Thursday, 23 April 2015

Just Another Tuesday Night

As we climbed out of the gorge via Coalport Bank bathed in the early evening sun, all those dark and cold winter nights seemed an oh so distant memory. However, it was payback time, and we were reaping the reward from the work we’d put in over the winter months.

With @Daicycling riding the Tour of Pembrokeshire this coming weekend, it seemed only right to take in a few hills, and so after the pre ride coffees(just don’t mention the @SJ1202’s Iced Latte….) it was time to head south towards Coalport, Broseley and beyond. I’d a route in mind that involved many of our favourite climbs.

On the climb back up onto Wenlock Edge from Bourton, the initial group had split into two, with the breakaway featuring the grimpeurs, whilst the remainder were taking things at a more leisurely pace. We didn’t know it at the time, but the breakway’s fate was sealed when we suffered a puncture in the main group. Of course, no assistance was offered, or for that matter expected. Instead a steady stream of advice and guidance was shared with @SJ1202. To his credit he took it all in spirit in which it was intended.

In no time at all we were back on the road, Cressage came and went, as did Ironbridge. On such a beautiful night it seemed only right to take a pitstop at the All Nations Arms on our way back out of the Gorge. As ever, the beer was excellent, and from there it was a short ride back to HQ.

The remainder of the breakaway group was waiting for us in HQ when we arrived, and as the inevitable post ride post mortem took place, the beer flowed freely, and the well-earned Cobs and Chips arrived. Tales of punctures and wrong turns were shared alongside the inevitable inane chatter that follows our regular Tuesday night rides.

Just another Tuesday night perhaps, but noteworthy all the same. A great ride, good beer, and a top group of lads.

Looking forward to doing it all again next week.

Vive la Velo


Monday, 13 April 2015

One Weekend - Two Very Different TTs.....

Meet Ernie!

Saturday – The Time Trial

Purchased late in 2014; and built up gradually over the next couple of months, last week saw the final piece being placed in the jigsaw that was the latest addition to my cycling stable, a full blown time trial bike.

After dabbling with a few time trials over the last few years on a variety of normal road bikes, it was suddenly all looking much more serious. I was even feeling a little nervous; would I be able to do the new bike justice?

The Cold Hatton to Hodnet and back course is one I'd ridden a few times before, and always seems to be windy. Today was no exception, and a strong cross/tailwind was making its presence felt. I’m still finding my way on the tri bars and so this was sure to add to the test.

The rituals of signing on, paying the entry fee, and collecting a number(33 this time) were completed, and after a warm up I was being called to the start. 3..2..1..Go, and I’m off; the strong crosswind is immediately apparent, and I’m really struggling on the tri bars. Soon though I settled into a good pace, and before too long I can make out the rider ahead. Spirits lifted, it’s as if a giant magnet is acting to pull me up the road. 

In no time at all though the roles are reversed, and the catcher became the caught, as my minute man comes past. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the eventual winner of the event on his way to a ‘long 22’. Very impressive given the windy conditions. Past halfway, and the wind was still strong. I pushed on though in the knowledge that the series champion from 2013 would be closing in on me. My target was to hold him off. With a mile to go there was still no sign of sign of him, and I was hopeful I could make it stick. One last effort and I crossed the line; a glance behind to see number 35 about fifty metres back. I’d held him off, which was small personal victory on a tough day.

I crossed the line in 25:06, which was a personal best on that course, and given the conditions was a time which I was pleased with. A solid start to the 2015 season!

The Toothpaste Signage

Sunday - The Telford Toothpaste

It’s scarcely possible to imagine a ride more different to the previous day’s effort, but less than 24 hours after I’d completed my first ‘10’ of the year , it was Toothpaste time. Now in its fourth year, this is a special event, and is Telford’s very own homage to the greatest one day cycle on earth, Paris-Roubaix, otherwise known as ‘The Hell of the North’. At 0830 we rolled out from the start, and the atmosphere was lively as we made our way along the old railway line towards the Ironbridge.

With the shortest of warm ups, all too soon we turned right away from the River Severn to begin the climb out of the Gorge and up towards Little Wenlock. The group was split apart as the gradient, and rough terrain took their toll. After we regrouped in the shadow of the Wrekin, it was time to enjoy the quiet lanes and tracks which define cycling in Shropshire. 

The group was working well together and we were maintaining a good pace. As the ‘Sandy Secteur’ approached, I was just telling myself to stay relaxed, and perhaps more importantly to try and keep the rubber side down.  It all got a little sketchy at times, but we all made it through in one piece. Charles wasn’t so lucky on one of the next off road sections, and he did his best impression of Geraint Thomas at this year’s Gent-Wevelgem race, as he parted company with his bike and ended up in a ditch. Fortunately no harm was done, and he was back up and on the bike in no time.

A stop at the feed station coincided with our first puncture of the day; this would not be our last. Coffee and cake consumed, puncture fixed, it was time to press on. As we swept through our home town, it was all too tempting to head straight for HQ, but there would be plenty of time for that later in the day. ‘The Belgian Road’ was next on the agenda, to my mind the Toothpaste’s very own ‘Le Carrefour de l’Arbre’. Windy on the stillest of days, today it was something else. Just brutal!

Brignorth came and went, and it was time for by far the longest off road section of the day. Fortunately the surface was good, and we kept up a good pace, the thought of the well-earned post ride beer driving us all on. As we pulled up to the Black Swan, the verdict was a unanimous one. A fantastic ride all round, and a truly unique event.

Beer and chips were served, and it was time to watch the finale of the race which had inspired our efforts. Riding the Toothpaste only serves to underline the efforts of the men who ride Paris-Roubaix; they are the hardest men, in the world’s hardest sport.


Vive la Velo


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Max White Limited Edition Collectors Commemorative Ride Report

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Happy Birthday Max!

Whilst we should celebrate every opportunity we get to ride, only the most special rides are a celebration in themselves, and this week’s Tuesday night ride was one of them.

What better way to celebrate a birthday than to ride your bike, and when Max mentioned that he had a significant birthday approaching it was clear that we needed to do something special. Post ride refuelling was a given, and with the weather forecast looking favourable, Max announced the ‘Max White Limited Edition Collectors Commemorative Ride’. We opted to go imperial for the evening, and to aim for a half century. Entirely fitting in the circumstances……

The longer distance meant an earlier than usual start, and even then we knew we’d need to keep up a healthy speed to make it back to HQ at a decent hour. After the customary pre ride coffee at No5, eleven of us rolled away from the clock tower at 180V sharp; we were off. Early progress was good, but disaster struck for Shaun as we climbed into Cheswardine when his bottom bracket decided it had had enough and tried to uninstall itself from his bike. Without the tools to fix it, we had no option but to press on, and leave Shaun to wait for his very own ‘Voiture Balai’ to sweep him up. Never a man to be defeated though, he still made it back to base for the beer and cobs.

As we endeavoured to make up for the lost time in Cheswardine the pace quickened, and the group were working together nicely as we passed the halfway mark.  Speeding along on the A53 heading towards Shawbury, and…….”BANG”…….the unmistakeable sound of a blow out. Fortunately everyone stayed upright, and as we rolled to a stop it was time to survey the damage. Max had suffered one puncture, whilst Dai had managed a double blow out. Things quickly got worse for Dai though when he discovered that the impact had torn a hole in his tyre, and bent his rim for good measure. Game over for Dai and it was time for another call, and another broom wagon.

Now well behind schedule, we pushed on to try and make up the time lost to mechanicals. Yet another puncture was quickly fixed and we soon on the home straight. One last drag up the ‘Abbey Road’ and it would be downhill all the way home.

We made it to HQ about half an hour late, but the beer was soon flowing and the cobs were well earned. Cakes, cards, and presents followed for the birthday boy, and as we recounted a truly excellent night on the bikes, talk turned to the numerous events fast approaching. We’ve certainly got plenty to look forward to in 2015. A great night all round, and a big thanks for everyone who made it along, and especially to Max for suggesting it in the first place.
Happy Birthday Max! #FiftyNotOut

Vive la Velo


Saturday, 31 January 2015


Failure can never been seen as anything other than it is; however to have failed, is to have tried. No feelings of ‘what if’ are left to eat away at your psyche.

Last Sunday’s WrekinSport reliability ride saw my most recent cycling related failure, but even as I confronted the inevitability of my fate, I was happy. I had a given it a go, and for a while at least I was in the mix. And what a mix it was; Olympic 2016 hopefuls joined by a couple of UK based professionals, with the mass of local club riders making up the numbers.

The pace from the off was fast, and as the 50 or so riders in the ‘fast’ group streamed out of Wellington I was immediately aware that this group was riding at a level above the one I was used to.  Most local riders will know the stretch of road that runs from Shawbury, just outside Wellington, up towards High Ercall. Just under 6km, and gently rising most of the way; I’d been warned that this would be the first real test of the day. 

More through luck than judgement I’d found myself in the front half of the group, but just holding my position was proving to be difficult. The pace went up another notch, as did my discomfort. What helped however, was the sheer exhilaration of riding in a group at that speed. It really is something to experience, and unless you race regularly is a rarity, and something to savour. My plan was to hang on in there as long as I could.

Whilst those around me seemed to be pedalling with ease, I was beginning feel it, and I lost the wheel in front of me. This, as it turned out, was the beginning of the end for me. Losing a wheel means losing position, and also losing the advantage of the tow from the riders ahead. More riders passed, as I struggled to hold my position. The pace wasn’t easing either, and as I glanced over my shoulder only one rider was left behind me. One last effort to hang on, but this didn’t last long, and as one bike length became two, then five. It was over. He made no attempt to pass either, his failure complete alongside mine.

Dropped? Yes. But it was the most fun I’ve had in failure in a long time!

Vive la Velo


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Caught In The Act.......

No matter how well we feel we’re going on the bike, it’s almost certain that at some point we’ll all meet our match. It is perhaps, one of the more inevitable consequences of riding a bike.  It’s our reaction when this happens though which is more important than the act itself, and goes a long way in defining us as riders. Let me (try and) explain using a recent experience.

It was just a normal Saturday morning SCS ride; as we cruised along enjoying the fine late November weather, suddenly, and from seemingly nowhere, we had company. We’d been going fairly well though, and as our captor nonchalantly cruised past us, my initial response was one of surprise.  With little time to think it was an instinctive reaction to accelerate a little, not too much, but just enough to hold his wheel.
Surprise was quickly followed by reflection, and I was impressed by the confidence of a rider who seeing a group ahead, not only completes ‘the catch’, but then rides straight by and goes for the knockout blow of ‘the drop’. However confidence can be a dangerous thing, especially when misplaced.

We quickly settled into a fast pace, and I was more than happy to sit in and to take some time to assess our next steps. There was a drag of a km or so ahead, and I was sure that this would prove decisive.  Our pace was still fairly high, but as we hit the incline a gear was grabbed and our leader’s cadence rose. Not a great deal, but enough to indicate that his efforts to catch us were taking their toll.
Our pace dropped, but still I sat patiently in the wheel. A fast downhill section followed, and it was then time for another long and steady drag. Once again, gears were shed, and the speed dropped as the incline steepened.  We’d made our man suffer long enough, and as I think we’d ensured that any chance of completing ‘the drop’ had gone, it seemed high time that I introduced myself. Pleasantries were exchanged, and it became clear that at the approaching junction we were to go our separate ways.

Our time on the road together had been brief, but nonetheless was one of those encounters which make the act of cycling such an enriching experience. We said our goodbyes and parted company, our rides all the better for meeting one another…
Caught in the act perhaps, but pride in tact at thwarting ‘the drop’.

Vive la Velo

Monday, 27 October 2014

The New Recruit - #N+1

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Definately Not Steel

As a fully paid up member of the #SteelIsReal  fan club, I’m sure my latest acquisition will raise a few eyebrows. It couldn’t be more different from the rest of my stable, but to me that’s a large part of it’s appeal.
I’ve dabbled with time trialling over the last few years, but this year the bug has bitten hard. The more I’ve done, the clearer it’s become to me that if I’m going to progress further, equipment is key. As much as I’ve enjoyed struggling against the odds on a Steel framed #SingleSpeed, I’ve finally pulled the trigger on a ‘proper’ time trial bike.
Carbon fibre is everywhere, and the contrast to the elegance of steel couldn’t be greater. But it’s this contrast which I’m finding so appealing. This is a bike where form comes a distant second to function, but to my eye at least the end result is very pleasing. Almost industrial, it’s gun metal colouring giving it a real sense of menace. My only hope is that I can do it justice.
I’ve blogged before about the joy of tinkering with bikes, and there’s surely no greater pleasure to the home mechanic than when building a bike up from its component parts. Boxes of gears, handlebars, and chainsets , assembled with  great care and precision;  the end result being so much greater than the sum of the parts.
As I torqued up the final bolts, the pleasure of the end result was almost matched by the disappointment that the build was completed. But this bike, perhaps more than any of the others I own is built to be ridden. There was only one thing left to do……
I’m looking forward to the 2015 TT season already…….
Vive la Velo