon came across a flood of biblical proportions. The road was covered in water as far as the eye could see.

I drew the short straw and was dispatched to assess the depth of the water. I cycled about 100 metres, turned a corner and noticed that there was a ford ahead where the indicator board showed that the water was between four and five feet deep.

Now I'm fairly stupid ... but even I realised that cycling through four foot of water is not a good idea ... so I took a quick right turn up onto the bank.

Who looks much the same 36 years later?

Sue was behind me and she wasn't so lucky ... she too realised that it wouldn't be wise to cycle through the ford ... but decided to put a foot down ... oops! This alerted those behind to the problem and they all fetched up onto the bank. We then ploughed through several fields and made it back onto the road. We then got a txt from Ian saying where are you? ... we replied honestly we've got no idea.

Beyond the flood we then realised that we were only a mile or so from the missing square. Penny spotted a windmill on a hill ahead and we recalled that Ian had mentioned this in a previous report. We stormed up the hill and arrived at Ian's mum less than two hours late.

Ian's parents had laid on an amazing spread which amply rewarded our efforts in getting there. We were all very grateful for the work they had put in for a crowd of filthy cyclists.

The story of our return journey will have to wait for another day ...

Thursday 8 December - King's Garden Centre, Exmouth

Misspelt council sign.jpg

It all began harmoniously enough ...

... I met a group of cyclists near the Swing Bridge joking about the Council's spelling of 'maintenance' and 'necessary'. From there it all went down hill.

Somehow the group of twenty fragmented into at least five pieces ... with Mike arriving first at King's all alone, Don taking a party round the nether regions of Al la Ronde, and Kirby bringing up the rear nibbling at the heals of various straglers.

After coffee things got worse ... much worse ... various bad tempered exchanges took place and some rather unwise words were said (and written). Unfortunately litigation has resulted ... and so I can only reproduce the least acrimonious of the exchanges below.

So Mike writes (rather self-justifyingly)...

Just to keep you up to date regarding the implementation of Bike Bus Executive Policy. Having started from Kings Garden Centre with about 20 passengers, I managed to lose everyone except Geoff & Penny by the time we got back into Exeter.

I did try taking them all down a potholed, muddy road with a ford, but to no avail, as these two particularly determined passengers still survived ... sorry, I'll have to try harder next time! Perhaps they were using their free bus passes enabling them to cling on despite all my efforts?

Stephanie writes (a touch bitterly) ...

I left the coffee pot ... alone. Looking up the hill - vaguely spotted cyclists ahead. Pedalled like fury to reach the usual place where we wait for each other – to find no-one. Continued alone along Devon’s remote back lanes in threatening weather confidently expecting to meet up at the next usual waiting place – a junction in Yettington.

No-one. Stopped to consult map – alone. Heaved a sigh, climbed back on the bike memorising the turns to take and made a desperate txt plea. Onwards alone. Took an new and interesting route but no-one to share the views with. Consulted myself on accuracy of direction and I replied that I’d gone wrong. Turned bike around and whizzed back down – alone. Checked map twice more along the way and more txt pleas – but being on my own, could only do one thing at a time. Wondered how I’d manage if mechanical failure occurred whilst alone with a hand injury (sob).

Received txt from group – something about heading for warm pub for lunch. Consulted self again about possible short cut. Self confirmed worth trying since no witnesses if wrong decision made - but then remembered how a couple had been murdered on Woodbury Common. Would anyone notice if I was missing? The song 'Me, Myself, I' filtered into my consciousness – but no-one to hear me sing it. Short cut paid off, arrived at Talaton Inn all alone and found welcoming cups of tea and black? sheepish smiles all round!

Tuesday 6 December - Broadhembury

Ian reports:-

So just Ian turned up for the fast ride to Broadhembury. The B ride, lead by Sue was much more popular (4 members - Sue, Mike, Kirby, Pauline). Due to the timings though, we all arrived at Broadhembury together, where we were joined by Keith and the Wellington Wheelers.

Kirbys gear ratios.png

After tea/coffee and toasted teacakes - good hospitality (it's like having a cuppa in your mum's dining room!!) - 21 pts we ventured up Broadhembury hill to try the new cafe at Dunkeswell Air Centre. On the climb, Kirby got the chance to test his new chainset (fitted and supplied by Devon Bike Builders!). The new easiest gear ratio is 22 (front) x 34 (back) - 17.3".

Alzheimers society.png

Rebranded, The Aviator, Dunkeswell cafe looks a little posher than before, but has the same cracking little coffee machine and they serve up monster bacon sarnies!! I think Yvonne doubled in weight after consuming hers! - 20 pts.

Just 60 miles covered today. Next week, I really will be having a cuppa in my Mum's dining room!!!! - Ilminster for a snackette at my Mum and Dad's house, all proceeds going towards the Alzheimer's UK charity.

Thursday 1 December - Exminster Golf Club

This week we had a relatively easy ride out along the canal to Exminster. The Bike Bus Executive's Humble Servant was grateful for this as he had to carry the final two 2011 Bike Bus Awards with him.

At the Golf Club Debbie and Stephanie were primed to hand out the last two prizes - which were won by John Rowland (Maintenance) and Ian Lindsay (White Sheep). A full list of this year's prize winners appears below.

After coffee Mike Booth led a party up to the Haldon Grill Cafe - where pints of tea were consumed.

Thursday 24 November – Bike Bus Third Anniversary - Orange Elephant

The very first Bike Bus email was sent out on 5th November 2008. Compared to the slick, colourful message you receive today it looks rather primitive and dated:-

Hello Pauline,

I hope you're well ... and coping OK with front wheel quick releases.

Don and I are cycling to the Coffee Pot at Credition Station on Thursday - via the 
direct route (Exmouth, Topsham, Exeter Quay, Cowley, plus the lanes ...)

To get there by 10:30 means leaving Exmouth at about 08:15 (Exeter Quay at 09:15) - 
if you would like to join us give me a call and we can arrange to meet on the Quay.

On the way back we often stop at Lutzy's Cafe on the Quay (Don has a serious crush on Ms Lutzy!) - 
or sometimes we do a loop north of Exeter (but you always have the option of catching the 
train back to Exeter from Crediton).


You will notice that many of the key components of the Bike Bus were already in place from the start

  • a timetable
  • insulting comments about participants
  • multiple mentions of cafes
  • mention of mechanical failures
  • scandal, and
  • a train option.
White sheep award wrapping paper.jpg

To celebrate the establishment of the Bike Bus we now hold an Anniversary Event in November. This year Stephanie found herself organising the event (yet) again. This year it was decided to make a presentation of awards to the most deserving (and the most undeserving) members of the Bike Bus in the last 12 months.

Stephanie's Custom Saddle Cover

The Executive thoughtfully commissioned top artists and engineers to handcraft prizes worthy of this occasion. Special mention must be made of the custom bicycle seat cover which was made by Mr Roger Spurr, BSc, CEng, MInstCSCD - to be given to the organiser of the event.

The design brief was

  • it must be in bad taste
  • it must be waterproof (for at least one ride)
  • it must be in a colour to match red hair
  • it must include a lot of furry material
  • it must be in much worse taste than you first thought.

I think you will agree that Roger has succeeded admirably. He is now working enthusiastically on next year's commission.

Incidentally Roger was chosen for this delicate commission because of his intimate knowledge of Howard Hughes' design of a bra for Jane Mansfield. Even more incidentally we have been unable to determine whether Roy Russell is related to Jane Russell.

The celebratory meal was held at Taverner's Farm Shop in Kennford - known affectionately as the Orange Elephant. They provided an excellent meal consisting of starter (soup or pate), a main of quiche and salad, followed by banana cake or ice cream.

After the meal came the Awards Ceremony - and Iris very kindly agreed to present the awards. Special thanks must go to Iris for, at very short notice, bravely hugging about a dozen sweaty cyclists. The results were ...

The 'Unofficial' White Sheep Award

Unofficial White Sheep Award

This award is completely outside the purview of the Bike Bus, its Executive and its Employees.

Nevertheless it was awarded to Kirby James.

In addition he was puzzlingly presented with a Cub Scout 'Cycling Badge' by a Queen's Scout.

This was despite the fact that Kirby had been expelled from the cub scouts aged 9, after his first meeting!

The Black Sheep Award

Black Sheep Award

This Award is Sponsored by the New Zealand Sheep Council.

The Nominees are the six people who have each received four black sheep awards.

  • Jill Hockmuth
  • Sue Booth
  • John Rowland
  • Tim Green
  • Kirby James, and
  • Geoff Cockram

The prize is a Black Sheep Mug and the winner was Sue Booth

The Maintenance Award

Maintenance Award

This Award is sponsored by the Bike Shed.

The Nominations are:

  • Kirby James for losing a pedal
  • John Rowland for organising cycle maintenance courses
  • Glenis Pewsy for having three punctures in a week
  • Ian Lindsay for starting a custom bike building business
  • Tim Green for losing a crank set, and
  • Stephanie Houghton for losing a toe clip in France

The prize is a bent crank used for eight years by the Executive's Humble Servant - and the winner was John Rowland.

Award for Developing Understanding between Cyclists, Dogs, and their Owners

Dog Award

This award is sponsored by the RSPCA.

The Nominations are:

  • Keith Portlock for running over a dog near Tiverton
  • Kirby James for provoking the dog that Keith ran over
  • Pauline Gibson for being nipped near Exeter Airport
  • Mike Booth for befriending a dog and his owner on Haldon Hill
  • Hugh Roberts for being bitten near Whimple

The prize is a matching set of dog bones and the winner was Mike Booth

The Excellence in Customer Service Award

Customer Service Award

This award is sponsored by Virgin Trains.

The Nominations are

  • Mike Booth for producing 80% of all complaints
  • Glenis Pewsy for ignoring all complaints
  • Kirby James for employing a useless Complaints Officer

The prize is a blindfold and set of ear plugs and the winner was Glenis Pewsey

The Coffee Bean Award

Good Bean Award

This Award is Sponsored by the Boston Tea Party in Honiton.

Bad Bean Award

The Nominations are

  • Ted Gameson for developing a unique bike/coffee-machine mix
  • Geoff Cockram for owning 19 coffee machines
  • Penny Cockram for putting up with 19 coffee machines in her kitchen, and
  • Geoff Cockram for developing positive relationships with local coffee shops, and
  • Penny Cockram for developing positive relationships with local cafes.

The Good Coffee Bean Awards are a bag of coffee and a coffee cartoon which were won by Penny Cockram and Ted Gameson

The Bad Bean Awards are a set of Boston Tea Party Loyalty Cards which were won by Geoff Cockram and Penny Cockram.

The Dancing Award

Dancing Award

This award is sponsored by BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing.

The nominations are

  • Mike Booth
  • Roy Russell, and
  • Sue Booth.

All for their remarkable performances under identical conditions at Exeter University.

The prize is a rare signed Joy of Dancing book and the winner, unusually decided by a vote by all Bike Bus Members, was Roy Russell

The Official White Sheep Award

White Sheep Award

The final award is Sponsored by The Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

The eight Nominations are

  • Ian Lindsay for operating the Tuesday Bike Bus
  • Debbie Ironside-Smith for inviting dozens of wet cyclists into her kitchen for hot drinks, cakes and bacon sandwiches.
  • Richard Eales for never having been given a Black Sheep Award
White Sheep Award
  • Kirby James for operating the Thursday Bike Bus on behalf of the Executive
  • Jan Portlock for inviting the Bike Bus into her garden to teas, coffees and cakes
  • Richard Eales for producing the best x-ray so far
  • Stephanie Houghton for regularly refreshing Bike Bus riders
  • John Rowland for running maintenance courses

The prizes are White Sheep Mugs and the winners are Stephanie Houghton and Ian Lindsay.

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