Tuesday 28 December 2010

Post Christmas/Pre New Year Resolution

Some might call this slightly premature, but a resolution this good can't wait until New Year...

About this time, I like to reflect a little on the previous twelve months. And I mean "a little". I'm not a deep reflector, more a puddle on the trail than Loch Ness. So, I scribbled down all the rides that I remembered from the year. Here they are in no particular order. Pay attention, there is a theme.
Spotted the theme? There isn't a single ride in there that I did solo. If you consider that 95% of my rides are solo, then it seems pretty conclusive that I don't remember rides, I remember people. So, my resolution for 2011 is...

To ride more with others.

Simple huh? So, anyone up for a ride on New Years Day? Early?

Sunday 21 November 2010

"Truth is I need a focus to get me off my fat arse"

I can't claim those words, but they rang true. They came in an email from Phill, an email entitled "Wessex". This referred to the Tour Of Wessex, an end of May three-day sportive. It covers 320 miles over the three days in the Somerset/Dorset area - an area we know pretty well from the infamous Day 2 of the LEJOG.

Naturally I leapt at the chance to enter - lured by the cycling and camping combination - and it seems that Jon and Darren will be riding too. It's almost as if we're getting the band back together. We need some "Mission from God" shirts to wear.

Now, one of the interesting things about the ToW is that you can choose to ride a single stage or a shorter route on a single day. This means that if 320 miles seems a bit much you can still join in the fun and do 23 miles, or 73 miles, or 106 miles, or 117 miles. It really is achieveable for almost anyone who cycles.

So what's stopping you? Join us, and we'll supply the Snickers bars.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Hello again!

Posts have been few and far between, mainly due to not having done anything particularly interesting or noteworthy. I did visit Las Vegas where I shot some innocent paper targets with machine guns, and I even found time to ride a bike through Red Rock Canyon.

Yes, it's red and it has rocks in it. Check out the fetching hire bike.

It was pretty good, for a hire bike. Some fool had fitted the brakes the wrong way round though, but that didn't really matter as I barely braked anyway.

Today's ride was a dose of winter reality. From these pictures of the bike after the ride it's difficult to tell whether I was riding on or off-road (apologies for the cross-shifting but I only allowed myself to use the big ring).


Filth, pure filth. I even had to bunnyhop a branch at one point, as an oncoming car prevented me riding round it. Still, if Cav can do it at 50mph, I can do it at 17...

Saturday 9 October 2010

Take a look at what you would have won

This is the bike I originally ordered for the bike to work scheme, before various delays (including a gnome invasion and a factory fire) meant I chose the Felt instead. In a way, I'm a bit disappointed not to have one - It's very pretty - but in another way I think it would look a bit silly at the velodrome.

And yes, buying one now would be a bit pointless. Still, I have been known to do pointless.

Monday 27 September 2010

I done a race

Or more correctly, I competed in a race last Sunday.

On a bit of a whim, Darren and I entered the XTM Enduro, a four hour mountain bike race organised as part of an off-road tri/du/mono-athlon weekend. Clearly as I'm not tri or du, I was only interested in the mono side of things - the mountain biking bit.

The main attractions of this race were twofold - it was pretty close (about 40 minutes drive away) and there was a free gold water bottle for all finishers. I'll do a lot for a free gold water bottle. The course was slightly odd, only being 5.5km. Almost like an off-road velodrome. I was concerned about getting dizzy.

The race itself was not unpleasant. The course was moderately interesting with a couple of fun descents and sharp climbs each lap, plus a mix of noodley singletrack and fireroad. It was mildly confusing though as the shortness of the lap kept surprising me - "What, that bit agin? Already?" - was my mantra. I started fairly fast, but not so fast that I'd suffer later. Darren started very fast and I made it my goal not to be lapped by him. I was lapping at about 17-18 minutes, so he'd have to make that up over four hours to catch me.

Round and round... I was overtaking far more than I was being overtaken, and I felt as well as could be expected. Towards the end my legs were teetering on the edge of cramp but they stayed on the edge without leaping over. About 8 minutes before the four hours were up I had a little chat with the guy behind me.

Me: "If we get in before the four hour mark, can we do another lap?" (this is fairly standard for most races)
Him: "No, only laps completed before the four hours count"
Me: (and I quote) "Thank fuck for that"

I crossed the line, had a slightly more interested chat with the other rider, then hunted out Darren, who somehow hadn't managed to lap me.

Darren was broken. Threatening to vomit. Shivering. Not making much sense, even less than usual. Not completely broken, he could still walk to the car to put on more clothes before having a little lie down across the back seats. Apparently he'd slowed down at the two hour mark, and then really slowed down for the last couple of laps. If he ever learns to pace himself properly he'll good at this bike racing business.

We collected our free water bottles.

They weren't real gold.


It's that time again...

Allez is back on the turbo trainer.

Sent from my HTC

Thursday 16 September 2010

Bike Seasons

As I dug the singlespeed out of the pit I buried it in last March, I started thinking about how my bike usage tends to vary throughout the year. Clearly, as it had been encrusted in sweet, sweet clay for the past six months, I don't ride the singlespeed much in the summer. And I kind of know that the Orca only has a few rides left until being sealed in the time-locked badger guarded vault, before emerging like a playful bear cub in the spring. The others tend to be used depending on the time of year too.
  • The commuter (or as I shall call it, the exception). Used all year. It's nice to blow a theory in the first bullet point.
  • The singlespeed. Off-road, mainly October to March. Big mud tyres, neoprene mudguard, one gear. Does not require cleaning.
  • The hardtail. In the depths of winter, when the weather is really, really crappy, this is set up as the ultimate winter road bike. 1.5" road tyres, disc brakes, carbon rigid fork. Lights that stop traffic. In the spring, this has been the training camp bike, with summer tyres and a bit of bounce up front. For the rest of the year it doesn't get used much - apart from the occasional summer blast.
  • The full-sus. Spring to Autumn, long off-road rides. Most of my races are long, so this is the race bike too.
  • The Allez. Slightly less ultimate winter road bike. Road racer crud guards, a slight pattern on the tyres. Lights that hesitate traffic. Also, the turbo bike, for those days when it's horrible outside or I want to watch a bit of Buffy.
  • The Orca. Dry, summer use only. If there's a puddle on the road I'll pull to the side and wait for the sun to dry it up.
  • The track bike. Given I've only used this a couple of times, I'm not sure yet. Probably winter indoor training.
I know what you're thinking.

I need a Christmas bike.

Saturday 11 September 2010

I am being stalked by the press

Do you remember this?

Cycling Weekly Cotswold Spring Classic

I thought it was a random picture, a happy coincidence, that out of the hundreds of pictures they could have used, they used one containing Jon and I.


They are following me. It's the only explaination for this.

Their coverage of the Magnificat, an event with about 1500 people, includes another picture. Another picture where I'm mysteriously in the background, slightly blurred.

If you doubt me, here it is a bit bigger.


I'm struggling to understand why they are doing this, but I hope that they continue.

All this in the same week when the Bridgwater Mercury finally found space to print the story on our LEJOG. They have a lot of news down there, so we're just glad we made it into such an esteemed publication.

Can you spot the three mistakes? I'll reveal the results later...

Sunday 5 September 2010

Planning is overrated

A few weeks ago I outlined my plans for August and September. From what I remember, these were
  • Go to Afan with Jon and ride all the waymarked trails in a day
  • Ride the off-road coast to coast with Darren
  • Do a 12 hour solo at the Gorrick 12:12 Torq in Your Sleep
  • Ride the South Downs Way in a day, again with Darren
These have turned into
  • Fours hours of local biking, as Jon was ill
  • Tick (minus 30km in the middle. And lots was walking rather than riding)
  • Rode as part of the Torq Development four man team at the Gorrick 12:12 Torq in Your Sleep
  • 100km road ride
The last two probably need a little explaining. I was all set up to ride the 12 hour race - to the point of signing in and collecting my race numbers - when I was grabbed by one of the Torq riders to fill in a last minute gap. I didn't really have any expectations about the 12 hour solo (I only entered solo as I couldn't get a team together) so I accepted. There are a couple of differences between riding solo and riding with a team of fast people.
  • Solo: Ride slowly for 12 hours.
  • Team: Ride as fast as you can for 45 minutes, rest for two and a bit hours. Repeat four times. This hurts, especially when you haven't riden like this for about 18 months.
  • Solo: Be self suficient. Have 10 litres of energy drink made up, an organised box of food, a bike that is comfortable for 12 hours and plenty of tools and spares.
  • Team: Hang out at the team truck, under their gazebo, with all-you-can-eat energy bars, gels, drink and recovery. Watch the really good riders warming up on rollers and the mechanic fix all the bikes
  • Solo: Let almost everyone overtake. Only overtake other soloists. Be very keen on pulling over to let others past.
  • Team: Rarely get passed. Be accused of riding faster uphill than people ride downhill (hard to believe, but true). Be very very polite in asking people to make space where convenient.
  • Solo: Carry on through fatigue and finish sometime after midnight
  • Team: Finish your last lap at 1030, and be munching on a sausage, fried onion and brown sauce bap by 1045.
I could get used to it.

The South Downs Way ride has been postponed due to Darren's dodgy knee. If anyone has a spare (preferably right, but I'm sure we could make a left one fit) let me know.

So, various unexpected things have happened. One extremely positive one is that I've ended up with a new track bike - one that fits better, is a kilo lighter and has gold bits on it. All for not very much more money, thanks to Darren and Banjo Cycles. It's clearly way better than I am, and came with several warning stickers, two of which are now on my toolbox.

It also has a ma-hoosive chain, clearly needed to cope with the 35 watts of power I'll be putting through it.

Finally, in all its glory:

Overall, it's been an interesting month. I'm not planning anything for September. Let's see wht happens.

Friday 3 September 2010

Friday 27 August 2010

C2C Day 2 - The Clone(d Sheep) Wars

As we cycled out of Reeth (at an unspecified time) we had little idea of how long the rest of the day was going to be. The route was flat to downhill road for the first 70km, followed by a couple of cheeky road climbs, before hitting the off road sections across the North Yorkshire moors. Our experience of the day before had left us uncertain about the moor crossing, as with all the rain it could be saddle deep in mud. Still, there was good weather forecast for the day and we even had a scraping of suntan lotion on.

The 70km passed quickly, with just the occasional piss stop to break up the flow (there's a joke in there but you can work it out for yourselves). We stopped at a village where a couple of locals pointed us towards an open pub and a closed shop. At least I assume they were locals, as the pub wasn't going to be open for another week and the shop had at least three "Open" signs. The shop was probably the most poorly stocked convenience store since the closure of the Artyk Non-Stock in Siberia. We surveyed the shelves, rejected the tinned sweetcorn, Frey Bentos pie and shoelaces, and chose the biscuits instead.

Onwards and unfortunately upwards. After an unexpected half hour on a motorbike racetrack we turned off the road, and onto the off-road. This was shockingly rideable, meandering through the woods and gaining height quite rapidly. We didn't actually ride it though - but we could have if a) we'd really wanted to and b) didn't have knackered legs. This trail led up to the moors, the trail of truth that would resolve our fears of a four hour trudge through a boggy mess.

At the top of the climb we were greeted by this.

Deceptive isn't it? That boggy mess looks almost like a dry, hardpacked, slightly rocky trail, surrounded by purple heather in bright sunshine and a 10mph tailwind. We stopped and prodded the ground. This was promising... very promising...

We almost flew along, taking care not to run over any walkers, dogs or other cyclists. Sheep were different though. The sheep were... evil.

Dun dun duuuuuuuuur!

Your standard evil sheep would stand in the trail, forcing you to slow down until you were almost on them, at which point they would run along in front of you a bit before leaping aside.

Your enhanced evil sheep would stand in the heather, at the side of the trail, then leap in front of you as you came close, causing violent braking, cursing and slight moistness "down below".

And then we came across the most evil of all sheep... the ninja sheep.

The ninja sheep nearly killed Darren.

Picture the scene. You are riding at 20-25mph down a narrow rocky track. You spot a bunch of enhanced evil sheep on the right hand side of the trail, and prepare to brake whilst watching them carefully. As you get closer, they scatter into the heather, away from the trail.

You relax, and release the brakes.

False. Sense. Of security.

You have fallen for their trap.

Ninja sheep is waiting. Ninja sheep has buried itself in the heather on the left hand side of the trail. Ninja sheep is undetectable, a stealth sheep.

As you come alongside ninja sheep, it explodes from the heather like a woolly IED aimed at your front wheel...

At this point I screamed, and it wasn't even my wheel ninja sheep was aiming for. Darren shouted "duck" (or something) and somehow, no doubt the result of years of Quantocks badger avoidance, managed to leap the ninja sheep. Then ninja sheep was gone, in the blink of an Oakley clad eye.

We made it off the moors without further incident and with plenty of fun. The last 20km were a drag, forever uphill, with a 25% climb followed by a 33% climb. Round every corner we thought "it's got to start going down soon, surely the sea has to be at sea level... or pretty close". Yet on and up we continued. Finally the road flattened, and with just 2km to go, we plummeted down. I think we were still on the road, although judging by the speed of the descent we may have simply rolled off a cliff.

Robin Hood's Bay is your Hollywood seaside village, all quaint houses, souvenir shops and fish and chips. Oh, and tourists, lots of them, who tried their best to knock us off in the last few hundred yards of the ride. Compared to the sheep, they were amateurs.

So finally, after 240km of riding, 10km of hike a bike, and 30km in a car, we came to the sea.


(Thanks to Becky and Caron for the support, and the lady who took the picture at the end. I doubt you're reading this, but if you are, that was a lovely jumper - don't let anyone tell you otherwise)

More pics here

Wednesday 25 August 2010

C2C Day 1... still.

As I mentioned, we had chips.

They didn't last long.

We also had an emergency planning session. Given that it had taken us seven hours to cover the first 55km, with 95km left to go, it seemed prudent to try and optimise the route a little. By optimise, I mean "cut out anything off-road that might slow us down". There were a few sections that we could divert around, but we still had a lot to do to make Reeth by anything close to dinner time.

We set off. Going by road was less interesting but much quicker. Darren's knee was getting steadily worse, to the point where he couldn't really put any force through it. I suggested pedalling one legged, but he announced that he had been since 9am. Oh.

Not much happened. We did re-ride some of the LEJOG route, along the A6, although I didn't notice. Darren was fairly convinced, and a map check after the event proved him right. The fact that I didn't notice is hardly unexpected - not looking at the scenery whilst riding is one of my superpowers. I've missed great swathes of North Africa, Italy, Norway, Sardinia, Yorkshire...

At about 7:30pm we arrived at Kirkby Steven, with 30km still to go. This 30km included the climb up to the Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in England. I don't remember the exact point that we decided we were going to stop for the day in Kirkby Steven, but it might have been halfway through consuming the Frijj Cookies and Cream milkshakes and Snickers bars. Somehow another two hours of riding (at least) didn't appeal.

Logistically, this left us with a problem. We could eat where we were, once the girls had driven over (they were out hunting for food for us East of Reeth, in the assumption that we'd never get there whilst anywhere was open). We could then get driven to Reeth for the overnight - though this was about a 50 minute trip. We could then come back to K-S in the morning, and continue where we left off. Or...

One of these two things happened. One didn't:
  • We ate, drove to Reeth for 10pm, rushed around sorting out kit and food and drinks and routes and GPSs for the morning, plus showering and trying to stuff newpaper in our sopping wet shoes. We then set alarms for 6am, slept briefly, woke up, leapt out of bed, drove back to K-S for a 7am start to ride the 30km back to Reeth over the moors with the highest pub in England, arriving back in Reeth for about 8:30am ready to tackle the day 2 route, all 135km of it.
  • We ate, drove to Reeth for 10pm, showered, chatted, relaxed, sorted out a few bits, ordered breakfast, set alarms for 7am then went to sleep. In the morning we had a pleasant fry-up, got kit sorted and changed without any rush, then set off at 8am to ride the day 2 route, all 135km of it.
Day 2 to follow...

Tuesday 24 August 2010

C2C Day 1 (A story this epic needs two posts. At least)

Every story needs an angle. Something to hang the narrative off of, to give depth, substance and a false sense of being a better writer than you really are.

At the moment, I'm angle-less. Let's just see how this goes. I'd suggest getting a cup of tea, maybe a biscuit (choc hobnob?) and a comfy chair. This could take a while.

We left Newbury at 5pm on Friday, with Darren driving his giant bike-mobile. After picking up Becky and Caron at the station and dropping off Becky's folding bike we joined the summer holiday traffic oozing up the motorway to "the North". I'd had a moment of amusement when Darren realised how long it would take to get to the B and B but this was tempered by realising myself. Sat Nav says... 10pm arrival.

11pm. We arrive at the B and B. We were greeted by a very friendly lady, asking if we wanted tea to go with our wine that was already waiting in the rooms. Not only did we have wine, but we also had slices of chocolate toffee crispy cake and little chocolates too. The lady also helped us with our kit and let us put our bikes in the beautifully decorated hallway! A big thumbs up to Fleatham House.

Morning, and the usual rush of breakfast, making energy drink, packing camelbaks, putting on sun tan lotion (risky, I know) and checking the GPSs. We managed to get out by 8am and rode the 1km to the beach.

Here is my bike at the beach. There is a photo of Darren and I, complete with bikes, but I don't want you getting too excited.

You may notice that my bike is leaning against a bit of a ramp. This is the slipway which I walked back up to the path. Darren rode up, stating that he was going to ride the whole way. Remember this.

The first part of the route was on the road, before turning onto a cycle track. We had a tailwind, almost sunshine and were feeling pretty confident at getting to the lunch stop (Ambleside) by about midday. Remember this also.

The first section of off-road arrives. Across Banna Fell, Whiteoak Moss, Mosedale then down to Crummock Water. You don't get names like that round Newbury. You also don't get tracks that disappear, knee deep bogs and suicidal sheep - including one that seemed to be stuck upside down. Not being well versed in sheepish ways we didn't know if this was normal or not, so felt it best to leave it as it was. Better that than getting savaged.

I walked quite a lot of this section. I'd say that Darren walked too, including a stumble caused by his front wheel disappearing up to the hub in a puddle, but of course Darren was going to ride the whole way.

The track next to Buttermere was surfaced and quick, but also full of walkers. On this ride we soon learnt that walkers meant we were near civilisation, and soon enough we arrived at the road by Buttermere Fell. Brilliant, we thought. Road! Road that goes up! At 25%!

Honister Pass. Actually, it was fine - we were on mountain bikes so just spun our way up. It was at this point that Darren pointed out that his knee was a bit hurty, and had been since the morning. Still, sitting and spinning wasn't too stressful on it. The descent was fun, dodging the traffic and more sheep. A few more roads and we arrived at the bottom of the big climb of the morning, Greenup Edge.

Let's have a look at the map.

Hmm. Lots of those funny red lines, quite close together too. Still, Darren's going to ride all the way.

I started walking. It was steep, rocky and quite hard going. It also went on... and on... and on. Without looking round (to avoid having to watch him ride it all like a mountain goat on a bicycle) I asked Darren how it compared to Trans-Rockies. Quite similar, apparently, although he walked that.

We got to the top. Well, we thought it was the top. Thing is, the path seemed to end and we were surrounded by what I can only describe as "minor cliffs" on all sides (except backwards). Then we spotted the path. It was more of a scramble than a walk. Well, more a climb in places. Up a waterfall. With mountain bikes on our backs.

Greenup Edge is not a bike route.

Strangely, we were still enjoying ourselves. The sillier it got, the more it made sense. A cross-the-country route should involve some hike-a-bike. Just not this much. It was now about 12:30. Lunch at 12 was looking increasingly difficult, unless it was the next day.

Once over the top the track did the comedy disappearing act again, but we managed to find our way across the mushy bits until we found something that could loosely described as a path. Or a stream. A stream would be an equally good word. We scooted/ran/walked/climbed/swam and even rode downwards, confusing some walkers who couldn't fathom how we had got across with bikes. Truth is, we were a little confused about the whole event too.

We made lunch at 15:30. Lunch was good. There were chips.


Friday 20 August 2010

The B&B

Cake, wine and chocolate! How cool is that!


On the way to the lakes, the M6 is as busy as ever. Random weather forecasted. Hot Cross Buns bought in case of emergency.

Sunday 15 August 2010

The Quiver

Plans change, and due to an unavailable riding partner, who was doing the decent thing and looking after an expectant wife and small child, I didn't go to Afan. I did however do a 4 hour, "local" 70km ride on my full-sus mountain bike - the one that I tend to use for long days off-road. This (and the slight front wheel/slippy root/ouch incident) left me in need of a recovery ride today. The depressing drizzle of the past few days had lifted so I released the Orca from the underground vault where it lives, after first drugging the irate badger that guards it.

Recovery rides are strange things, to me at least. I have to ride a bike, and try not to put any effort at all into it. I'm rubbish at this but it does encourage me to do something that I'm equally rubbish at - looking at the scenery. I've cycled in some amazing places, from the Atlas Mountains to the Lofoten Islands in the Arctic Circle, from the mountain top villages of Croatia to...um... Bucklebury Common... and I barely remember any of it. Occasionally I'll stop and take in the drama and beauty but 95% of the time I'm staring at the tarmac/gravel/dirt/arse in front.

I digress.

So there I was, straddled across the graceful carbon fibre curves of the Orca, and I realised that this was my fifth bike of the week.
  • On Monday, I rode the commuter. Singlespeed, pig-ugly, rack and full mud guards. I actually rode this most days.
  • On Tuesday, the Scandal hardtail, for a couple of hours.
  • On Wednesday, the Scandal again. To work, then for a cheeky lunchtime blast, then home again.
  • On Thursday, the track bike. On the track at Southampton, its first proper outing.
  • On Friday. the Scandal again. I must be enjoying it. I also did a spin class, so that's almost another bike too.
  • On Saturday, the Marin full-sus.
  • On Sunday, the Orca road bike.
I now have a challenge - seven bikes, seven days. I'm such a saddle slut.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Big Weekends

I'm not quite sure how but I've ended up committing to four big weekends in a row. The kind of things that I used to train intensively for, building up my fitness carefully before resting ahead of the event, to come to a best-of-the-year peak. Instead of this I seem to have just said yes to everything.
  • This Saturday, 14th August, I've off to Afan to ride all the MTB trails in a day. OK, so only The Wall, Whites Level and Skyline are open but it's still a fair bit of riding.
  • Next Saturday, 21st August, I'm going to dip my wheels (thankfully not a euphemism) in the sea on the West coast then ride for 90ish miles across the Lake District, off road as much as possible. Then I'll do something similar on the Sunday, except across the Penines and dipping my wheels in the North Sea, on the East coast. Also known as the C2C (either Sea to Sea or Coast to Coast). This looks pretty scary to be honest.
  • Sunday, 29th August I've entered the Gorrick 12:12 Torq in Your Sleep 12 hour race, as a soloist. I might treat this as a rest weekend and take thing a bit easy. Or maybe not.
  • Saturday, 4th September I'll be doing the 100 miles+ of the South Downs Way. Hopefully. I may be very broken by this point.
I blame Jon (for Afan), Darren (for the SDW and C2C) and Caroline for the Gorrick 12:12.

I'm not really one for personal responsibility.

Saturday 31 July 2010

24/12, The Podium Tales

I like to think that the key for a distinctly average XC racer is intelligent catagory selection. There's no point me entering the most hotly contested races, with the biggest and best prizes. For example, an Olympic gold is probably beyond me. There is little point me dressing up in replica kit and sneaking onto the start line for London 2012. Not after last time anyway, with the shouting, the pushing, the (short) chase and the taser.

No, my time is far better spent reviewing old races to understand what categories have the fewest people and still offer prizes. My palmares consists of
  • 2nd place in the mixed team category of the 24hrs de MTB, Coin, Spain
  • 3rd place in the World Corporate Games mixed team relay
  • 3rd place in the mixed team Nightrider12
These excellent results need to be tempered by
  • There were three teams that entered, but one team went on strike after 2 laps
  • There were four teams that entered, but one couldn't be bothered to race and went to the bar instead
  • There were three teams that entered. We came third.
There is another factor running through these results. "Mixed". There aren't that many women who race mountain bikes so there is much less competition. My training regime for this year's Bontrager 2412 mainly consisted of finding a willing female partner for the race. It wasn't a very difficult regime. I can outline it in two easy steps.
  • Caroline says "How about doing a mixed pair in the Torchbearer race at the 2412? Not many people entered last year, so we might win something".
  • I reply  "OK".
So I attribute my first victory in a mountain bike race to my ability to say the word "OK".

That's my kind of training.

Saturday 24 July 2010

Glow sticks on the helmet.

Race starts in 1 hour. Conditions are poor to say the least.

Sunday 18 July 2010

First race of the year

I've not posted for a while, partly due to laziness but mainly due to a lack of inspiration. I really didn't want to bore people with tales of my holiday ("...and then we went on a guided tour of of the museum of British Columbian Fish Canning..."), suffice to say that we all had a lovely time and learnt that whilst some bears may shit in the woods, at least one prefers the car park of a ski resort.

As a friend pointed out, it does make you wonder if all the Popes are actually Catholic.

Anyway, back to the so-called point of this post. Next weekend I've got my first bike race of the year. I'm doing the "Torchbearer 12" as one half of a mixed pair (I'm the male half, Caroline is the female half). The Torchbearer 12 starts at midnight Saturday and runs until midday Sunday. We're feeling fairly confident as according to the entry list we are the only people in our category, so we're hoping for 3rd place at least.

I'd like to say that we were hoping for a large competitive field and that we didn't pick this race simply because there were so few people in it last year.
Moving on, I'm in the process of planning some more trips, all thought of by Darren. I like to think of myself as the reality filter that holds back the bitter coffee grounds of serious injury ("Let's ride on the railway line to Wolverhampton") and lets through the stimulating espresso of inspirational challenge.

I'll write more when they become slightly better brewed.

Monday 28 June 2010

The aptly named Hertz car rental

So here I am in Western Canada (which I've discovered should be pronounced to rhyme with armada), without a bike, and without any plans to go out on one. Ironic, given where we are has some of the world's best mountain biking, but sometimes I heed the advice of people who tell me to "give it a rest".

I'm not missing out on training entirely though - I have gym stuff with me, and I spent an hour of the flight lying on my back in the aisle doing the upsidedown pedalling in the air thing that we used to do in PE class when we were 8. The cabin attendants did look at me a bit strangely, but as I pointed out, what do you expect if all the films are in French? And it's not as if they didn't have another aisle to use.

We flew into Calgary, which is famous for stampeding cattle, terrible car hire and an old winter olympics. We managed to experience one of these within an hour of landing, and I wish it had been being trampled by 37 angry steers about to have their balls removed. Instead, we suffered the punishment of Calgary Hertz.

We'd booked a luxury car - something big enough to be comfortable, but not so big that we'd feel we were driving a combine harvester. The people in front of us were given a Cadilac for their similar booking, so imagine the joyous looks on our faces when we were told that they didn't have any luxury cars, they never had luxury cars, and actually, Hertz doesn't even do them. Hey, would you like a free upgrade to a combine harvester?

No, we would not. We would like the car we booked. The car we booked a month ago, just like the one we've seen drive out of the car lot with the happy, smiling couple in it.

Ah... well, we could get you one of those... tomorrow. We'll call you. We're really competant.

So we took the harvester, with the expectation of changing it the next day. On the plus side, it was excellent for mowing down pedestrians.

That evening, Hertz call. Your car is here. The one you booked. I know you're out drinking and eating and enjoying your holiday, but how about bringing the ol' international harvester back and getting the car? What? You'd rather wait until you were sober? And you'd like it delivered to your hotel?

The next day, we speak to Hertz again. They would deliver! The car was with them! A Caddy!

Half an hour later they call back. They don't deliver. They never deliver. Bring back the combine. We have your Caddy.

We go to the airport, burning more of our precious holiday. At the airport, we avoid the pedeststian residue cleaning charge by pointing out that by now, we realy don't give a shit, and go to the office to get the keys to the Caddy.

We don't rent Caddys from this office. We never have. We certainly haven't given yours away again. You'll have to take something else. But don't worry, it'll be an upgrade.

Wow, Hertz really came up with the goods.

Wednesday 16 June 2010


So, 127 miles. Pretty lumpy. Not as many people as the Dragon Ride. However, they did have the Mavic support car:

And even the Mavic support bike, sans spare wheels:

Things started fairly fast, as Darren and I escaped most of our starting group up the first hill and tried to hang on to a couple of faster groups that had started after us. Tried, until we both realised that riding flat out for 6+ hours wasn't really going to be a viable strategy (you could argue, quite convincingly, that it wasn't a strategy at all). We settled into our own pace, sometimes sheltering behind others, sometimes doing the sheltering. Darren was feeling a little ill (having raced the day before with a cold) and was fairly confident that he'd only do the 81 miler. He might have been feeling rubbish but as usual it didn't show - I don't think I'd have been going any faster if he hadn't had been there.

At the first big food stop we were passed by the Torq team riders, who had started a good 20 minutes behind us. They were travelling so quickly (and with no intention of stopping for food) that they completely missed the timing mats at the entrance to the food stop and had to sheepishly turn back. We noticed a few riders doing this - the moral of the tale being to never, ever pass up the chance of free flapjack.

Shortly after Darren split off for the 81 mile route (or "Wusses Route", as it was known) and I carried on the big one. At this point it became slightly disconcerting as there were so few people around. I hung on the back of a couple of riders for a while, but let them go (i.e. couldn't keep up) after half an hour.  Then I was alone... alone to the extent that I was convinced I'd missed a turning. The course wound up and over the South Downs - stunning countryside in the sunshine, less stunning if you're worried that you are riding an unknown road with no useful map and limited supplies. I'm sure very few people die of starvation on these roads, but I didn't fancy existing on dead hedgehog and Torq bars until I was rescued.

Finally, some more direction signs, a couple of other riders and a drinks stop. After this (about the 80 mile mark) I managed to tag along with some other groups until I found that these groups kept getting smaller on all the climbs - and I wasn't one of the ones being dropped. Wowzers... I can climb. Must be all those days trying to keep up with tiny Jon.

Lots more miles, and finally back onto some familiar roads near Basingstoke. I could sense the finish so allowed myself to burn a tad more energy until the beautiful gleeming spires of the the old Air Traffic Control tower at Greenham Common came into view. Down the hill, back to the racecourse and a very gentlemanly finish with noone trying to sprint ahead of the two guys who had been towing us around for the past ten miles.

I finished 100th out of 440 starters on the 127 mile route - 7 hours 11 ride time, 7 hours 24 total including stops.

No witty ending for this one.

Saturday 12 June 2010


This time last year I was eagerly (i.e. nervously) awaiting the Dragon Ride, 187km (117 miles) of South Wales roads. A few long climbs, a couple of thousand riders and my first road event. I prepared carefully, with a well thought out and executed training plan combined with careful nutrition, a new bike and a well executed taper to have me in perfect form for the day.

Tomorrow I'm doing the Magnificat, 203km (127 miles) of Berkshire and Hampshire. Some sharp, nasty climbs, a couple of thousand riders (maybe) and my fourth road event. I've done a bit of vague training since LEJOG, eaten cake and drunk beer, I think my bike is somewhere in the garage and probably works and I've had a slightly more relaxed week than normal.

Funny how perceptions change isn't it?

I'm still looking forward to the event, but after eight days of riding similar distances I don't see it as a challenge. It's not going to be easy - I'm not that dumb - more that I'm fairly confident I can ride it at a reasonable pace, and if not I'm not that bothered. It's a big training ride.

Of course, now I'm writing about it maybe I should set a target time. You know, something to aim it. Plus I'll see all the Torq people, experience a new route that's local and they've got the yellow Mavic service vehicles too (which were my absolute favourite thing about the Dragon Ride). Hmm... maybe I am a little weeny bit excited.


Wednesday 9 June 2010

The Quickie

Friday, 1525. My laptop has crashed, it's been dry and warm all week and something outside is calling me.

Shut down the laptop in the most violent way, throw it in the drawer and skip outside to the bike rack. Spend the five minute ride home thinking, weighing options... Singlespeed? No, winter bike. Full-sus? Still a bit creaky. Road bike....? But the trails might be dusty. Dusty is rare round here, something to be embraced. Scandal then, 10kgs of race hardtail.

Into the garage, park the commuter bike, take the bling wheels off the full-sus and drop the Scandal onto them. Out the garage, dash upstairs and throw on baggies, Seventeen11 team bike jersey and silly socks. Grab a bottle of water, a Torq bar, multitool, tube and CO2 inflator. Oakleys, Giro E2, shoes, gloves.

And I'm out. Christ, this bike feels fast. Pump over the speed humps, drop the outside heel round the tight corner on the dodgy estate, carve the bike path by the park.

Pause. A4, Friday traffic. See a gap and I'm across and cutting through the pub car park and hopping the kerb and whipping onto the towpath. Race everyone else, though I'm the only one racing. Over the wooden bridge, tight switchback corners onto more tarmac. Past the racecourse, up the hill, leave those 8 year olds pushing their BMXs for dust... and I'm onto Greenham Common.

Dirt, dust, roots, singletrack. I'm riding like the first lap of an XC race, looking for all the speed I can, focusing on body position, wrists and heels, looking far far ahead. Ignore the trees and trust the tyres. Down the steep drop, over the two sleepers that constitute a bridge, up the short steep climb. Two other cyclists at the top, pausing for breath. I say hi but don't slow down.

The pickle factory is strong this afternoon... mmm... limey...

Rider approaching from the front on a silver bike and hang on is that Kev but he's got a helmet on which he doesn't normally and as we pass each other I turn and he turns and we shout hello and don't let up the pace as this is waaay too much fun to slow down.

Singletrack complete. It's now gravel, byways and towpath. Power takes over from skill as I push the intensity and my heart rate reaches those places where it doesn't often go. With other riders on the path it's like a 24 hour race, as I slow, freewheel and politely ask to come past when convenient. Then sprint like a bastard away from them.

Back on the road. Sprint to make the lights. Just squeeze through. Officer, the light was yellow.

Home. Dripping with sweat, dusted with, erm, dust, water barely touched.

Short can be epic too.

Friday 4 June 2010


As well as cycling, I'm also a big fan of food. The two kind of go together - I exercise so I can eat more, and I eat more so I can exercise. Symbiosis. Now there's a word. For my birthday I was bought an evening of butchery - not the stab-your-victim-in-a-darkened-alley type, but the cut-up-dead-animals-with-a-very-sharp-knife type.

It was fascinating. Held at The Ginger Pig, the evening started with a talk from Borat - Slovakian I think, rather than Kazak. Our course was on beef, so we learnt about different cuts, where they come from, how to cook them and aging (the good dry-aging and the bad wet-aging). We then moved onto the meat, where another butcher (I forget his name, it wasn't as memorable as Borat) showed us how to cut up almost half a cow into the major sections and explained how different cuts, on and off the bone, are known by different names. Did you know that the main chunk of meat in a fore-rib join is rib-eye steak? And that a sirloin steak with the bone left on is a porterhouse? You did? Really? Oh. You probably eat more beef than I do.

We then all had a go at cutting a chunk off the big side of cow - using saws, super-sharp knives and a little stabbing knife. That was the technical term for it. With the right tools and instruction it was reasonably simple, but I imagine we'd have made a whole lot of mince without either. Oh, there was a lot of slapping of the meat too. The butcher claimed it was a butchery tradition, but I have my doubts.

After the chunking we all got a section of fore-rib, which we turned into "Cote de Boeuf", by removing the cap, deboning one side, unrolling it, cutting out the paddywhack, putting the cap back, French trimming the ribs and finally tying it up with string.

Impressive huh? That's about £45 of meat there (included in the price of the course), sitting in my kitchen.

We then ate chunks of a bigger version of above - with five ribs - served rare with dauphinoise potatoes and a cheeky red. Yummy, and very filling. We joked how glad we were that there wasn't a pudding... and then a brioche bread and buter pudding turned up. I did my best.

More chat, including some bloke quizing the butchers on their income (must be a London thing), then a dash for the train.

I'd really recommend it - it's not often I get to saw through bones without the victims owners screaming.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Metamorphosis Parts II and III

After the hair regrowth and and self flagellation with brambles, the next stage in turning myself back into a mountain biker was to reacquaint myself with how to ride off road without hitting trees at regular intervals.

Part II involved a decent ride somewhere new - although when I got there I realised I'd actually done some of the route before - sort of like deja vu, but with a sprinkling of reality. Caroline and I went to the south Chilterns (or near Pangbourne for those who navigate by towns) and did the route from an organised ride a few weeks before. It was stunning. Hot, bluebelly (i.e. there were lots of bluebells. Not that we had smurf stomachs), dry, dusty. One spot was breathtaking - the camera phone picture really doesn't do it justice.

Part III was something that's been arranged for a while - an afternoon for Caroline, Jon and I with Tony from UK Bike Skills. The idea was to have some fairly personal skills coaching, and Tony came highly recommended.

Tony has such a calm, relaxed, intuitive coaching style - he can pick up on the smallest thing, suggest a correction and suddenly you find things so much easier. When you are riding well everything flows, everything is effortless and there is a connection to the bike and trail.

At least, that's how it was for Tony.

For us, things were a little more, um.... patchy. Certainly at the start our feet were wrong, our wrists and heels were wrong, our vision was wrong... and Jon nearly fell off in the first 10 seconds of riding around a stick. However, with a few pointers we got better. We pumped, we dropped, we climbed, we cornered, we strung sections of trail together. We had gone from a dribble to definite signs of flow by the end.

And I didn't hit a single tree.

(For Tony's view of the afternoon, see his blog)

Saturday 22 May 2010

Startling Discoveries

One of the advantages of mountain biking over road biking is that it brings you closer to nature. Road biking does sort of do this, except most of the nature is squished. And a squished creature is not nearly as exciting as a live one, unless you enjoy roadkill cuisine or taxidermy.

Yesterday evening it was glorious. You could smell the heat, taste the roasting asphalt in the air. No wind, clear skies and dusty trails. It would have been a crime not to ride.

I dragged the full-sus bike out for the first time since Spain and set off on a very well known loop - Greenham Common, down to the canal, up to Bucklebury and back home. I've ridden this so many times, especially the Greenham section. You normally see a few deer, rabbits, wild cows (well, common cows) and occasionally ponies. This ride brought me a three new discoveries.

Firstly, a (presumably) female duck with a dozen tiny ducklings. This isn't that strange, but I've never seen something like this running along wooded singletrack, well away from any water. Little ducklings tend to fall over a lot when startled by a mountain bike, and they don't have the sense to run off the trail - they just tumble along it, cheeping furiously. Eventually they figured it out and I was able to pass without turning them into tiny singletrack-kill.

Next, and this was a real surprise, my first UK snake. In all my time riding, walking, being out and about in the UK I've never seen a live snake. The closest has been a couple of dead slowworms - so very slow worms. I glimpsed it out of the corner of my eye as it made a break off the trail to the undergrowth, having heard me approach. And OMG... it was about 18" long! Real inches, not man-inches. Probably a python, or maybe a cobra. I concede that a grass snake may be an option too.

My final discovery was the biggest, most active, and most entertaining. Descending a fast gravel track I noticed a runner ahead, his back to me, well to the right hand side of the car-width trail. I moved left. He started to drift left. I moved even further left to the extreme edge of track and slowed, tyres crunching noisily. He moved to the left edge of the track. By now I was only a few metres behind him. Some sixth sense must have alerted him from his iPod-zombism as he turned quickly, saw me skidding to a halt and reacted like a startled fawn. He leapt off the trail, into the verge, and danced across the adjoining field shouting profuse apologies, flapping his hands in the air. I suppressed a giggle, let go of the brakes and rolled down the hill.

Thank god the snake wasn't wearing an iPod too.

Thursday 20 May 2010


It's time for a change. A transformation. After four months of turning myself into a roadie, I must now turn back to a mountain biker.

Several things need to happen. The first has already started.

That's leg hair. Shin hair to be precise, so don't get any funny ideas. I'll need to start going to the gym again to build up my upper body. Road riding has left me with tiny T-Rex arms, so I won't be able to pick up my mountain bike if it falls over, let alone heft a whole pint of beer to my mouth.

In order to abide by the code of the mountain biker, I'll also need to
  • Put on a couple of stone in weight, then spend £2000 making my bike 2lb lighter.
  • Start using terms like freeride, all-mountain and jeycore-lite.
  • Eat sausage rolls, cake and flapjack mid ride, instead of energy bars and drink.
  • Carry a huge camelbak with 3 litres of water for any ride over 30 minutes.
  • Spend much more time on the internet, instead of going out riding. Some of this will be on bike related things, most will be spent arguing with strangers over random topics.
  • Treat anyone wearing lycra as if they've just eaten my cat.
  • Race anyone on a road bike in order to prove how much better mountain bikes are, especially if I've only been out for 10 minutes and they've been out for six hours.
Right, I'm off out to roll in some nettles and decorate my arms with bramble scratches. It's what we mountain bikers do. Gnarly.

Sunday 16 May 2010

LEJOG - Epilogue

It didn't feel that special at the end. It's strange, but as people keep saying, it's the journey that counts, not the destination. JoG is kind of what you expect - remote scenery, a couple of tat shops, man charging £10 for a photo of a sign - but it could have been anywhere. We kind of rolled up to the finish, had a few pictures taken and then got back in the camper van.

I've felt more satisfaction at the end of races - particulary my first 12-hour solo. This finish was like the end of another 100 mile bike ride (done a few now... in the past week), although a 100 mile bike ride when you have had your legs beaten with broomsticks for the previous seven days.

What has been more special has been the comments and reactions of others - we've just riden bikes for a few days, but hopefully we've kept other entertained, maybe inspired, and we've definitiely raised some cash for a good cause. We've also had great help and assistance from others - the official support team, the visitors (planned and surprise ones), the cake makers, the people at Prendas and Spokeshirts, the campsites that gave us free or discounted rates.

Certain days and sections stand out. Day two, the 218km in the cold and the rain and the wind was truely Belgian. If that had been a single day ride we'd have been talking about it for weeks. As it was, as part of a bigger thing, it was a real highlight. Also on day two we had the visit to Darren's parents, with the signs in the street, the bunting, the marching band, the flags, the 100s of people out cheering us on and the photographer from the Bridgwater Mercury. At the end of day seven we had the surprise bunkhouse, with the real roof and heating and everything. The scenery on the final day was breath taking, as were some of the sections after coming off the ferry.

Ah, the ferry. OK, so 5 miles of our route was spent sitting in the warm, but we didn't count that in the 959 miles. Also, we had to team time trial it to actually get to the ferry on time - and losing ten minutes to a puncture on the only day when we had a deadline really really didn't help. Except... it did. It made it more memorable, added a touch of spice to the ride.

We learnt a few things.
  • Under stress we all slightly lose our minds, giving uncensored train of thought monologues to the world in general. It was like the filter between brain and mouth had been removed ("Why don't we cycle on the Loch instead of along it? If we put enough air in our tyres...").
  • We will pee almost anywhere without thought to who might be watching (sorry Liz/Lynne/Becky!).
  • Tracklogs under estimates distance, but over estimates height gain.
  • Procycling must be brutal, and drugs would almost certainly be needed. You should have seen our ibuprofen consumption. Two, maybe three pills a day!
  • When planning to go through towns, study the one way systems.
  • Banana and marmite toasties are wrong.
  • Nutella in porridge is right.
  • Bunkhouses are better than tents when there is frost on the ground. May is not a warm month.
  • Eight days cycling in the wind and rain makes your face peel off.
Would I do it again? Probably not in the same style. Non-stop as a relay? Maybe. Race Across America? Would love to. Big single day races/stage races? Oh yes.

It's not about where you ride, it's how you ride and who you ride with.

Friday 14 May 2010

LEJOG Complete

Done it.

It wasn't hard.

I lie. It was. Draining, fatiguing, wearing, um, chaffing. I didn't realise that Assos Cream pots were single serving. The knees just about held out, as did Darren's broken pedal. The riding of the past two days has been awesome – sunshine, tailwinds and amazing scenery. Let's hope Dave's pictures come out.

959 miles in total, three punctures, two ripped tyres and no falls. There was almost a submission or two though.

The section along Loch Esk after the ferry – rolling, fast, smooth tarmac with our first helpful wind of the week.
The whole of the final day. Wow. I mean, like, wow.
Fish and chips at the end of the final day.
The 15% climb from Drumnadrochid, and the descent afterwards with 43mph clocked.
Lunch in the sunshine, Church Stretton.
Being photographed for the Bridgwater Mercury.
No cramp for anyone.
The campsites in Little Torrington and Slimbridge.
Managing to ride for 45 minutes one morning without having to stop for a wee.
The hilarity of watching others being massaged. Lizzie fixing us.
The brutality of day 2.

The cold and the rain and the headwinds..
The Belgian style cobbles in North Devon.
-5C, the lowest temperature recorded in May in Cumbria in 20 years. When we were camping.
Preswick Airport campsite. Meany owner.
The campsite North of Oban. Another meany owner, with stupid petty rules. Hmm, there's a theme here. Scottish campsites? Dave nearly clocked him, and he would have deserved it.
The pain of being massaged.
The brutality of day 2.

I'm sure I'll remember more, but for today that's it. I'm going to have a few more beers and pass out. Thanks for all the comments, sponsorship and support – you've been inspirational.

Recovery ride tomorrow.


Thursday 13 May 2010

Why nutrition is important

Obviously, as we're riding 8+ hours a day, we have to eat quite a lot. We have a number of different foodstuffs available. Let's look at some of the popular ones.
  • Little Snickers. 244 kcal, 24g carbs, 13.5g fat.
  • Malt loaf, ¼. 172 kcal, 36g carbs, 1.2g fat.
  • Torq bar. About 220 kcal, 65g carbs, 1g fat.
  • Pringles, small handfull. Um, small amount of carbs, quite a bit of fat (I've lost the packet..)
  • Scotch egg (you really don't want to know)
Notice that some have quite a lot of fat, and some don't have much fat at all. As we're exercising, carbs are good. Although we are mainly burning fat, you need carbs to trigger the reaction. We all have lots of stored fat, so we don't really need to eat any more. What we need to eat is lots of carbs. We can store carbs in the form of glycogen. Glycogen is good.

Let's look at a couple of examples. For lunch, we could have
  • Rice, pasta
  • Ham, other lean protein
  • Energy bars
This would give lots of energy that is easy to use, and easy to digest.

An alternative, hypothetical, lunch would be
  • Several handfuls of pringles
  • Cake
  • Scotch eggs
Hmm, that's a little fatty. What would happen in this case hypothetically would be that all the fatty stuff would sit in your stomach, making you feel lethargic and bloated. What would also happen would be that you would fancy eating any of the nice energy products that are stashed about your person. You would be doing pringle flavoured burps and trying to sip water, but failing. However, you'd feel OK for a bit due to having some stored glycogen (carbs).

OK, for a bit.

Until you start to run out of stored glycogen.

And then... you have trouble burning fat. Your vision goes a bit blurry, you start to shake, and you have trouble turning your legs round. This would happen, hypothetically, about 2km from the camp site.

When you got to the camp site you would fall off your bike, collapse on the floor, beg for recovery drink and be generally pathetic. Hypothetically. You would then eat a whole malt loaf, two torq bars and a couple of pints of water.

Of course, none of us would ever do this, as it would leave us so tired that we would be unable to write a blog entry.

We're much more professional than that.

(Now North of Dingle, which is a real place! Assault on JOG tomorrow. Tim plans to ride, so it could all end in casualty)

I have no comment

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Stage 5 - A day in the life of a Badajapadlejog rider

This is how we live.

3am, get up for a wee. Depending on how cold it is, you'll either go a discrete distance away or as near as possible without getting anyone's tent wet.
4am, still awake so hunt around the tent for a Torq bar. Eat bar, play with phone.
6am, vaguely aware that people are moving nearby.
6:30am, unzip top half of sleeping bag and put on down jacket. Wait for jacket to warm up before removing rest of self from the sleeping bag and liner.
6:35am, coffee. It's important to get this in first.
6:40am, porridge with dried fruit, broken up digestive biscuits, cut up energy bars and anything else within reach. We're trying Nutella tomorrow.
6:50am, coffee has worked its magic so dash to the loo.
7am, start getting dressed for the ride. Chamois cream, shorts, socks, leg warmers, overtights, base layer, jersey, soft shell, HRM strap (oops, that should have gone on before the base layer...), inner gloves, MP3, hat, outer gloves, helmet, sunglasses, bars and gels in pockets. It's complicated. And cold.
7:30am, now dressed, so start bike faffing - tyres, water bottles, GPS etc.
8am, start riding.
8:45am, stop for Jon to have a wee.
9:15am, stop for Jon to have another wee.
10am, first food/water pick up.
10am-lunch, stop for wees, more food, remove layers of clothing, add layers of clothing as appropriate. Wave to photographers.
1pm, Lunch. Eat a lot, drink more coffee, get cold, put on down jacket, get warmer.
2pm, more riding/food/wees/photos.
4pm, start to get a bit dispirited. Curse something random. Bloody lambs, always getting in the way.
4:10pm, afternoon food stop. Scotch eggs, snickers bars, kitkats...
6pmish, finish. Slump into a chair, drink recovery drink, get up, stretch.
7pm, get massaged/tortured. Shout and giggle a lot.
8pm, dinner. Eat a lot. Although you've generally been eating constantly since 6pm anyway.
9pm, write blog, argue about the next day's route, chat, eat. Might have a beer, might not.
10pm, go to bed.
Midnight, go for a wee.

Repeat until John O'Groats.

We're now well into Scotland, three more days riding to go. We get a ferry ride tomorrow as well!

Thanks for all the good wishes and comments too, both on here and on Facebook! And please check out Dave's blog for the photographer's point of view - Widge

We're not in England any more

Crossed the boarder about an hour ago. Jon won the sprint.

Monday 10 May 2010

Stage 4 - Somewhere South of Warrington to Penrith

I don't want to say it's grim up North

But today, we were up North, and it was pretty grim. The temperature had dropped about 10C overnight, so the 4C ice warning bell was going off in Dave's car. A band of rain had settled across the Liverpool – Manchester area, making our route of Warrington, Wigan and Preston somewhat wet. The towns themselves were lovely – clear cycle lanes, considerate drivers and light traffic.

Oh, hang on, I must have drifted off for a moment there.

The towns themselves were hellish. Busy, confusing, dirty, traffic lights every 50 metres, one way systems that made no sense and bore no relation to our marked route and lorries that were having a “closest to the cyclists” competition. The ambulance won, a mere 3cm away. We did have a slight amount of fun in the pedestrian precinct of Warrington, but I do mean slight.

Sponsors – you got your money's worth today.

We stopped for coffee, partly to get out of the cold, and partly to meet Dave M's Dad. It was great to see him and the hour stop gave us a chance to get some more clothes on.

More riding, more North. Dave M had picked up another visitor for lunchtime – Gavin Baxter, again great to see him.

Then Lancaster. We got lost in the one way system and broke several traffic laws trying to escape. When your marked route goes over a bridge, and the bridge happens to be one way (the wrong way), do find yourself cursing road planners. The same lot had been at work in Kendal – it took us three laps to escape.

Finally, the big climb of the day – Shap Fell. 10 miles of distance, up to 1400ft. There was snow on the surrounding hills. Jon took the mountains jersey, beating Phill over the top. We were all pretty tired by this point – the top of the climb was almost exactly the 100 mile point of today's route. It was more or less downhill from there to Penrith, where we ended today – another 115 miles done.

Scotland tomorrow. It's got to get warmer at some point surely...

Sunday 9 May 2010

This is why.

This is why we get up at 6am in the middle of winter and ride 25 miles before work. And then do the same on the way home.

This is why we pour over bike magazines for those latest training tips or “vital” piece of kit.

This is why we plan big weekends away, freezing night rides and 100 mile training rides.

This is why we go to bed wearing compression tights.

This is why we we give up our Saturdays to spend the day punishing ourselves.

This is why we spend £1000s on bikes instead of cars.

This is why we suffer sports “massages”.

This is why we spend hours on a turbo trainer in the garage, watching episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer on a laptop.

This is why we force down pints of energy drink instead of pints of lager, and energy bars instead of chocolate bars.

This is why, on very rare occasions, and when we really really have to, we shave our legs.

This is why holiday plans have to fit in with training plans.

This is why we thank our long suffering friends and family.

For mornings of sunshine, clear fast roads, stunning English countryside and like minded people – this is why.

[Disclaimer – not all of the above applies to all of the riders... but I'm not revealing what applies to whom]


And sunshine too!

Saturday 8 May 2010

Stage 2

I mentioned the massages yesterday. Osteo Liz is our medical support, which means we are getting pro-level massages each night. These take place in the comunal tent, so we all get to observe the reactions. There are three types so far:

- The giggling screamer. Both myself and Jon fit into this category. Very amusing to watch, or listen to.
- The stoic. You can tell it hurts, but reactions are limited to the odd grunt or involuntary twitch of the leg. This is Phill and Dave.
- The corpse. Darren. He has no nerve endings.

[Update - Phill is a giggler when subjected to "The Thumper" on his quads. His was the first ever to shout "turn it off, turn it off!"]

Today's ride was tough - 218km according to my GPS, 95% into a strong headwind. Nine and a half frickin hours. I'd describe it in more detail but I had my eyes closed most of the time.

Thanks to:

- Darren's family, who variously fed us at lunchtime, entertained us with decorations, visited the campsite and generally seemed more excited by the trip than we are
- The support crew for doing all the supporty things
- The makers of various energy products who got us through the day

No thanks to:

- Rain, rain, rain
- Wind, wind, wind
- The road makers of Devon who base their resurfacing plans on Belgian cobbles
- Inconsiderate drivers
- Hot oil splashing Lynne (a little, she's still functional)

Word of the day: Brutal

Friday 7 May 2010

Stage 1

Thankfully, by the time we left the camp site at 8am the rain had eased. We were resplendent in our matching Peugeot tops, carefully hidden under various un-matching rain jackets. Arriving at Land's End we discovered that the famous signpost with all the distances to various places (including John O'Groats) gets taken away every night for safekeeping. Still, we did the photos by the empty post – we'll photoshop the full one in later.
And then... we were off. Bit of a subtle start, no cheering crowds and the massed bands of the Coldstream Guards were late (again!). Darren and Dave indulged in a bit of cyclocross over a gravel track and had to retrace their pedals as it ended in a fenced off car park but we managed to reform.
Sunshine. Who'da thought it? The idea of a 1000 mile bike ride is much easier to deal with in the sun. Beaches, little fishing villages, boats, trucks thundering past at 60 mph three inches from our elbows. On a quiet road we stripped off a little, exposing chicken white flesh to the light, blending in well with our various black and white clothing combinations.
One feature of the ride was Photo Dave and Osteo Liz who kept overtaking, stopping and then taking photos. Dave seems to be trying to vary his style, variously hiding in bushes, under a bridge, running across the road with his bits hanging out after a roadside comfort break, suspended from a crane by his feet – I can't wait to see those!
Jon and Phill were very strong today – they kept pulling away from the rest of us, although we reined them back by the simple tactic of not letting them have a map. This made them stop at junctions so we could catch up, though it did mean they missed the final turn and had to do another 10 miles and 300m of climbing.
Tonight we're staying at Smytham Manor campsite in our own private walled garden camping area! It's in Little Torrington and highly recommended.
Tomorrow – I'll tell you about the massages.