Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 – A Retrospective…..

Having just finished my final ride of 2011 with Mart and Si, it seems appropriate to reflect on what’s been an epic year of cycling.

There are almost too many highlights to list.  From completing my first 200km single day ride, to a visit to ‘The Hell of the North’ – Paris Roubaix, including riding many of the Pave sections including the Arenberg trench. I also made it to le tour, and managed to ride Alpe D’Huez not once, but twice!

Nearer to home, highlights have been the inaugural Shifnal Cycling Society sportive, which saw our better halves join us for a 90km ride around the lanes of Shrops and Staffs, as well as the two day Tour de Shropshire. This saw us embark on a two day tour of some of the finest roads the county has to offer. A great weekend was had by all.

I’ve managed to clock up over 11,100km over the year which is way above the target that I set this time last year. An added bonus is that I’ve managed to shed a few kgs as well. I can now claim to ‘climb well for my weight’, and will almost certainly be ‘peaking in two months’.

There’s much to look forward to in 2012. We’ve already got trips to the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, and Paris Roubaix booked, as well our regular pilgrimage to le tour.

2012 also sees the society hosting the ‘Shropshire Hills Cogal’ in conjunction with Velominati, and I’m also working on another multi day tour for later in the year.

Finally I’d like to thank all those who’ve had the pleasure of riding with in 2011. Hopefully we can do it all again in 2012!


Thursday, 29 December 2011

On Tour in Lancashire – Christmas 2011

With The Langster on the roof of the society’s support vehicle, we headed north for the annual Christmas celebrations at my SO’s parents’ place in Goosnargh, on the edge of the Forest of Bowland.

There are some truly wonderful cycling roads around Goosnargh, and pretty well all tastes are catered for. If you want hills, you can head into the Forest of Bowland, or if you want a flat and fast blast, you can head towards Blackpool across the Fylde plain.

It was fairly windy when we arrived in Goosnargh, but is was mild and dry. My choice of bike meant that is was going to be a Fylde plain blast, so after saying hello to the in laws, I was off. Although the block headwind wasn’t great, it meant that my return should benefit from a tailwind. I was feeling pretty good as I crossed the M6 and then A6. The quiet roads of the Fylde plain allow you to get into a good rhythm, and soon I was spinning along at a fair pace. If anything, the bike felt slightly under geared.

What was that in the distance? Oh yes, a catch opportunity, and what’s more they were sporting a YJA. Even though I do say so myself, this was a textbook execution of this most satisfying of cycling moments.  After wishing my catchee the season’s greetings, it was time to push on. It was like waiting for a bus when as I passed through Thisletown, I spied another potential target on the horizon, the blinking of his rear light acting like a strangely mesmerising homing device. The run up towards singleton is a straight road with an ever so gentle incline, ideal for reeling in my second catch of the day. As he got closer, i noticed the moniker that made this catch particularly valuable. Yep, he was an Assos wearer! Even more sweet!

As predicted once I turned back inland, the headwind turned into a rather lovely tailwind, and I wanted to take full advantage of it. Checking the stats on the GPS looked promising. In spite of the headwind this was looking like a quick one(for me at least). Woodplumton passed, quickly followed by Broughton. Under the M6 and one last push into Goosnargh. Comfortably the quickest ride of over 50km of the year!

A great ride, and certainly a good few calories burned before the excesses of Christmas day.

Full ride details below courtesy of Garmin Connect.

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Anatomy of 'The Catch'

'The Catch' –  An event to brighten up just about any ride. What makes them all the more special is that you never know when the next one will present itself. The relatively lightly trafficked roads that are the stomping ground of the society mean that these can be a rare occurance, but somehow that makes them all the sweeter.

There’s nothing like catching sight of a fellow cyclist in the distance to focus the mind. The subconscious leads you into giving that little bit extra, just see if you’re catching them. Slowly but surely you’re closing in, so it’s time to take stock. This is an important part of the procedure, and it’s often one people overlook.

Intially you must assess the target to ensure they qualify. Failure to do so is likely to lead to embarrassment. In the society we have adopted some guidelines against which any potential catch is compared. If they are on a bike with either a)smaller diameter wheels, or b) knobbly tyres they are immediately ruled out. Likewise anyone wearing off road cycling attire. Lastly, children, and elderly ladies are not considered fair game.

Assuming that guidelines are met, it’s time to make a move. It’s important to get this right, as it can all unravel if you get this stage wrong. Easy does it is the key, you wouldn’t want to warn the target of their imminent capture. Then as you get to within a couple of bike lengths, up your effort and accelerate to make the pass, making sure you offer a cheerful and friendly greeting as you pass.

All you need to do now is make it stick, so it’s time to really lay down the V, and don’t under any circumstances look back! As you disappear into distance due consideration can be given to your efforts. Extra kudos is earned if the catch is on a more expensive bike than yours, or is wearing a team replica kit.

Just remember though, next time, you could be the catch……

Sunday, 11 December 2011

La Voiture Balai

What started out as a run of the mill Saturday ride(albeit flying solo) ended up in the ignominy of being collected by my SO in the society voiture balai.

Rolling out of Shifnal, although it was a cold morning, the road conditions were good. My plan was to do a loop I’ve tackled many time before, but as I crossed the A519 just west of Newport and headed towards Cheswardine, conditions started to deteriorate markedly. Patches of ice were becoming worryingly apparent, and the verges featured frozen puddles aplenty.

I was going well though, and so I pushed on. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I really would have been better off doing the sensible thing and turning back. Then came the first warning;  the back wheel slid out from underneath me on a straight stretch of road. Somehow I managed to stay upright! Hmm.

As I cycled though Cheswardine things appeared to be improving(who was I trying to kid), but as I left the town, things got much worse very quickly. The road had taken on a worrying shine.

Taking it very gingerly I tried to keep on the dry looking parts of the road, but as I approached a slight kink in the road, bang, I was off and sliding down the road on my arse. The Langster ended up in the hedge as I picked myself form the middle of the road. The bike was OK, but I’d landed squarely on my right knee. Ouch.

I’d had enough, cycling on road tyres in these conditions was madness, it was time for La Voiture Balai!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Decisions Decisions

My blogs are normally reflective, but this one is about tomorrow. Not just any old tomorrow, but Friday 2nd December 2011.

So what’s so special about tomorrow? Well, I’m off to see a man about a (new)bike. Not just any man, about any bike, but Brian Rourke about one of his custom built creations in the finest tubing Reynolds has to offer. I’m very excited!

After much deliberation I’ve decided on the colour scheme, and I’m pretty well set on the spec. Much will be carried over from my current #1 road bike(also one of Brian’s), but there’ll be a sprinkling of new bits too.

Although none of my bikes are ‘off the peg’, this is the first time I will have ever had a frame made especially for me. I’m looking forward to putting together something truly unique.

Tomorrow is just the starting point. I will keep you all posted…….

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Chasing Targets – The Numbers Game

This is a blog for everyone who regularly rides with a cycle computer. The moment you fit one, ever ride will be as the French put it so beautifully, ‘contre la montre’. Whether it be your regular CTT, or a ride over a known route, this small and simple device changes the game.

In direct contravention of Rule #74 I’ve been using a Garmin Edge for a number of years now, and I would not be without it. As a true believer in the spirit on n+1, I wanted something that I could easily switch from bike to bike, and the Edge fitted the bill perfectly.

It wasn’t until late 2009 though that I started to use it more seriously to keep a track of all the Kms covered, and in 2010 I set up a log to keep a closer eye on what I was doing. Setting up a ‘km log’(please note I am not operating a training log!) is quite a significant step, and gives you the opportunity to set, and measure your progress against targets. My initial targets were modest, 100km a week. This would give me over 5000km for the year. I’d started……

Just having a target changed the way I rode. Go home the long way? Why not? An extra lap of the town? Go on then. All in the pursuit of the target. It quickly became clear that I’d been quite conservative in my initial target, and mid year I was just shy of 4000km, and was close to 150km/week. I kept up the pace, and in spite of a few problems towards the end of the year ended up clocking up 6863Km for the year. Not too shabby, and this in itself had raised the bar for 2011.

So, 2011. After not all that much deliberation, I settled on 160km/week, which would equate to 8000km for the year.

Things started well, and after the first couple of months I was well ahead of target. I was trying hard not to start thinking about adjusting it upwards but the temptation was proving difficult to resist. March and April were shaping up to be big cycling months, with the first ever Shifnal Sportive planned, as well as a trip to Paris-Roubaix, and the Spring Boston(Lincs) to Shifnal Epic. Things were going well, so I upped the target to 200km/week, and a nice round 10,000km for the year.

June and July flew by, and included a truly epic trip to the Tour.  Not one but two assaults on the legendary Alpe D’Huez, as well as the Col du Lautaret for good measure. Truly awesome cycling! If you ever get the opportunity to cycle in the Alps grab it with both hands.

Summer Holidays meant that August was a pretty quiet month, but September and October more than made up for it. The inaugural Shifnal Cycling Society Sportive was the highlight of September, whilst October included another first, the Tour de Shropshire. 210 km over two days taking in some of the finest roads the county has to offer.

On the surface it was just another of our regular Tuesday night rides, but on 22nd November, just as we were coming back into Shifnal, the target was passed. With over a month in hand, I’d passed the 10,000km marker for the year. To some this may seem like a modest achievement, but I’m well pleased.

I’ve now got a month to think about what I’ll be aiming for in 2012…….

Monday, 21 November 2011

Shifnal Cycling Society at Revolution Round 2

Everything fell into place perfectly for SCS’s trip to round 2 of the Revolution Track Cycling competition. The icing on the cake being a guest appearance by none other than ‘Cav’, the 2011 UCI Road Race World Champion. It promised to be a great night of cycling.

Velomihotties in tow, and having completed pre event hydration in Fallowfield, @SJ1202 and I headed off to the Manchester Velodrome. Walking up the stairs to the entrance, I began to think just what’s been achieved by British cyclists since this venue was built back in 1994. The list goes on and on. On the track, on the road, and even on the BMX track, we really are living through a golden age of British Cycling.

We arrived just as ‘Cav’ was being introduced to the crowd and the atmosphere was electric. What a year it’s been for Cav. After a difficult start, he’s just gone from strength to strength. Two stage wins in the Giro, five stage wins as well as the Green Jersey in the Tour, two more wins at the Tour of Britain, and then the big one, the World Road Race Championship. Our first world champion since 1965.  It ever there was any doubt, 2011 has really cemented Cav’s place at the top table of world cycling. Bring on 2012!!

It was a sell out crowd, and we watched the first few races at the barrier as the riders came into the last corner. The sheer speed of the riders was amazing. It also meant were we ideally placed to be reminded of the dangers of track cycling. During the boys race a fall towards the front of the pack triggered a series of riders to go down. Most got up pretty quickly but a couple of the lads sustained significant injuries, and at least one looked to have popped their collarbone. Ouch.

Behind our initial vantage point us was a bookstall, featuring a signing by an author and journalist that I greatly admire, William Fotheringham - @Willfoth to tweeters out there. If he hadn’t been such a miserable git I may well have purchased another of his books. I guess we all have off days.

I was somewhat surprised, as well as pleased, to see that Cav was riding in the World Champions jersey. My understanding is that you’re only allowed to where the jersey in the discipline in which it was won, and as such Cav was bending the rules a little. Cillian Kelly’s has got an excellent piece on this very subject. Check it out if you get the chance.

As mentioned earlier, it’s the sheer speed of the riders that I find so impressive, and this was never more in evidence than during the 200metre sprint races. After a couple of laps gathering speed at the very top of the banking, the riders swoop down and cross the start line in a blur. The start of the 200m is midway round turn 1, and from then on it’s a full bore, eyeballs out sprint for the line. Seeing riders clocking low 10s was impressive, and then we were treated to a sub 10s run. This equates to an average speed of over 70km/h! Unreal!

One excellent event followed another, and the quickfire nature of track cycling meets meant that there was always something going on.

My only regret was that we missed possibly the highlight of the night when Cav outsprinted the field to take the final event of the evening, the men’s scratch race. We made an early escape and were off to our old stomping ground of Didsbury to quench our thirsts…..

All in all a great night out, and I’d recommend Revolution to anyone.


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

On Tour in Hertfordshire with ottmountainbike!

A meeting in central London on Tuesday scuppered this week’s regular ride, so instead I made a guest appearance with . My brother in law is one of the leading lights of this loose amalgam of Hertfordshire off roaders, and you can always guarantee a good ride with them.

It’s been a while since I’ve ridden with this group, and having spent most of the year on the road, I wasn’t really sure how I’d fair. A good sized group turned out, and I think we numbered 10 or 11. My pre ride plan was to stick at the back and see how things panned out, but that didn’t last long.

The pace was pretty quick from the off, and a couple of lads were really pushing the pace. I consoled myself with the facts that I was probably giving away the best part of 20 years to a couple of them, not to mention a good few kilos.

I never ceased to be impressed with the routes that Si puts together. This one had a bit of everything, from draggy climbs, to fast flowing singletrack, to fast fire road blasts.

I’d also forgotten how different an experience it is riding off road in large groups, to road cycling. Short(ish) sharp(ish) bursts of effort are interspersed with re-grouping, which give ample chance to take a breather.

It’s difficult to give any real detail about the route due to the fact it was pitch black, and I had absolutely no idea where I was. Fortunately the faithful Edge had everything under control, and a summary is below.

Full details can be viewed here.

As a fully paid up bike geek, riding with a new group gives the opportunity to check out a whole new collection of bikes. The group was a real mixed bag, and although dominated by Specialized, included a Marin, a Lapierre, as well as the ubiquitous On-One Inbred. Some minor rule violations were noted, including mudguards, wheel reflectors, as well as a dork disc, and I’m relying on my brother in law to show these miscreants the light.

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable ride, and it you’re ever in or around the St Albans area on a Tuesday night with your mountain bike, this is a group well worth tagging along with.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Bikes Part 3 – Specialized Langster

Purchased on a whim from eBay one Saturday afternoon a couple of years ago, this has developed into a real favourite of mine. Winter bike, bad weather bike, time trial bike, and much much more, let me introduce my Specialized Langster.

Excuse the mess!

Much has been changed since I first purchased this bike, and it now sports some of the nicest cycling componentry out there. At least in my opinion…..

As a fully paid up cycling geek, and a lover of exquisitely engineered cycling bits and bobs, it’s the back wheel of this bike that I find so pleasing. A Goldtec Pro Track hub, laced to a Mavic CXP33 rim, finished off with a White Industries ENO Freewheel(18T)/15T fixed option.  Just about the best SS/Fixed road wheel available; quite lovely!

Other highlights include:
  • Shimano 105 brakes – Not too sure how you could improve on these,
  • Hope Mono Front hub – bombproof,
  • Salsa Seatpost – Mtb derived I know, but the best saddle adjustment mechanism I’ve ever used by some distance,
  • Specialized BG Toupe Saddle – I can’t see me ever using anything else.
It’s a bike used all year round, takes all that’s thrown at it, including carrying me to a series of PBs in this year’s Wrekin Sport Summer Time Trial Series.

I love it, even though it could do with a damned good clean.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The CTT – Commuter Time Trial

Anyone who regularly commutes to work on a bike does it, no matter how hard they might try not to, the commuter time trial, the CTT.  Before we know it, we’re aiming for the first checkpoint, especially if the traffic’s kind to you, or you just find yourself with good legs. A PB? Apply a large dose of “The Five”, and push on.

Today was one of those days…….

It didn’t start too well as I got slightly baulked by the traffic on Innage Road. This cleared and I was soon spinning along on Haughton Lane. The legs felt pretty good, but it was too soon to think too far ahead. The crucial part of the ride was upon me. It might only look like a small rise, but the Haughton Road cutting is key to determining a good time. I hit it quite hard, and as I came over the rise I glanced down down at my V-meter. A shade over 5:30, very promising. Checkpoint 1 is officially designated as the lamppost on cycle path that crosses Junction 4 of the M54. Anything Sub 9 mins is good, and 8:08 was a new PB but some distance!

Thanks to a very courteous driver in a quite lovely Porsche 997 I made it across the junction with no hold ups, and I was soon heading to Checkpoint 2, the bridge that crooses the M54 alongside DHL. The uphill drag along Stafford Park 7 often suffers a block headwind, but not today and I was easily holding 25km/h plus. Checkpoint 2 passed in 13:05, another PB. It was well and truly on!

Phase 3 of my CTT is the best bit by far. Fast, a little dangerous truth be told, but when done properly very exhilarating. As I joined the A5, a long queue of traffic was backed up all the way from the Hollinswood interchange, and the lights were on red. Perfect.

Passing all the glum looking people sat in their tin boxes, it’s always difficult not to feel smug, and to appreciate what it is to be a cycling commuter.

As I closed in on the lights they went green, one last final effort. Across the island in a blur, the final set of lights was all that stood before me and a PB. Five metres from the lights they went red. Fuck it, head down and I was on my way up the hill to the Asda Island. 15:03 at the top, it was in the bag. As I pulled up in the car park I looked down, 15:28!!! A massive PB.


Monday, 24 October 2011

Shifnal Cycling Society 1 The Long Mynd 0

October really has been quite a special month for the Society, and on Sunday it culminated in an assault on one of the great Shropshire landmarks, The Long Mynd. It’s been on my list of un-ticked rides for too long, so with a favourable weather forecast and an empty Sunday morning, its time had come.

Brian on the Mynd

For a variety of reasons this was to be a solo ride, and after a late scare due to a misbehaving Garmin Edge, I was rolling.

The route’s outward leg saw me drop down into the Gorge and then head through Cressage via Buildwas and Leighton. It was on the run from Cressage to Church Stretton that the nagging headwind became most apparent. Riding solo meant that there was no hiding place, and it certainly hampered progress.

Crossing the A49 meant that the real climbing would soon be starting. Rolling through Church Stretton, there was little to warn of what lay ahead.

A right turn and I was onto The Burway, a climb which scores 9/10 in Simon Warren’s(@100climbs) excellent book 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs. After a gentle(ish) start the tarmac kicks up hard, and as I passed a 20% sign I was glad of the 29 that lurks on my rear cassette. It’s not used that often, but I was glad to have it now! I’ve ridden a few big climbs over the years, and for sheer steepness this is right up there. I felt like Froome and Wiggins must have done, be it at a much slower speed, on the Angliru at this year’s Vuelta as I struggled to turn the gear. At a couple of points I even adopted the ‘zigzag’ method as I tried to overcome the unrelenting gradient.

The gradient finally began to ease as the road climbed up onto the plateau of the Mynd. The reward for all the climbing being stunning views in every direction. The road continued to undulate as it made it’s way across to the gliding club that sits on top of the hill, and on my way I took a moment to tick another box.

From here it was time for the descent. The warning sign at the top doesn’t really prepare you for what was to follow. A quite ludicrously steep piece of tarmac! Tight, and with a number of blind bends, this is not for the feint hearted, the drop off the side of the road is pretty well sheer.

Consider yourself warned!

Once safely down, it was time to head for home. My plan was to return by a more southerly route, passing through the wonderfully named Ticklerton, before riding back along Wenlock Edge to Much Wenlock. Back on more regular riding territory now, the climbing was beginning to take its toll, and the climb up to Broseley was a struggle. Sutton Bank followed, and I don’t think I’ve ridden as slowly up there for some time.

The last 5km or so were a flat out blast back into Shifnal and as I came over the top of the Wyke the 100km for the day was completed.

Route details below courtesy of the quite excellent Garmin Connect.

A very enjoyable outing all round.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Tour de Shropshire - Ride Report

So after much planning it was finally upon us, Shifnal Cycling Society's inaugural Tour de Shropshire. It was an idea I'd had for a while, a two day tour of some of the best roads the county has to offer. From the rolling hills of the southern part of the county, to the fast and flat north. A ride to showcase the beauty of road cycling in this most under rated part of England.

After a late drop out due to injury, four of us mustered at HQ for the mandatatory pre ride faffage, Johhny 'Rocket' Saunders, Mr Sims, and our one man lead out train, Martyn. Oh and of course, me. I'd even remembered to put my shorts on outside in!

Pre ride espresso(see Rule #56) consumed, it was time to get moving.

Day 1 - Shifnal to Oswestry

Although our destination was Oswestry on the welsh border, our plan was to take the scenic route. Heading for Ludlow, Shropshire's highest peak, Brown Clee Hill, was our initial target. Once we'd dragged ourselves up its eastern flank, we descended towards Ludlow, before turning east and heading for our Lunchtime desination of Craven Arms.

We had lunch in The Craven Arms, and it was soon time to get moving again. Unfortuneately our departure was much to the disappointment of the hen do that had arrived just as we were preparing to leave. It's a good job that Mart had saved the white shorts for day 2!

From Craven Arms we headed up towards Pontesbury, before the long run off the hills and towards our destination for Day 1, The Premier Inn in Oswestry. It was time for Beer. An excellent meal followed, before it was time for some rest.

Full stats, courtesy of Garmin Connect below. Not too shabby all things considered.

Day 2 - Oswestry to Shifnal

After breakfast it was time to say goodbye to Oswestry, and we set off along the northern border of Shropshire.

The fast flat roads were too much for Rocket to resist and before long we were strung out struggling to hold his wheel. Ellesmere and Wem passed in a flash, and after a quick stop in Stanton we were back heading back towards the hard earned, and very welcoming Enville Ale in the White Hart.

A further impromtu stop in Edgmond allowed Johhny to adminster some physio to Mr Sims. Although he soon stopped when he realised he's layed on top of his beloved new iPhone 4S!

Lilleshall and then Sheriffhales came and went, and after just a little over 3 hours riding time we arrived at the 'club house' - The White Hart. I don't think the Envill Ale has ever tasted so nice. The perfect ending to a fantastic weekend's cycling.

Stats below. As you can see, the flatter terrain of day 2 made for a significantly quicker ride.

The planning paid off, and the Tour de Shropshire was a resounding success. Everything i'd hoped for, and more.

We're planning on venturing out of the county for our next 'tour'. I'm already working on a suitable route.

Lastly, a big thanks to our other halfs, without whom this event wouldn't have been possible!


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

My Search for N+1

Much has been written over the years about the search for the perfect collection of bikes, widely referred to as the n+1 theory.

What's more concerning from a personal viewpoint was the fact that for a while I was of the view that I'd reached a sort of bike owning plateau, and as such n+1 didn't apply to me. I was immune from this all powerful phenomenon.

Of course i was wrong. A report from Eurobike last week started it off, and before I knew it I was scouring the web for more details. It all led to just one conclusion, that the n+1 theory still held.

After (not)much deliberation, I pulled the trigger. It's not due to arrive for a few weeks, but I can rest assured that the golden rule of bike ownership still holds.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Bikes Part 2 - One From the Dark Side!

The focus of the society seems to be very much on the roads at the moment, but it wasn’t all that long ago that the majority of my cycling was of the off road variety. I still venture off road regularly, and when I do I’ve the pleasure of doing so on this beauty.

My Five
 It’s a custom build 2007 Orange 5, in a green normally reserved for 2007 model year Patriots, kitted out with Pace RC40 Fighter Forks, Hope finishing kit, and a full M970 XTR drivetrain. The exchange rate was much healthier back then, and XTR was a fraction of what it would cost today. It replaced my previous FS Mtb, a rather lovely Santa Cruz Superlight. As you can see I’ve a thing for single pivot bikes. The simplicity takes a lot of beating IMHO.

So why an Orange? Aside from the fantastic reviews, to me a large part of the appeal was the fact that this frame was handmade in England, and this also accounts for the Pace forks. The Hope kit was a must, as they make just about the most lovely Mtb hubs & brakes that money can buy. And like Orange, they’re based in England.

It rides as nicely today as the day it was put together. It really is a lovely bike to ride, and I really can’t ever see it being replaced. It has soaked up everything I’ve ever thrown at it, from twisty technical singletrack to Lancastrian Fells, with Welsh Trail centres and Cannock Chase thrown in for good measure.

To my mind, it’s just about the perfect all round Mtb. Every collection should have one……

Monday, 3 October 2011

Hey Diddle Diddle..

Martin, Sean Kelly & Andy
Me and Mart with Shifnal Cycling Socities newest member!

On Sunday the society took part in the Cat and Fiddle Challenge ride organised by Brian Rourke Cycles in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. A 55(ish) mile ride from Brian Rourke's shop in Burslem, up and over the famous Cat & Fiddle pass, before returning via Leek.

Johhny took plenty of pictures on the day and you can view them at his flickr account. And yes that is Sean Kelly in the pic above. A true giant of the sport! You can check out his mightily impressive Palmares here!

So, what of the ride? Well the weather on the day was just about perfect and the turn out was very impressive.

From the start just behind the Rourke HQ, the route took us out of the urban decay of Stoke, and up through Congleton towards Macclesfield. If was on the approach to Macc that we encountered what could have been a ride ending mechanical. Mart punctured, and on closer inspection it turned out that his rear tyre was well past it's best. We tried a desparate attempt to patch it up but it was to no avail. As John tweeted after the event, a picture can be worth a thousand words....

Cat & Fiddle
A (nearly) broken Mart

So we gave the emergency bike repair number a call, and hey presto in a really very short time(although it seemed like an age as we were passed by literally hundreds of fellow riders) a van arrived and produced a new tyre and tube. They then proceeded to fit the new tyre and tube, inflate to the specified pressure, and then take away the rubbish. When asked how much we owed them, the reply was "It's free, just make a donation to the cftrust at the finish. Absolutley awesome service, and an example of how well organised this event was.

Back up and rolling we set off to towards the section of the ride that lends it's name to the event, the Cat & Fiddle pass. Not too steep, but more of a long steady climb, this roads winds its way out from Macclesfield up and over the spine of England. The weather ensured that the views were fantastic throughout, and the number of cyclists on the road meant that you always had someone to chase.

Cat & Fiddle
At the top!
From here it was downhill all the way surely. Er No! A long run off from the Cat and Fiddle, was followed by the undulating road from Buxton to Leek. Never flat, is was either crazy quick descents, or nasty climbs. A tough road for all.

It was then a short sharp return to the Rourke HQ, for tea and cake, all supplied by the Man who gives his name to the event. A big thanks to Brian!
Cat & Fiddle

The boring bits.

My ride stats - 84.6 kms in 3:22:25(riding time) at an average of 25.1km/h. I also managed to hit 69.1km/h on one of the downhill sections coming into Leek. Plenty quick enough for me!

All in all, a great day out.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Cycle Show Birmingham

On Friday Nellie & I took a day of work went along to the Cycle Show at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. In previous years the show has been held at Earls Court London so it was nice to see it move to a more centralized venue that’s more convenient for those of us who live north of Watford (I was still horrified at having to pay £17.40 for two return tickets from Shifnal to Birmingham International). The NEC is a better venue offering space for a more relaxed layout of exhibitor’s stalls.
One reason for going to the show was to have a play with the Garmin 800 bike computer and ask some questions of the experts on the stand. I’ve had an Edge 200 for as long as I can remember and felt that an upgrade was long overdue. I wanted something with on board maps and navigation facilities.
The people on the Garmin stand were very helpful and answered all of my questions.  Then, an awfully nice man from JD Cycles (retailer for Garmin) made me an offer I couldn’t resist (10% discount on the RRP and a bit more that is a secret) so the deal was done. I am now the official owner of a shiny new Garmin 800.  Oh, and I should mention that I also received a splendid Garmin goodie bag including DVD, Cycling Plus magazine, official Garmin cycle top, Park Tool and lots of other stuff.
Back to the show. I took quite a few pictures of some of the bikes and technology on show and you can see them all on my Flickr pages (see also Brownhills Bobs blog & photos too).
Some of my highlights 
Foffa Bikes
Foffa Custom Bikes - London based cycle shop specialising in steel frame custom builds at a very affordable price. Great web site for building your new bike. We spoke with Dani Foffa the MD and an all round nice bloke (I think Nellie fancied him).
Surly Long Haul Trucker
Always fancied doing a bit of long distance touring so am always interested in the gear for the job. Here we have a Surly Long Haul Trucker loaded up with Ortlieb panniers and the obligatory Brooks saddle. Nice!

Condor Touring
 Another great touring machine by Condor, and in my favorite colour with Brooks Saddle and Carradice saddle bag.

Bike Caravan
Rather than camping or paying for expensive hotels then why not pull your very own caravan. Ok if you're Nellie size :-)

Exposure Lights
Having spent all of last years pocket on my Exposure Toro front light, I felt obliged to visit the stand and have a look at the range. Their sales guy was a 24 hour event mountain biker who used the largest Six Pack (far left of the picture) which is about the same size as a pint glass and costs about £500!

And finally, my highlight bike of the day, an old Colnago steel framed racer. A thing of beauty and in my favorite colour too.

Just look at the detail in the frame
Campagnolo Derailleur


Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Pomp

It seems only right to spend a some time paying homage to the bikes that make all that we do in the society possible.

But, where to start? For me it's often the most unlikely bikes that give the most pleasure. So, let me introduce you to without a doubt the most verstile bike I own. My trusty commuter hack come Paris Roubaix weapon, and a bike that takes just about whatever you throw at it.

The Pomp!
It's a bike that's evolved in the time that i've owned it. Originally put together using any old bits that I had spare, i've gradually honed it into just about the perfect commuter hack. I'm normally very firmly in the no mudguards camp, but as a year round commuter 'The Pomp' just about gets away with it.

It built to take abuse, so Open pro rims laced to bombproof Hope hubs cover off the wheels, whilst a mixture of On One and FSA kit complete the rest of the build. An XT chainset c.2000 and a Goldtec chainring finish things off nicely.

Earlier in the year the society paid a trip to the Hell of the North, and 'The Pomp's' services were called upon. Again it proved the perfect bike, and soaked up all that the cobbles could throw at it, including the legendary Arenberg Forest.

A fantastic bike, i'd recommend them to anyone who's after a no nonsense bike for all seasons.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Family Commitments

I was unable to join the Saturday morning branch of the SCS today due to a family commitment. My wife, Nellie, was competing (that’s running) in the Midland road relays at Sutton Park Birmingham so I went along to support her.
Genesis Croix De Fer
However, this doesn’t mean that I shied away from the Saturday morning ride. Rather than drive to Sutton Park I loaded up the panniers on my trusty Genesis Croix De Fer with bananas and Jelly Babies and decided to bike there.
The weight of bananas and the steel frame Genesis made the going slower than normal but what the hell – it wasn’t a race.  It felt like I was working against a head wind all the way there too (or am I just unfit?).
I took the opportunity to pass through some of my old stomping grounds Bloxwich, Rushall, Coalpool and Aldridge (Walsall). Cyclists should proceed with caution through these communities, as the local motorists are not familiar with pedal powered modes of transport. Boy racers in supped up hot hatches along with rag‘n bone men in flatbed trucks show no respect when passing at speed with only a couple of inches between them and you. Their journey is obviously far more important!
Sutton Park Streetly Gate
Managed to survive the urban jungles and get to Sutton Park in a little less than two hours. Had a banana, watched Nellie run and had a tootle around the park on the traffic free tarmac paths (ideal for family cycling).
Came home via a slightly different route skirting closer to the northern outskirts of Wolverhampton passing through Bushbury, Albrighton and Cosford on the Sustrans cycle route 81.
58 miles in just over 4 hours. Not bad considering I kept stopping to take photos and update my location on Foursqaure (sad eh?).

Just spotted that I burned off over 3,000 calories. I'll be putting a few of them back later in The Anvil.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Commuting, Punctures and 2012......

Another week has passed and the society collective have been clocking up the miles nicely.

Today I hooked up with our resident webmaster for a sneaky loop on the way home from our daily distractions some call a 'career'. As you expect when Johnny is involved a fast pace was the order of the day as we made our way back to Shifnal via the town park, Tweedale, Kemberton, and Grindle.

My heart sank as we passed a farmer creating millions of puncture opportunities as we got to Grindle, and you guessed it, Psssssssssssssssssst. I managed to get home after a couple of re-inflations with about 5 mins to spare.

So what's the 2012 bit about? Well with the dates of the spring classics pretty much set, and rumours of the 2012 Tour route rife it seems only right to start thinking about next year's continental trips. Easter in Belgium followed by the Alps for the Tour seems about right.

Anyhow, the puncture's fixed and tomorrow sees another commute with Mrs L. Should be good!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

All Round The Wrekin

Owing to a whole host of reasons only Mart and I made it out for this morning's ride. I managed to put my shorts on the right way round this week which was a good start.

Into the gorge, and through Buildwas we ended up going past Wroxeter, and then headed north past Haughmond Hill. We then turned right and headed back through High Ercall, Crudginton and Edgmond. A tail wind certainly helped us keep the pace up.

We only had to do a minor de-tour to crack the 80km mark, not too shabby at all. Another good ride.


Thursday, 15 September 2011

Ladies Night


Anna and Julie held up the ladies section end this thursday with a sneaky 35km ride to keep things ticking over. They even seem to be chasing the average speed stat as well. 21.1km/h tonight i'm told.

As you can see, it was obviously a thirst inducing ride, but a glass(or two) of Sauvignon Blanc seems to have saved the day.


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Tour of Britain 2011

Tour of Britain 2011 by AlanTheFish
Tour of Britain 2011, a photo by AlanTheFish on Flickr.
Nellie & Johnny drag themselves from the beaches of South Wales to spend a day in Brecon to catch a glimpse of the cyclists in The Tour of Britain as they fly by on the way from Welshpool to Caerphilly.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The main man....Mr Brian Rourke!

Shifnal Cycling Society's Number 1 Frame builder!

Amazingly we ran into Brian on this year's trip to the Tour. This is in Bourg D'Oisans.

Inside Out......

A last minute withdrawal meant that only 4 of us made it out on Saturday's regular ride.

Si led the way and we headed out in the general direction of Worfield. All seemed fine as we headed up the Col de la Park Lane, but when i looked down i realised that i'd managed to put my shorts on inside out! Oh dear.

There was only one thing for it, so after finding a suitably sheltered spot, i corrected the problem as quickly as i could. I can only apologise if anyone caught sight of the whole escapade. I can't imagine it was a pretty sight. One thing's for sure, putting bib shorts on is much easier without shoes on!

After catching up with the rest of the group and coming clean about what i'd been doing, things got back to normal.

A killer headwind on the outbound leg made it tough going, but the pay back was an extremely quick return.

I made it 56km which isn't too bad for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Saturday ride to Worfield

The society headed out to the beautiful village of Worfield, skirting around Bridgenorth. Strong headwinds and some sneaky little climbs made for an interesting outing.
35 miles covered in a little over two hours. We did have to wait whilst The Loveland stopped in a field to put his bib & shorts on the right way round. He'd dressed himself this morning :-)

The Loveland

Simon & Martin

Johnny S

Initial thoughts....

Another early morning owing to a youngest daughter who seems unable to sleep beyond 630, so i thought i'd make my first contibution to our new Shifnal Cycling Society blog.

It's taken a while to get the SCS off the ground but i think it's fair to say that its well and truly up and running(or should that be cycling).

We've picked up quite a few riders over the last few months, and hopefully it will go from strength to strength.

I'm still finalising the route for our first Tour de Shropshire that we've got planned for October, and there's always next year's continental trips to be planning, as well as the spring Epic.

Anyway that's it for now, i'm off to drink coffee and get a route together for this morning's ride.

Finally, a big thanks to John for setting this blog up.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Inaugural Outing

Shifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society Inaugural
Shifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society Inaugural
Shifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society Inaugural
Shifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society InauguralShifnal Cycling Society Inaugural
The Inaugural outing of the famous Shifnal Cycling Society