Saturday, 21 December 2013

ShifnalCyclingSociety AGM 2013

Amongst the many mundane e-mails that i received on Wednesday was one from Society fellow Adamski. It simply read, "Hopefully attached are the ramblings of a madman".

Unbeknown to me, Adamski had minuted the previous night's meeting. What follows is all his own work. Thankyou Sir!

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SHIFNAL CYCLING SOCIETY AGM

Club HQ Tuesday 17th December
 
Persons present: @936ADL(AL)(Chair), @SJ1202(SJ), @ObsessiveJohn(JS) , @AlScott(AL), @DaipacCycling(DL), @MaxWhite65(MW), @MartynbroVVn(MB), DangerousBrIan(IS), @woodsdrycleaner(AC), Sanjay(father of @SJ1202), Tat.

Apologies. -  None. Society members never ever apologise.
Agenda:

The pre-meeting off road ride was preceded by the Inaugural Shifnal Cycling Society best dressed bike competition.

The children of the Chair voted JS bike the winner. The society congratulated JS and commiserated with members who missed the judging area.
Matters Arising:

DL proposed we all buy Obsessive Compulsive Cyling Disorder, available from Amazon and more legit retailers. DL then gave us his top 50 books. AS, JS, AC, and SJ all pointed out that DL admitted he doesn’t like reading. It was agreed not to purchase the book.

AC suggested that the SCS put forward a team to enter the Shrewsbury Grand Prix. The Chair raised concerns that the ability of our potential team may not reach the high standards associated with this historical event. SJ wanted to know where the event would take place, JS mentioned the clue in the name of the event. Once AC pointed out that the event would welcome participants of varying cycling standards it was almost ready to be put to vote.
Before it went to vote DL challenged AC that his pronunciation of Shrewsbury was incorrect. The next one hour of the meeting was very difficult to record. The Taming of the Shrew, beau, small welsh town, in or out of the city walls, town coat of arms and many more phrases and words were thrown across the table. JS asked Marika, one of our bar girls, to decide which pronunciation was correct. AC objected strongly that Marika was unqualified to decide. The Chair agreed, but far more quietly.   

The matter will carry on until the next AGM, the SCS did not confirm the club position on Shrew/Shrow.
AS mentioned he would like to ride 100k off road. The Chair agreed to do this with him in 2014.

The society will undertake a coast 2 coast ride in July. A date for the Wales top to bottom has yet to be decided.  AC suggested we get some horses to see which the faster mode of transport is.

I can’t remember if The Society agreed or not to purchase a wine bar in Shifnal. It was agreed by all members to look into a Society van. JS knows someone round the back of ASDA that could paint it. MB pointed out we would need a driver.
SJ was elected treasurer. His Dad on hearing this news left very promptly.

AS and AC are going to set up a base camp in the Yorkshire Dales in readiness for Le Tour.

AC is to segment the BMX track. He can’t remember how.
AS suggested we head up there after the meeting. We agreed not to.

The meeting ended when the beer stopped flowing. We all agreed it was a most excellent meeting.


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Vive la Velo

Monday, 2 December 2013

SingleSpeed Imperial Century Ride Report

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Just Numbers


The picture above is little more than a collection of numbers, and none even come close to doing this ride justice. A truly awesome day on the bike, all devoted to the purity of the SingleSpeed and the pursuit of an imperial century.

Originally hatched as a plan between myself and @NovaRaidersCC’s @Middy_Middy, the objective was a simple one. Ride one hundred miles, on one single gear. We set a date, bizarrely in December, and I planned a route. Shropshire’s flatter northern territories were ideal; nice fast roads, and nothing too nasty in the way of hills.

One of our newest SingleSpeed recruits, @DaipacCycling, threw his casquette into the ring, and so on the day, there was three.

Riding to the pre-arranged start point I was nervous. I’d an idea of my riding companion’s pace, and I was a little worried. I was just hoping that we’d all be able to stick together and enjoy the ride.
 
The early miles passed easily, and spirits were high as we got to know each other. Stories and anecdotes were exchanged, and the pace was healthy. Push on was the consensus, and after riding some of my favourite Shropshire roads it was time for a coffee and cake stop in Ellesmere.
 
Leaving the Café, December made its presence felt and we were glad of the climb that followed to get some warmth back into legs. The metric century was passed, and I was feeling good. We each took our turn on the front and the strong pace was maintained.

@Middy_Middy’s view was that the ride was really finished at the 80 mile marker. His rationale being that the last 20 were a breeze after you’d completed 80. I liked it, and as we passed the ‘finish line’ my spirits were high with only just over an hour to go.

As with so many great rides, this one had a sting in its tail and this one’s known locally as the Abbey Road. Running from Lillieshall up towards Heath Hill, it’s a pig of a road, even more so on a SingleSpeed. The final ramp is a real killer, but at the top I was greeted by a real sense of euphoria. All that remained was a roll off the hill to complete our goal for the day, and I think it’s fair to say we’d managed it in some style.

 An absolutely fantastic day’s ridiing, in great company. When are we going to do it again?

Vive la Velo

936ADL

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The #Chaingang


An industrial estate in Shropshire; a late November evening; a diverse group of cyclists meeting in a layby. This can only mean one thing, a chaingang session is about to get  underway.

I’ve been meaning to make it along to one of these for a while now, and on Thursday night I finally popped my chaingang cherry. As I made it towards the start I really wasn’t at all sure what to expect. Would I keep up ? There was only one way to find out.

The main protagonists were known only to me by their Strava or Twitter pseudonyms, but they were a friendly bunch and readily accepted me into their ranks.

The circuit was a pan flat 2.5km loop around the industrial estate, well lit, and a decent, albeit damp, surface.

I set off in the first group whilst a few performed their final pre-ride faffage rituals. The pace was fast, but relatively comfortable. The first couple of laps I spent trying to make mental notes of any drain covers and pot holes on the circuit as the pace gently increased.

With the chaingang up to full strength we settled into a steady, and fast(for me at least) pace. I was however, managing to hang on in there, and even spent some time on the front of the group. I found that the corners were key, and holding speed through them was crucial to keeping a consistent pace. Leg sapping accelerations out of them was best avoided.

I looked down at my Garmin, and in what seemed like no time at all it was showing over 30km had been covered! Even more surprising was the average speed we were maintaining, over 32km/h. And I was still feeling comfortable.
Lap after lap was spent chatting to various members of the ‘gang, and it’s fair to say we were a fairly diverse bunch. From cat 1 road racers, to middle aged life long cyclists, with a Team GB Downhill Mtb rider thrown in for good measure.

After just under two hours I called it a day, said my goodbyes, and headed for home. Over 62 covered! Full details here - http://www.strava.com/activities/96372830 

Whenever I try something new I ask myself two simple questions, 1)Did I enjoy the experience, and 2)Am I intending to do it again. It’s a resounding yes on both accounts.
Vive la Velo
936ADL

 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Prejudice & Pleasure – A Postcard from Bruges


A blog of two halfs, the first dedicated to the Bicycle, the second to Beer.

Over Coming Prejudice

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It's no Rourke!
@SJ1202 and I have had many heated discussions over the years about the ‘Old Dutch’ style of bicycle. His advocacy of this most popular mode of transport differing sharply my scorn for these most atheistically challenging of machines.

“Millions of Dutch/Belgians etc can’t be wrong” was always his view. “But they look shit” was my standard reply. We always agreed to differ, and more often than not ordered another Beer.
However after Saturday afternoon I can only hold my hands up and accept wholeheartedly that I was wrong. 8 Euros buys a few hours on one of these bizarre looking contraptions, and after an initial photo shoot, it was time to finally see what all the fuss was about.
I don’t normally go cycling in jeans and Timberland boots, but then my normal bikes are a little different to this afternoon’s steed. Adjust the seatpost, make sure the stand (no sniggering at the back) is retracted fully, and we’re off.
It’s almost immediately apparent that on the busy cobbled side streets of Bruges this bike is perfect. Comfortable, and easy to control, I’m quickly at home picking my way through the potential hazardous mix of cars, people, horses, and dogs. The tolerance displayed by everyone, sadly a trait seemingly lacking in the UK nowadays, means progress is quick.
The couple of hours pass in a flash as we took our new bikes along the Canal to Damme for some well-earned refreshments. The ride back took in a mix of quiet country lanes and dedicated cycle paths before we got back into Bruges itself.
As we handed back our bikes, I couldn’t help feel a degree of regret. We’d all had a great afternoon, and I for one had overcome my prejudice of these fine machines. Function may have won over form, but as @SJ1202 had said all along, millions of people can’t be wrong.

Pleasure – ‘t Brugs Beertje


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Perfection
Regular readers of this blog will realise the importance of beer to the society, and anyone who appreciates a good quality Belgium Tripel should visit what’s in my opinion, the finest bar that Bruges has to offer, ‘t Brugs Beertje or Bruges’ Little Bear. Tucked away in a back street of this most magical city, and all too easy to miss, this has to be the perfect place for #MaltedRecoveryBeverageConsumption. This place is certainly #Rule47 compliant.
Serving hundreds of the finest beers that Belgium has to offer, all tastes are catered for. It’s the Blonde Tripels that are my favourites though, from old favourites like La Chouffe, to new finds like Duvel Tripel Hop, and many more besides.
After a couple of hours in here, my best advice would be to stay off the bike……….

Vive La Velo

936ADL



Friday, 18 October 2013

When Less Is More


The march of technology in the cycling world is relentless. We’re currently being told all about how badly we need disc brakes on our road bikes, whilst electronic gears and 11 speed groupsets are now the norm. What’s more, there’s a seemingly unending number of wind tunnel tested, Asymmetric, monocoque plastic frames out there to choose from, all offering huge gains over last year’s model. Really? I’m not so sure…..
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Exhibit A

My latest bike is the absolute antithesis to this marketing lead clap trap. A fully custom frame, hand crafted in Reynolds 853 by one of England’s finest builders, and just a single gear. No dodgy electrics and certainly no disc brakes. Just a good, old fashioned bike.
The only thing that’s better than the way this bikes looks(please forgive my obvious bias), is the way it rides. Beautifully stable whatever the conditions, and super responsive. Stomp on the pedals, and the reaction is instant, whilst at the same time offering a lovely compliant ride as only Steel can do. Steel really is real!
I’m sure the latest wizzbang Pinarago Di15 Asymmetric Aero XL is a lovely thing, but I’ll stick to my bike any time.
Vive La Velo
936ADL

Monday, 14 October 2013

ShifnalCyclingSociety Time Trial Championship 2013 Report

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More Ears Than Gears

Our society goes from strength to strength, and alongside the growing numbers on our regular rides, last weekend saw the completion of our inaugural time trial championship.
There’s been whispers of a new Shifnal based ten mile time trial course for a while, so when I heard that the SCCA season ending TT would be the first event to use it, it was too good an opportunity to miss. The plan was to high jack this event, without telling the organisers of course, and to make it the society’s very first Time Trial Championships.
Even with a couple of late withdrawals the turnout was good and 8 of us, including two from our ladies section, rolled out of Shifnal heading for the start line. The pace was gentle as we all balanced the need to warm up cold muscles with the desire to save our energy for the main event.
Signing on was our first hurdle, as we immediately seemed to incur the displeasure of the rather fearsome lady  running the entry process. Amazingly she’d never heard of the society, and refused to recognise our existence. Ignorance is no excuse, but she wouldn't budge, and instead we signed on under the ‘Come & Try’ banner.
A quick espresso in the excellent Horns of Boningale, and it was time to line up at the start. The nerves were making their presence felt as the first few riders rolled away from the line.
To capture this momentous occasion we had not one but two official photographers out on the course. Both society fellows who couldn’t make the race itself, a big thanks go out to Adam and Simon for the pictures.

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Get those elbows in!

So, to the race itself. The course is certainly not flat, and the windy conditions on the day didn’t help matters. The consensus amongst the other riders was that this was a power course, and would reward riders who could maintain speed up the long drags which were its defining features.
My own personal low point was the last hill with about a mile to go. It felt like I was down to a crawl as I laboured up the climb, and all I could think of was trying to leave something in the tank for the downhill run to the finish. Round the final corner, and one last effort to get over the line. The encouragement from the other riders was greatly appreciated. Pain and pleasure in equilibrium.
The thing that appeals to me so much about time trials is the fact that is makes no difference where you come in the final standings, it’s about you and the clock. For some of our group it was a first ever taste of time trialling, and for us all it was the first time on a new course.
A special mention must go to the ladies, Anna & Annette, both riding their first ever TT and giving it all they had on the day. Anna was convinced up until a couple of hours before the start that it was only 10 kilometres and not miles. However, this didn’t stop her from taking the spoils just over a minute ahead of Annette. Just don’t mention the fact that she was caught metres from the line by a charging Johnny.  A great ride from both Ladies; chapeau!
Chapeau also to Shaun and Max for popping their TT’ing cherries, and to Scott, for dipping under the magic 30 minute mark by the narrowest of margins.

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Every Second Counts

A great afternoon all round, and the full results are included below.

Course K21/10B - New Course(Shifnal)

Position                No            Name                                    Actual Time
1                              22           Andrew Loveland              26:31
2                              19           John Sanders                      27:33
3                              18           Scott Jackson                     29:59
4                              14           Martin Brown                    31:10
5                              20           Max White                          31:45
6                              13           Anna Loveland (L)             33:34
7                              17           Annette Lawrence (L)      34:27
8                                  21           Shaun Hanson                       34:49

Vive la Velo

936ADL

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Fixated

So, it’s been just over 12 months since I purchased my first single speed bicycle – The On-One Pompino which I have been using ever since for my daily commute. I enjoyed the simplicity and challenge of the single speed so much that shortly after I treated myself to a Specialized Langster - another single speed but much leaner and lighter.
Both machines have flip-flop rear wheels providing the capability to literally flip the wheel between single speed mode (with freewheel) and fixed with no freewheel. However, up until today I haven’t ever tried riding fixed. So, on a beautiful sunny, dry autumn Saturday afternoon I flipped the rear wheel on my Langster and set off on a brand new cycling mission. Here’s what I found…

Setting Off

“How the hell is it done without looking stupid?”
Normally, I kick back the right pedal until it’s in the right position just to push off. However, with wheel fixed there’s no option to get the pedal in a good position without lifting up the bike to allow the rear wheel to move. So I found myself walking forward to get the pedal in a suitable position to clip in. Once the right foot is clipped in and the bike is in motion there’s a limited short period of time to get the left foot clipped in. I guess the best way to avoid having to set off is never to stop!

Just Pedalling

I proceeded with caution and at a very conservative pace to begin with. It’s fair to say that concentration levels were very high. It reminded me of my first time with clip in pedals. However, after a while I gained confidence and felt at ease just riding along. In fact, it’s a great feeling being ‘as one’ with the bike and in total control.

Downhill

The secret is to never forget that you’re riding fixed and not get too blasé as I did on the approach to a fairly steep downhill. My natural instinct was to stop pedalling and freewheel. Big mistake! I was almost launched into the air as the pedals continued to turn and force me out of the saddle. My concentration returned immediately.

Maneuvering

In normal riding circumstances (with freewheel) I always generally stop pedalling and freewheel when looking behind to check for traffic prior to turning right. No such luxury when riding fixed – you just keep pedalling or face getting launched over the handlebars. Not really a problem though and easily dealt with after a bit of practice. Tight turns, where the level of banking may cause the pedals to touch the ground, are impossible. I guess that such turns are to be avoided. 

Flatulence Management

It’s fair to say that I managed to accommodate all of the above issues and hope to improve with more practice. However, there’s one thing that I could not master and that is the passing of waste gas from the saddle contact point. It’s a natural function that has to happen especially after consuming protein-packed energy bars and electrolyte drinks. In the absence of a freewheel situation I was just unable to relax the appropriate muscles in order to squeeze one out. No doubt I’ll be scouring the Fixie cycling forums for the solution. 

Conclusion

An overall enjoyable experience and I can now understand how it would benefit performance in a time trial. Being ‘as one’ with the bike at high speed minimises the opportunities to relax when fatigue sets in.


More practice required! 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

My Favourite Bike


Owning multiple bikes is undoubtedly one of life’s great pleasures, each one carefully selected to fulfil a specific role, and each slightly different from the next.  However, along with this pleasure comes a problem, which one’s my favourite?
This conundrum has caused me a fair amount of anguish over many years, and I’ve gone back and forth between my bikes too many times. When the axiom of N+1 is applied, it’s just too much.
But recently, and in a rare moment of clarity, it’s become clear. I’ve concluded that in the end it all comes down to the ride. That most simple act, learned as a child, which defines the interaction between rider and bike. So, back to my original problem, what’s my favourite bike? It’s just too close to call, and after a photo finish,  and I can’t separate the two winners.
The first of the winners is the last bike I rode, whilst the second is the one I’ll ride next. Rule #4 applies!
Vive la Velo

936ADL

Thursday, 12 September 2013

#RealAleWobble2013 - The Details

Ok, some more details about Saturday's fun & games.

We'll muster at Silks Cafe from about 1330 for pre ride Espressi, with a view for wheels to be turning for 140V sharp!

The plan is to ride for an hour or so, and head into the Ironbridge Gorge.  Having worked up a suitable thirst it will time to sample some Real Ale.

Our first stop however isn't going to be a pub, we can do better than that. What about a brewer? We're going to kick  things off at the Ironbridge Brewery, and then work our way back along the gorge to the All Nations Arms in Madeley via the Robin Hood Inn.

It's then back on the bikes for the wobble back to Shifnal. A pit stop at the Mason's Arms in Kemberton will be our final stop before our return to town. Our destination will be the Society's HQ, The White Hart.

With all that excellent beer to soak up it, a curry would seem in order. Bring along a change of clothes, as i'm not sure eating a curry in muddy cycling gear would be ideal.

What could go wrong?

See you all on Saturday!

Vive la Velo

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Colour is Crucial


I’ve always loved bikes and cycling. When I was just a young lad we never had a family car so the bicycle was our only form of independent transport. My Dad would pedal to work on his bright orange Claud Butler road bike and I would set off for school on my shiny new pale blue Kalkhoff racer (with cotter-less cranks).  I had huge saddle bags loaded with packed lunch, P.E. kit, school books etc.

At the weekends my Dad and I would go out on our bikes together. The route would normally follow canal towpaths through the industrial Black Country and we would invariably stop for refreshments at a Banks’s pub (I’d have Vimto and a bag of plane crisps whilst my Dad would have a pint of mild and a bag of scratchings). Magical memories lodged in my brain and probably the foundation for my passion for bicycles.

It was in 2010 when I first saw Rob Penn’s BBC4 documentary “Ride of My Life: The Story of the Bicycle”. I immediately bought Rob’s book “It's All About the Bike” and read it twice (The story of his love affair with cycling and the journey to build his dream bike; a freewheeling pilgrimage taking him from Californian mountain bike inventors to British artisan frame builders – Brian Rourke). In 2011 I went to meet Rob and see his bike at whilst he was giving a talk at Hereford Leisure Centre.
Since then I set myself a goal to have a custom made Rourke dream bike of my own.

So, over two years have passed and still no dream bike as of yet for me. Why not?

Well, although custom built bikes don’t come cheap, the financial aspect of the acquisition hasn’t been the main blocker(I've been saving).  Nor is it selection of components (group set etc.- I already have them).

Unbelievably, the main reason for the delay has been my indecisive pondering over a suitable colour scheme for the frame.  Initially, there was no doubt in my mind – I would simply go for my favourite colour. However, after looking at hundreds of pictures of different colour bikes I became confused and it dawned on me that I had more than one favourite colour.  Some bikes even look good in colours that I don’t like e.g. Pale Green or brown.

A custom built bike is a very special thing and it would be a poor show if after going through the 8 month process of planning (or in my case 3 years) the end result doesn’t produce a thing of beauty. I want the bike to be eye catching with a subtle amount of bling but not so much that it’s overly gaudy.

It's not only one colour to consider. The lower part of the seat tube and down tube can be different to the cross bar. Then there's the bands on the main tubes - how many and what colour? Not forgetting the font style and colour of the famous Rourke decals.

To confuse the issue even more there are now an abundant array of various coloured anodised components (hubs, head sets, bottom brackets…) available of which I am a great fan. Going down the road of fitting extravagantly coloured component’s makes choosing frame colour scheme the more difficult.

I don't want to end up riding a rainbow that will initiate migraines at 10 yards.  

Investigations

For the last 12 months, I have bubble sorted may way through a collection of about 50 photos of bikes that of which I like the colour in attempt to make a decision. This process has been fruitless. It’s been a different result every time.

Breakthrough

As I mentioned earlier, my first proper road bike was a pale blue Kalkhoff. My Dad bought it because it was the best in the shop with the best components but, to be honest, I was never fan of the colour (I never told my Dad).
After a couple of years of commuting to school every day, the bike started to look tatty so my Dad and I agreed that we strip down and repaint the frame.  I repainted by hand with a brush, applying multiple coats and finely rubbing down in-between to guarantee the perfect finish.

The end result was superb and more importantly in a colour that I loved. The fond memories of repainting and rebuilding are what have finally helped me to decide on a colour for my dream Rourke custom bike.  Nostalgia has finally helped me make a decision.

So, after almost 3 years of pondering, I finally have an appointment for a fitting at Rourke’s next week and I’ll be going armed with a chosen colour scheme for my new frame – unless I change my mind in the next 7 days!


BTW, I have applied to the ‘International Committee of Favourite Colours’ to officially have my favourite colour changed.

Ride Report - The #BaconRun

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The Destination

The formula is a simple one….
An early morning alarm call, load up the panniers, and then head for the traditional #BaconRun rendezvous point, otherwise known as the Clocktower in Shifnal. Once my co-conspirator, @ObsessiveJohn has arrived, it’s just a case of pedalling as fast as we can for the next 75 minutes or so.
Sheriffhales passes in a blur, and the totally unnecessary ascent towards the Lillieshall monument is despatched with ease. The Wrekin looms large above us as we cross the Weald Moors toward our destination.
The drudgery of the day job couldn’t be more different from the exhileration of an early morning ride, especially when watching all the poor souls in the cars as they drive to work.
Our final hurdle is Aldi Huez(whoever named this strava segment, I salute you), before passing through Central Park and across the EP.
It’s time for the prize, a Latte and a Bacon Roll at Café Kix!
Another #BaconRun successfully completed.

Vive la Velo!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

London2Paris Ride Report & Pictures

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We made it!!

Last Sunday(28th July 2013) afternoon, at just gone 5 pm local time we finally made it. After months of planning and careful preparation, not to mention over 350km and 17 hours riding, we rode down the Avenue des Nations Unies and onto the Pont d’lena. Towering above us was our target, La Tour Eiffel. It seemed so much more than three days ago that we’d rolled away from another great icon of another great city, Buckingham Palace.
 
 
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Three Days Earlier.....

Trying to describe the ride in any detail is a pointless task, all I can say it that the three days it took us to ride #London2Paris2013 rank right up there as three of the most enjoyable days I’ve ever experienced on a bike.

This wasn’t just about the ride though, it was the culmination of a challenge that my wife had set for herself some 12 months earlier. It was a challenge that was also taken up by the other members of the group, her sister Tori, and friends Julie and Katie. My role was clear; sort the logistics, carry tools, and act as sort of Directeur Sportif for the duration of the ride. I can only congratulate them on a quite awesome performance, well done to you all.
 
We decided to try and raise a few pounds for the SevernHospice along the way too, and it’s currently looking like we’ve managed to raise well over £1000. It’s not too late to donate either and you can do so here.

Pictures aplenty were taken en route, and I’ve included some of the better ones.


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Crossing the Thames

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End of day 1 drinks

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Anna & Tori on the Pont de Normandie
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The Team in Evreux

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One last beer before the Eiffel Tower

 Vive Le Velo

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Bon Voyage - London2Paris2013

After seemingly months of planning, it's almost upon on. Tomorrow morning we'll be heading towards London, not to celebrate the birth of Prince George, but instead to start what promises to be something quite special. Riding from London to Paris, a box which needs ticking for any cyclist.

The cast list has changed since planning started, and tomorrow at 10 o'clock, five of us will roll away from Buckingham Palace heading towards our date with a ferry in  Portsmouth. Days 2 and 3 will see us cross Normany and head into Paris.

We''ve decided to support the excellent work of the Severn Hospice on this ride and if you'd like to show your support you can sponsor us here.

Our plan is to tweet while we ride, so you can keep up with our progress by following @936ADL on twitter.

Vive la Velo

Friday, 28 June 2013

Farewell to an Old Friend – The Langster

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The Langster

It’s always a sad day when you retire a bike from your stable, especially when it’s one which has afforded me so much pleasure over the time we’ve shared together. However, on Sunday it was time to take ‘The Langster’ for one last spin.
Purchased on a whim from eBay, it’s this bike which has been responsible for my love affair with riding singlespeeds on the road.  For this fact alone I owe him a debt of gratitude.

Whilst serving primarily as my ‘winter’ bike, time and time again The Langster has shown it’s versatility. We’ve time trialled together(including a new pb over 10 miles just two weeks ago), completed an Imperial Century together, and have even crashed together.
We all move on though, and as heavy as my heart was as I was stripping him down, it was also full of joy at the prospect of his replacement.

As the saying goes “The King is Dead, Long Live the King!”

Vive la Velo

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Longest Day - #ProjectSASv2

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There's some big numbers in there!

I’ve just dragged myself out of bed and found the simple act of walking downstairs a really quite painful process. The sure sign of an epic ride!
 
Words really do fail me, I’m nowhere near eloquent enough to express what a day it was yesterday. The picture above sums it all up perfectly.

Here are the full details -



A day 100% devoted to the simple act of riding a bike.
 
A massive thanks to my co-conspirator, @MartynBroVVn; I couln’t have done it without you!

Vive la Velo

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Summer Social Ride – Sunday June 30th

****************** Updated 29/6 ***********************

Ok, the weather's been booked and the route planned.

A slight amendment to the start time, and wheels will be turning at 100V sharp from the clocktower in Shifnal.

See you Sunday

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Summer’s well and truly upon us, so it seems high time that we organised another Social Ride. Leave the testosterone behind, and forget about Strava segments, this ride's all about the simple pleasure of riding a bike.

The pace will be gentle, and we’ll be aiming for about 60km on the day. Perhaps most importantly a mid ride re-fuelling stop will be factored in.

Wheels will be turning at 103V sharp from the Clocktower in Shifnal.

All are welcome!

Vive la Velo

Friday, 7 June 2013

The #ShifnalCyclingSociety #RealAleWobble2013

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Now where did i leave my bike?

Ok, we spent long enough talking about this ride, it’s time to get something in the calendar.

The Plan – Ride Bikes, Drink Beer, & Eat Curry.

The Route – TBC, but will involve some off road cycling(Mtbs required, leave the 23s at home!), and some fine Real Ale establishments.

So……
·         When? – Saturday 14th September 2013 – Wheels turning 120V sharp. Pre ride espressi @ Silks Café from 1130.

·         Where? – Shifnal, Shropshire

·         Why? – Why not?

This promises to be a highlight of the 2013 cycling Calendar.
Who’s in?

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Uncharted Territory

Tynemouth Castle
As much as I love the variety of cycling that Shropshire offers, it’s always nice to cycle somewhere new. New roads mean new challenges, and unexpected terrain to keep up on your toes.

Earlier in the week a business trip to Newcastle offered up the perfect opportunity to venture further afield. Just knowing that I had a ride to look forward to once we’d finished for the day made the ludicrously early start almost bearable.

Meetings completed, and hotel found, it was time to put the bike back together and hit the road. My plan was simple. Head from Newcastle city centre along the northern banks of the Tyne, then turn left and up the coast. Riding along the coastline always takes me back to my younger days when I lived on the Kent coast, seemingly a million miles away from the landlocked county of Shropshire.

The following two hours served to illustrate why I love cycling so much. The simple act of pushing the pedals the perfect antidote to the drudgery of the afternoon’s meeting.

Whitley Bay came and went and was so reminiscent of my hometown. A proud seaside town; perhaps not as grand as it once was, but still retaining a certain charm. I turned inland as I reached Blyth in the now fading light. The bright lights of the city centre guided me back to my hotel, and a well earned beer.

It’s not what you ride, or where you ride, what’s important is that you do!

Vive la Velo!   

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Hell of the Wrekin – Telford Toothpaste 2013

Getting ready to HTFU

It was as I battled my way through the six inch deep sand which claimed many a victim on the Creamery secteur that I realised just what a special event I was lucky enough to be taking part in. The ‘Toothpaste’, Shropshire’s very own tribute to the greatest one day race in the world, was underway, and was surpassing all I’d hoped it would be.

A couple of hours earlier, over 60 Toothpasters gathered at the event’s start point, shivering from the sub zero temperatures, but all looking forward to what promised to be a special day in the saddle. A loose amalgam of riders, some from local clubs, some from further afield, many I knew, more that I didn’t.

Organised largely via social media, by the man known to many only as Teddy Smerckx, this was the antithesis of the current love affair with sportives. However, this wasn’t just a glorified club run. Many of the riders were sporting jerseys to mark the event, we had a support crew taking photos (thanks for letting me use them here!), and to top it all we had our very motorcycle outriders. All very pro, and not at all what most of us were used to.
 
The ride itself was over all too quickly, the ever challenging off road secteurs breaking up the relative calm offered by the tarmac. The final secteur along the cycle path which tracks the River Severn offered up perhaps the perfect metaphor for the entire ride when we came upon a rider limping along who’d suffered yet another puncture. Only a few kms from the finish and a hard earned beer, this was a puncture too far, and all his spare tubes had been used. Mart, my riding partner, did the only decent thing, and passed on a tube to our stricken fellow Toothpaster.
 
Beer, Frites, and Faboo completing his third Paris Roubaix victory followed. The ‘Hell of the Wrekin’ had been a resounding success, and talk had already turned to next year.

A massive thanks to Teddy Smerckx for organising what can only be described as a truly unique event.


Mr Smerckx!

 Vive la Velo!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Consumed by the Challenge – #TrainingLikeTaylor

In my mind cycling is often defined by the challenges it presents. From my young daugthers trying to better their times on a lap of the local BMX track, to their middle aged father dragging his tired frame up an Alpine Col, it’s the challenge that drives us all on.
As much as I’ve resisted the lure of Strava, it’s recently taken hold, and it’s the challenges that have tipped the balance, and in particular the Training Like Taylor example. 31 hours and 51 minutes in 16 days. Some longer than normal weekend rides, complemented by extended commutes should see me through. Challenge accepted!
In the past the challenges I’ve taken on have all been relatively short, and have never lasted more than a couple of days. Ok, there has been one or two very long days in the saddle, but the end has always been in sight at the start. A challenge over three weekends was going to be a much tougher task.
Day 1 went well, but on day 2 disaster almost struck. The weather was good, and I was feeling  great. Spinning along towards the back of the group as we neared the far point of the Newport Cycling Club Reliability Ride, we approached the turn via a fast downhill section. In an instant I was off and sliding down the road, taken down by a hidden pothole! Fortunately I didn’t hit anything, or anybody else. Once I’d established that I was all still in one, albeit slightly shredded piece, my attention turned to my bike. I feared the worst, but miraculously it was relatively unscathed. A scuffed pedal, ripped bar tape, and the smallest of scratches to the rear mech. Amazing.
I might have been bloodied and bruised but I was also about 30 miles from home, so there was really only one option. Take a large dose of Rule #5, get back on the bike, and ride. The ride home took my mind off my injuries, but  getting in the bath when  I got home was agony. However, after the first two days of the challenge I had nearly 8 hours of riding clocked up!
The rest of the first week saw commutes extended whenever possible in order to chip away at the goal. Typically for the UK, the weather went downhill,  and as I was battling against a killer headwind on Thursday’s ride home I came close to throwing in the towel.  But it was just a minor blip, and another couple of hours were in the bag.
Beyond the halfway mark and the countdown can begin. Every hour ridden is an hour closer to the target. Into single figures and you’re almost there. SubZero mountain bike rides and ever longer commutes saw me within minutes of the goal. And this morning, with 2 full days to spare, I past the 32 hour mark. Take that, Mr Phinney! I’m now looking forward to a rare Saturday off the bike, it’s safe to say I’m in serious calorific defecit.
The next problem though is the same one which exists on the completion of every challenge, what’s next?

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Bike Designation - Not as simple as you'd think..


Whilst any cyclist worth his weight in Reynolds tubing will fully understand the enduring principle of N+1, it’s what follows adherence to this rule which I want to discuss..

Last year I was fortunate enough to take delivery of my dream bike, a full custom Rourke in oh so glorious 953 Stainless Steel. This was always going to be Bike #1 and it’s difficult to see this ever changing if I’m honest. ‘Brian’ enjoys all the benefits that come with a #1 designation, and his place in the pecking order is as solid as the TIG welding holding his tubes in place.

But what about the rest of the bikes in the stable? Which is #2, #3, and so on? Does it matter? I think it probably does, but how should we designate? Value is far too crude; versatility perhaps; looks maybe? It’s no easy task.

Bike #5 takes care of itself. My off road option is a bike which I still love as much as the day I collected from Dave Mellor Cycles back in 2007. You can keep your 29ers, as well as the next big thing, the ‘650b’. I’ll stick with my trusty Orange 5, surely one of the greatest do it all, go anywhere bikes that have ever been produced.

It’s #2 and #3 that are causing me most problems, and it come down to a straight fight between two bikes which although seemingly so different, have much in common. In the end it’s the Specialized Langster which wins the #2 spot, with #3 going to my trusty On-One Pompino. This one really could have gone either way, it was that close.

What about #4? Well the tandem can take this spot. It’s quite apt as well as it’s the only bike in the line up which all 4 members of the family have ridden.

So, with that tricky little conundrum sorted, I can now get to work setting up the new Alfine back wheel that I’ve recently taken delivery of for London2Paris2013!
 
Vive la Velo

 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

WrekinSportCC Reliability Ride Report

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Who are we trying to kid?

A cycling friend of mine recently said that if a Sportive is a ride where ‘non racers pretend to race’, then a Reliability Ride is ride where ‘racers pretend not to’. Having just experienced my first Reliability Ride I now know exactly what he meant.
I really didn’t know what to expect as I arrived at the sign on, and the first thing that struck me was how many bikes were outside the venue.  Inside there was a mix of familiar faces from WrekinSport along with riders from many of Shropshire’s other cycling clubs. It was certainly a good turnout.
Whilst signing on I was asked to choose which of the three groups I’d like to join. The options was the ‘slow’ 4.5hrs group, the ‘middle’ 4hr group, or the ‘fast’ 3.5hrs group. With the route measuring a shade under 60 miles, I opted for the middle group. The 4 hour target time equated to an average speed of just under 15mph, if anything a little conservative.
From the start the pace was quick, and the guys at the front were really pushing on. I was on my Langster and on the flat sections it was all I could do to keep up. It was clear that my 52/18 was just not a big enough gear to keep up with the faster guys in the group. As I rounded the island just south of Hodnet I checked my Garmin; we’d covered the first 14 miles at a shade under 20mph! It was no wonder that my legs were feeling it a bit!
As we approached Market Drayton, we were caught by the ‘fast’ group. If these racers were pretending not to race all I can say is that they were not doing a very good job of it. They absolutely flew past the small group I was in, a very impressive sight.
As the miles past I got hooked up with a fair sized group and we were soon speeding through Wem and turning back towards Wellington. I was back on familiar roads now, and it was time for one last effort. It was looking like I’d finish well inside of the 4 hour target originally set.
The last climb back up into Wellington from Admaston was despatched and as I pulled up back the the Leisure Centre I stopped my computer. As I glanced down I was genuinely surprised to see the clock stopped at just over 3hours and 17minutes. Not too shabby at all, and a fair bit quicker than I’d anticipated.
Ride details here -

So, another box ticked as far as cycling experiences go, and I’d have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m hoping to give another one a go before the season ends.
Vive la Velo!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Project London2Paris 2013 - All I need is a bike..


Riders have committed, dates have been confirmed, the route’s been chosen, ferry crossings and hotels have need booked, there really is no going back now.

This all started as @ASL191’s idea as a way to mark a significant birthday which she’s celebrating in 2013. A few possibilities were discussed, but we soon settled on what’s got to be one of the truly great rides, a box that needs ticking by any cyclist.

It’s all too easy to join an organised London2Paris ride, but we want to do it the hard way. Unsupported, and carrying all our kit with us. Doing it this way means that you need the right bike for the job, and whilst the other members of the group all had suitable bikes, I didn’t.

I know what you’re all thinking, but I really didn’t want to go down the N+1 route. Instead, I’ve decided to utilise what’s without a doubt the versatile bike in my stable, my On One Pompino. However, loaded up with panniers and on unknown roads leaving this in its current singlespeed spec’ is not really an option.
 
After trawling around on the web for solutions, a gearbox hub seemed the obvious choice. As much a Rohloff appealed, the quite ridiculous price tag ruled this out immediately. It came down to a straight choice between Shimano’s Alfine offerings, and in the end I’ve opted for the 8 speed variant. I just couldn’t justify the extra expense of the 11.
 
So, the hub’s been ordered from Rose bikes in Germany and is currently on its way courtesy of DHL. All I need to do is get it laced up and on the bike. When it’s built and on the bike I’ll report back.
 
Hang on, what could this be…….

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
A present from Germany!


Sunday, 6 January 2013

Confessions of a Cycling Obsessive – The Numbers

Obsession can, and in my case does, take many forms, and this is especially true when applied to the bicycle. Let me explain using numbers.
It all started as couple of years ago; slowly at first, but it soon gathered pace. The logging of ride details; Just distances to start with, but scope creep soon took hold. Times were next along with the obvious extension of average speed. In turn of course, it becomes critical to record which bike each ride was completed on. Without this comparisons are meaningless. My downhill spiral into obsession had started in earnest. Resistance was, as they say, futile.
I could bore everyone with totals et al, but in a desperate attempt to keep the reader’s attention the following numbers jumped out from my 2012 ride log as worthy of note.
62 – The number of non riding days I enjoyed in 2012. Perhaps more importantly this meant that I got to enjoy riding my bike on over 300 days. That’s certainly going to be hard to better in 2013.
314 – The longest day. Looking back I’m slighty annoyed that this doesn’t read over 320, but 314km was the longest ride of 2012. From Shifnal to Abercovey and back again; crossing an entire country twice, all in a single day.
2645 – The height in metres of the Col du Galibier. On Wednesday 11th July 2012, three members of the Society conquered this brute, experiencing both pain and pleasure in equal measure. Going higher in 2013 is going to be difficult.
953 – As in Reynolds 953 Maraging Stainless Steel. I’m obviously biased, but surely the perfect material to make a bike from.
13,582 – The number of kilometres I cycled in 2012. My initial target for the year was 10,000, but as my obsession intensified, the total kept going up. I also passed 30,000km since I began keeping a proper log at the beginning of 2010.
0 – The number of things I’d change about my cycling year in 2012. It’s not all been positive, but it has all contributed to a truly vintage year.
I can only see the obsession continuing into 2013 and well beyond…..