Saturday, 27 August 2011

Because I can

On Saturday, 28th June 2008, a couple of months after I started this blog, I rode my first century - 100 miles, in one go, on a road bike. I'd built up to it with longer and longer rides and I remember getting to about the 80 mile mark and just riding small loops close to home to make up the 100, in case I blew up completely and ended up quivering by the side of the road (like that would ever happen).

A Century (capitalised to emphasise the awesomeness) is a big thing. It has to be miles of course - none of this "metric" business with kilometres. Your first century ride is like your first car crash or assassination attempt. A little scary, maybe a little painful, but forever memorable.

Two days ago, with the minimum of recent training, little fanfare and admittedly some careful pre-eating I rode from Cirencester to Aylesbury to Newbury. 107 miles.
This was partly because I wanted to help out Jon on the first part of his charity ride ( but mainly because it would be fun. Not epic, not brutal, just fun.

You've come a long way, baby.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The psychology of clothing

I've written about bike clothing before - mainly pointing out how silly it all is when taken out of context. But I realised today something fairly obvious but something that seemed at the time to be a major revelation. Now, I'm sure when people read this major revelation, they'll think "um, yeah, that's obvious", but the fact I consider it a major revelation says a lot about my attitude to clothing in general.
Off the bike, I wear the following outfits.
  • For work, jeans, t-shirt, sometimes a shirt if I'm meeting someone external or very important. I have a pair of shoes too. They're brown and casual.
  • For evenings at home, I wear whatever I had on at work. I might change out of the shirt though. And I take off my shoes.
  • For weekends, jeans, t-shirt and the same pair of shoes. Can you see a pattern emerging?
  • Now, how about "evenings out"? A birthday meal, or a night on the town? Well, obviously I'm going to wear jeans, a "going-out" shirt and my shoes. You know, the brown ones.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand.... that's about it. My attitude to non-bike clothing is very much "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Normal clothing is not particularly important to me. Besides, I like my brown shoes.

Now I've put some context around my attitude to clothing, I can let you in on the revelation.

I am very picky about what I wear on the bike.
What I wear affects how I ride.
I know. Astounding. You might imagine that I have a simple range of tops, shorts and one pair of shoes that I use for everything. Not so. I choose on style, colour, practicality, warmth, fit and even fashion. Take today for example -  a singlespeed mountain bike ride. Firstly, mountain bike generally means looser fit unless I'm racing. Colour is less important as being seen by drivers is not as much of a consideration.  Indeed, blending into the countryside is almost an advantage. Singlespeed is also more laid back in attitude than normal mountain biking therefore I'm more likely to wear clothing with "wanker" written on it.

Some general guidelines to get you started.
  • Road. Tight lycra, as little as you can get away with. A modicum of colour but stay away from fluorescants. Matching is important. Red top = red gloves. Black and white top = white gloves. Remember, first get the look, then get the speed. Shoes must match the weather. Don't wear white shoes in the rain. Roadie clothing makes me want to ride fast and hard. I find gentle rides in lycra almost impossible.
  • Mountain Bike - bimbling. Baggies, loose top, casual shoes. Can use some colour but avoid bright unless you're trying to make a statement. Casual shoes = casual riding. Flow, relax, look at the birds and the trees and the deer and the flowers.
  • Mountain Bike - training. Baggies, tighter top, race shoes. More colour is acceptable. Team shirts are allowed. Now I'm concentrating on being smooth and being fast.
  • Mountain Bike - racing. The only time lycra should be worn off road. Essentially, roadie look with different shoes and less colour matching. Breathing will be heavy and laboured.
  • Singlespeed. Naked is best, otherwise rough shorts and sandals. Wellies in the winter. Breathing is not important.
Remember the brown all purpose shoes? I have seven pairs of bike shoes. As Lance said, it's not about the bike.

It's about the look.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Let me introduce the band

I'm in a pub. It's probably my fifth of the day. I'm on my sixth pint and all I've eaten in something grilled in a bun. The average hair colour around me is grey, where hair is present. And my ears are starting to dribble at the sound of another meandering bass solo.

Welcome to the Maryport Blues festival.

The premise. Book some good/famous blues acts and put them in a marquee, charging £100ish for the weekend. Also book some quite good but not-famous blues acts and send them trawling around the pubs of a small fishing port, charging £6 for a wristband that gives entry to all the pubs. Add lots of cheap alcohol in plastic glasses and hundreds of locals drinking in the streets. Let the carnage ensue.

Maryport is in West Cumbria, sort of Carlisle and go left until you get wet and salty. For Southerners in the UK, it's very very North. The accent is Geordie put through a scrambler. We (Chris and I) spent the six trips with our regular taxi driver chuckling and agreeing without understanding any more than one word in ten. For all we know he was threating to drive us off the harbour into the sea - and we'd chuckle and reply "yes, sounds fantastic".

The Blues festival has been going for thirteen years now. Not non-stop you understand, not even blues guitarists can keep a solo going for that long. It's grown to encompass the marquee of "proper" bands along with the "Blues Trail" of pubs and clubs. This gives the whole town a party feel as there is music everywhere - there is even a free outdoor venue as well. Obviously this descended into fighting and vomit later in the evening but by that time we were safely in the "rich outsiders" marquee.

So, the bands:
  • Barry "Sinnerboy" Barnes. Some acoustic, some mandolin. The festival needed more acts like him - a bit different to all the other blues/rock three/four pieces.
  • Paint it Blue. A blues/rock four piece. Singer was folky which didn't really work for the material. Guitarist competant, bass and drums played by pensioners. Poor sound quality.
  • Dr Truth. One of our favourites. Mainly original songs, excellent musicians, top-class vocalist with what looked like 150 years of experience and anecdotes to draw on. He could have expired at any time - that's what a blues singer should be like. Actual age - probably 62.
  • Sandi Thom. She's famous. Well, she had a hit about wanting to be a punk rocker. Surprisingly good.
  • Cherry Lee Mewis. Terrible, terrible name. Same venue as Paint it Blue and again poor sound. Others we met raved about her though.
  • Dog House BB. I don't really remember this lot. Pub was packed.
  • Hooson. Powerful female singer, one of the best of the weekend. Funny coloured hair. From Yorkshire so the blues-chat was hard to take seriously.
  • Philip Sayce. He was second on the bill in the main tent, so he should have been top class. Thankfully, he was. By this time Chris was drunk enough to pay him the complement of "as good as Joe Bonamassa" at the CD signing. Thankfully he didn't hit him, and bumped fists instead.
  • Jonny Lang. We went to see Jonny Lang. He disappointed us. He fell into the world of meandering blues cliche - for someone with so many great songs, why was it hard to actually play any of them normally? Yes, I'm sure you can do it in jazz-scat with a 15/16th time signature but it doesn't help the song.
That was just the Saturday. There were five more on the Sunday. By Sunday evening we were all blused out and went for a walk and a curry instead.