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

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Way Of The Roses - Ride Report

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We made it!
Epic is a much overused adjective, but it really is the only way to describe the three days of cycling that 6 of the society have just been fortunate enough to experience. Granted, it wasn’t the longest ride we’ll ever undertake, and it’s certainly not the quickest. But, forget the numbers, is about so much more; the overall experience is what counts.

From Morecambe on the west coast of Lancashire, to Bridlington on Yorkshire’s east coast, this was a route that had a bit of everything.  It was however, the constantly changing views which were my personal highlight. From the Dordogne like features of the Lune estuary, to the rugged beauty of the Yorkshire Dales national park, the constantly changing vistas constantly threatened to overload the senses.
The riding itself was as spectacular as the views were breath-taking, and served to remind us all that some of the roads in this country are as tough as they come. Day 2’s climb out of Settle was particularly noteworthy and set the tone for 30 or so of the most testing kilometres I’ve ever enjoyed on a bike.

It wasn’t all about the riding though, and along the route we sampled numerous cafes, pubs, and restaurants. Particularly noteworthy was the quite excellent Lion in Settle. If you’re ever in the area and want a place to stay I can highly recommend it.
Ultimately, as with any great ride, it has to come to an end, and as we rolled into Bridlington my emotions were mixed. Elation, at having ridden what surely must be one of the finest routes England has to offer, was mixed with regret that it was all about to end.  Over a well-earned beer or two that evening, thoughts were already turning to what would be our challenge next year. One things for certain, whatever’s selected, it has got a very hard act to follow.

A truly epic adventure, and 3 of the finest days cycling I’ve ever experienced. I cannot recommend The Way Of The Roses enough.
Lastly a huge thanks to Anna, Tori, Katie, Nellie, and Johnny for making the trip so special. Thanks also to Tim and Ashley for coming and collecting us from Bridlington.
Vive la Velo


Monday, 2 June 2014

#RealAleWobble2014 Ride Report – Riding with Mr Big Wheels(a.k.a. @936ADL)

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Now that's a Bidon!
As the sun rose on the morning of Saturday 10th May six society members looked across at their wives knowing that in 24 hours’ time their ladies would most probably dislike them. The morning was spent doing fatherly/husband type errands, the reality was that final bike prep was needed for this most epic of days. Cables and brake pads were adjusted; drive trains were cleaned, and one bike was even sprayed a manly silver colour. @936ADL declared his 29 inch hand.

We mustered as requested outside Silks for 2pm, but alas we couldn’t go in, it was closed. We moved to plan B and drank coffee outside a florist. @936ADL and I were joined by @AlScott, @martynbroVVn, @SJ1201 and finally @Owynjones. The bill was settled and we pedalled away heading to the gorge.
Our route took us down towards the manor, across Wesley brook and up past ‘Les reseaux d’egout’. We slid thru Kemberton in silence knowing the journey ahead was littered with hazards. As we approach Halesfield we hooked right onto the bridleway that runs the ridge. @AlScott reminded @SJ1202 that it was at this point in the 2013 Autumn Wobble that he fell off, giggling so much at his recollection that….he fell off, quickly followed by @martynBroVVn.  Two down already, and not a single energy drink had been consumed.

We rode passed the now empty brewery where last year’s wobble started getting wobbly. Across the iron bridge and down the old railway line to our first re fuelling point of the day, The Black Swan, overlooking the Jackfield rapids. Two energy drinks were consumed in quick succession, photos were taken, and mud was removed from faces. Over the Severn once more to The Robin Hood, and a further energy drink was imbibed.
Lloyd’s coppice towered above us, which was negotiated via a narrow muddy track, up what seemed like an impossible incline. We smashed it. Our prize could be seen thru the trees, The All Nations Public House. Three more energy drinks were hastily taken on.  At this point @martynbroVVn departed, his wobble curtailed by his mistress, a love of egg chasing. Madeley was shunned in favour of a return to Kemberton for the a final stop at the Mason’s Arms.  @AlScott had been warned by @SJ1202 at the Robin Hood that his choice of energy drink was too strong, and @SJ1202 was proved correct as @AlScott’s Tourette’s syndrome kicked in hard.  This was all too much for @SJ1202 who choose to drink alone outside.

We bumped in to @GreenAcres_Farm (quite literally) on the way to King Charles’ Wood, and photos were taken of us on his quite lovely vintage tractor. Quite a few offs took place in Charlie’s wood, but thankfully none were too serious. Back past ‘Les reseaux d’egout’, one more fall over the speed bumps and back to HQ for some rehydration. After a much needed shower we regrouped to discuss the day.
Mr. Big wheels never fell off, but he did fall asleep. The big wheel keeps on turning on a single line day by day, the Earth spins on its axis, one man struggles, the others relaxes……


Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Escape

We approached the traffic island marking the start of the climb from opposite directions, but crucially I would arrive 10 or 15 metres ahead. This could be interesting.

It’s at moments like these that being casually deliberate is oh so important. To panic would be to show weakness, and with this in mind, I settled into a steady pace. This was a climb I knew well, and my plan was to use this to my advantage.
I could hear the mechanical whir of chain over cassette as he approached; the raised pitch indicating a high cadence, a sure sign that he was trying. After all, there’s nothing like a nicely executed catch to boost morale.  I took a moment to put myself in his shoes.  Perhaps he knew the climb well too, entirely likely given its popularity amongst the local cycling fraternity. In front was someone (hopefully)struggling with too big a gear. Sit tight and wait for the inevitable shift down the gears, before gliding past and disappearing into the distance.  Back in my own shoes I held firm, and resisted the urge to accelerate.

After a gentle start the first test of the climb approached, a gentle sweeping S bend where the gradient kicked up noticeably. Still, I could hear my fellow cyclist behind me, spinning furiously, and waiting to pounce. It was time to push a bit harder, and to increase the pressure on the pedals a little. I wanted to test him, to see if he could respond to this change in pace. I was feeling good, and as my pace increased I heard the first indication that trouble was brewing behind me. The unmistakable sound as he grabbed for another gear was music to my ears, and I increased the pressure another notch.

Another gear was grabbed, and I could sense the distance between us growing. Out of the saddle for one final acceleration, and it was all over. Behind me I heard the final sound of capitulation, as he shifted to his inner ring. He was mine; the elastic band had snapped. I pushed on and all was suddenly quiet, I was alone on the climb. My escape was complete.
Vive La Velo


Thursday, 15 May 2014

Goodbye Five, Hello Dale

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Old Meets New
The cutting of the gear cable was symbolic, and marked the point of no return. After much agonising, it was time for the Orange 5 to go. Purchased back in 2007, it was the icon of a time before I’d discovered riding on the road.

The final nail in its coffin was the recent arrival of #N+1, another mud plugger and one which could not be more different from the Orange. However the big wheels and simplicity of Dale won the day, and made me realise that it was time.

As I stripped the bike down i remembered the great rides we’d enjoyed together, from crossing fells in Lancashire, to climbing the Wrekin. It wasn’t all good though, as the scar on my top lip reminds me daily.

With the parts now gradually making there way to new owners via the wonders of eBay I can only hope the bikes new owner(s) enjoy  it as much as I have.

Vive la Velo

Saturday, 12 April 2014

SCS On The Boards – Velodrome Report

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The Results Are In!

Cycling takes many forms, and this weekend we were fortunate enough to experience one of its more extreme variants, riding on an indoor Velodrome. No brakes, no gears, and no freewheeling, what could go wrong?
Two of our group had been before, but the rest were track virgins. Nervous laughter filled the air as we entered track centre as it dawned on us all what we were about to undertake. The steepness of the banking never ceases to amaze me; it’s something that the television doesn’t do justice. As the previous group’s session drew to a close it was time to meet Jodie, who would be our coach for our 2 hour track experience. Bikes selected, and faffage completed, Jodie briefed the group on the basics before getting us out on the track.
Lined up against the guard rail, I took a few moments to appreciate the bikes. Whilst most bikes are weighed down with all manner of componentry, the track version is perhaps its purist form. Quite beautiful; built without a single compromise, and utterly focussed on the task in hand.
Jodie started us off slowly, but we quickly graduated to the Cote D’Azur, the name given to the metre of so wide blue piece of the track which lies between the concrete track centre, and the track proper with its distinctive black, red, and blue lines.
Our speed and confidence grew in equal measure as we made it up to the blue line and beyond, and it’s up here that the steepness of the track makes itself felt. Speed is the key to holding a high line, and I found it helpful to accelerate ever so slightly into the corners and to use the straights for an all too brief recovery. The novices of all but half an hour ago, were now riding the boards with confidence.
After a break for drinks Jodie put us through our paces with a couple of drills. The first saw us riding on the black, or sprinters line, as a group, and then taking a lap on the front before swinging up the track and re-joining at the back once everyone had passed. Looking down on the group below from high up on the banking is something else.
Our second drill saw us working as group again, this time circling the track high up on the blue line. On the whistle the front man dropped to the sprinters line and accelerated to gain a lap before re-joining the back of the group. All I can say is that this is much, much harder than it sounds, and really took its toll on me. However, the sight of the back of the group acted as a magnet, and offered that last incentive to bridge the gap.
A last break and the mood amongst the group was buoyant, and everyone was clearly enjoying the experience, even Spider. The sight of him out of the pedals, and control, as he weaved up and down the banking was the perfect reminder to not stop pedalling!
With our two hour session drawing all too quickly to a close, Jodie informed us that to finish off we were all going to take on a 500m challenge. From a standing start, we had about 15 metres to the ‘start’ line, and from here it was full bore for two laps. I lined up 5th man, and in no time at all I was on. The first challenge was to get the gear turning as quickly as possible. I was up to speed on the back straight and the feeling of speed as I flew into the banking was just awesome. Lap 1 completed and my legs were burning. Into the back straight for the final time, and I was flagging fast. Time to dig deep for one last push and I was over the line. I’m sure it felt a whole lot faster than it was.
With the final challenge completed it was time for the results. It was all fairly close and only 5 seconds covered the entire group. However in any competition there has to be a winner, and @SJ1202 was narrowly beaten into runners up spot by @DaipacCycling but a mere 0.17 seconds. @DaipacCycling covered the 500m in a very creditable 41.02 seconds @ 43.88km/h(that’s a shade over 27mph in old money) to be crowned the inaugural ShifnalCyclingSociety Track Champion in the 500m Time Trial. Well Done.
A fantastic way to end a fantastic day. When can we do it all again?
Vive la Velo!