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…….