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So you think road cyclists are confused….?

When not doing A to B rides, most road cyclists spend their time going round in circles….sometimes ever-increasing circles, as they get fitter. Confused? Demented? Today I passed another ‘lone wolf’ twice on my circular route…….of course, not a question of lapping him, ‘cos he was going in the opposite direction. On our second encounter, we both acknowledged each other’s pitiful state of confusion………with a smile 🙂

Distance: 72 kms/45 miles

Time: 2 hrs 56 mins

Average speed: 24.4 kph

Elevation gain: 328 metres

Maximum elevation: 115 metresScreenshot Harrold-Thurleigh loop

Increase your annual mileage: lap 6

Be a Billy-no-mates

The phone rings. You answer it. “Hey Bob” (if your name is Bob) “that ride we were going to do tomorrow…….sorry, I can’t make it now. The wife’s booked me in to go visiting family. Can we leave it till next week?”.

You put down the phone. You feel a bit deflated. You’ve been looking forward to this ride all week. And tomorrow is going to be a fine day……..It would have been a perfect day for a 70-80 miler, with a stop for lunch, in the company of your best cycling buddy. It won’t be the same without him. Yep, better to leave it till next week. Let’s hope the weather is as good……

Is this a familiar scenario? Does it happen to you from time to time? How much does riding your bike depend on other people going out with you? Do you ever envisage yourself going out on long solo rides? Have you ever tried it?

Image: lyricsdog-eu

Image: lyricsdog-eu

In my own case, solo-riding is my ‘default’ option. I’ve lived in a small village for nearly 35 years. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve joined up with local clubs and groups, but the nearest is over 20 miles away. Even so, more than 90% of my riding is still solo. I often ride out to cafés to meet up with buddies but, because we all come from widely different directions, we don’t always get to ride together.

But, the objective of meeting up at the café has been the greatest incentive to get out on the bike. It provides a purpose to the ride, and you spend an hour in the company of like-minded buddies, chewing the fat. For me, some of the cafés have been as much as 40-45 miles away, which has often meant an 80-90 mile ride for a cup of tea! But then, applying the principle of “value-added miles”, I would inevitably round up the mileage to 100 before getting home.

The point I’m making is this: unless you are prepared to be a “Billy-no-mates” from time to time (or even often), you will not be maximizing your chances of increasing your annual mileage. And I could write volumes on the pleasures of riding solo…..but not now (phew!).

Increase your annual mileage: lap 5

Whether the weather be hot, whether the weather be cold

We’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather

Whether we like it or not

A couple of years ago, I joined some of my clubmates on a spring training camp in Majorca. The island’s roads were heaving with thousands of cyclists from the northern countries, all getting themselves fit and trim for the coming racing season. My own personal training objectives were the next café stop and piece of chocolate cake and (incidentally) adding some distance to my total annual mileage.

Of course, the reasons for going to Majorca were twofold: plenty of mountains and good weather. One day, however, the skies

Image: Cycling Weekly

Image: Cycling Weekly

clouded over and the rains came down. The forecast was very bleak for the rest of the day. It was then that I realized that I occupied a different cycling hemisphere to my clubmates. In their droves, they decided to hang up their cycling shoes for the day and head off to the local bars and cafés. So, I set off on my own, battled through a very wet morning, waving at other solitary souls as we passed each other (but very few), eventually cycled into an improving afternoon, and arrived back at the hotel in sunshine, having completed over 60 miles (100kms), only to find dozens of my riding pals moping around the hotel grounds, kicking tin cans, wishing they hadn’t wasted a whole day.

Now I ask: is this an unfair image of the racing confraternity? Do they all wimp out at the least sign of inclement weather? Are some a bit touchy about getting their ‘pride and joy’ (ie. bike) wet and dirty? At the first signs of cold wet weather at home, I know a lot of them retreat into their caves, and spend days and weeks in the virtual world of turbo-training, peering at their iPAD animations through sweat-blurred eyes, huge fans whirring or A/C blasting away to keep them from melting into a little pool on the floor.

Sorry to say this, guys & gals, but adding serious distance to your annual mileages means going out in some inclement weather from time to time. Unless you live in Canada, northern USA, central Europe or similar, if you want to make the most of your opportunities, you’ll just have to grin and bear it. Get both yourself and your bike properly kitted out, and just go for it. Hail, rain or shine…………. and don’t forget to smile  ;0)

Winter blues…..

January can be the most unfriendly month of the year for cyclists. For those preparing themselves for the comingCIMG5392 racing season, many will have been discouraged by the unremittingly cold, wet, wintry weather of the past few weeks. And if their chances of getting out on a weekend club run happened to coincide with the worst of the weather, they may have confined their winter training to indoor turbo sessions, counting the numbers and putting in the hours………very boring and very sweaty!

In my own case, I’m never in training for anything…..except the next piece of chocolate cake, perhaps. Though I do like to compete against myself occasionally, my riding is entirely for fitness and leisure and, enjoying a certain flexibility during the week to pick and choose my riding schedule, I can study the weather charts and hope to miss some of the worst weather.

My ride today was a case in point. Although it was cold and very windy, I was assured by the forecasts that the rains would not hit our region before 1pm. And sure enough, as I cycled along the high street of our village at 1.30pm, having completed a 40 mile ride, the rains were only just beginning. To get wet in the warmth of the summer is one thing, but to get wet in winter, when the temperatures are hovering above freezing, that is quite a different story.

As I stepped into the house and my body began to adjust to the ambient temperature, the chill in my hands and about my face became painful, forcing me to step back out into the garage to allow a more gradual adjustment. Our bodies do not appreciate sudden changes of temperature.

January mileage: 695 miles (1118 kms).

Smoker’s expletives

I tell you this little story as an example of the divide between two worlds.

Rain_drops_on_window_02_iesThis morning I headed off on the bike ‘midst the ever increasing threat of rain……not just rain, but very heavy rain. I knew the forecast…..I knew what to expect….and sadly, the meteorologists got it absolutely right…..d**n them (only metaphorically, of course).

20 miles later I arrived at a delightful country bistro cafe, in Grafton Underwood, which had only opened its doors in the last few months. After an entertaining hour spent with fellow cyclists, and a pot of tea and pain au raisin consumed, I headed north, wind behind, in the direction of Fotheringay (by now, the rain had actually stopped, and the sun was beginning to show its face). By the time I turned back into the wind, I realised I needed more sustenance to get me home (it was 1pm and I had another 25m to go).

There was a convenient ‘greasy spoon’ (aka. trucker’s cafe) at Warmington so, for £2.90 I splashed out on a bacon

and egg bap and a (free) glass of water. As I headed out of the door to do battle with the wind, there was a young manstock-footage-rainbow-winter-wheat-in-spring-gale-hd having his cigarette break and studying my bike intently. He pointed to the lock on the bike and said “Is that where you put the petrol?”. I could see I had the company of a joker.

“How many miles d’you do, then?” he asked. “Oh, somewhere between 25 and 100, depending on weather and time” I replied. “B***er me” he said, as he took another heave on his cigarette. “Is that in a week?” he asked. “No”, I said “that’s in a day”. “So what’re yuh going to do today, then?”. I said “Something like 50-60 miles”.  “F*****g h**l! I gorra a bike, but I can’t do more than 4 miles a year on it…….”. With that, he took a last heave on the dwindling butt end, flicked it into the car park, and went back into the cafe to make more bacon baps for his customers.

Bypassing the 10,000 milestone

After 35 years of road cycling, I am now in unfamiliar territory. I’ve never been here before. The ‘road maps’ of life have never been detailed enough to tell me what it’s really like. I have, for the first time in my life, bypassed the 10,000 mile milestone for the year 2012………..

Now some of you may be muttering to yourself: “Well, that’s peanuts. That’s hardly more than a warm-up session”. Or: “So what? I’ve usually passed that by the summer solstice”. I do appreciate there are some phenomenal mile-eaters out there who cycle the equivalent of 10-15 Tours de France each year. They are mostly super-dedicated cycle-commuters who may be doing 20-40 miles 5 days a week, then going out with the club at the weekends and putting in another couple of good rides.

My commuting life never surpassed 2 miles return………..yes, I said 2 miles return! If I was lucky, I could add a total of 500 commuting miles to my annual total, and my annual total seldom exceeded much more than 5000 miles (but still more than I would drive in a year). I have absolutely no complaints about having lived so close to my place of work……but it did have its consequences for a keen cyclist like myself.

Of course, hitting 10,000 miles is not just a by-product of enthusiasm/determination/nothing better to do/servile addiction (or any combination of the aforementioned and the unmentioned), but is also a consequence of having a greater measure of time-richness and flexibility in retirement. But these very same assets sadly allow me the unfortunate discretion to indulge in a little stats-mongering by adding date, time and place of the very moment when I passed the milestone. This all sounds very sad………..and you’re right, it is all very sad.  But I plead guilty!

The precise moment was in Oundle, outside St Peter’s church, on Sunday December 16th at 11am.

St Peter's Church, Oundle

St Peter’s Church, Oundle

Are cyclists really like this?

When I go out on Sundays with my cycling club, St Ives CC, I frequently sit with cycling companions at the cake stop listening to all kinds of banter, usually about the world of racing and cycling kit. If you are part of that world, you will find this video clip very funny and, maybe, a bit self-revealing. If you are not, watch it anyway………………you’ll learn a thing or two!

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