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 - 

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


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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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