Graham Douchebag, an erstwhile riding partner, used to do unspeakable things involving absurd mileage over the course of a weekend. He’d ride to Anglesey and back, pausing for about 7 minutes sleep in a hedgerow somewhere near Bulith Wells, resting his weary head on a rolled up copy of razzle, a discarded KFC bucket, used prophylactics, or whatever else was to hand.
It has become apparent that some of my other cycling comrades, excluding the monstrous long-distance beast who is Gareth Baines, have taken to the roads for similar hell-fests. Sometimes they instagram their exploits mid-ride. At other times they simply wait and then unleash a strava-bomb of truly horrific proportions, destroying the club leaderboard for elevation and distance in an instant and leaving the time-stretched cyclist in a reticulated state of utter slack-jawedness.
The pictures below tell a story; one of getting to Clee Hill after 104 miles in the saddle, with only 104 miles to go to get home again. As for the bottom image, I don’t think Vilas Silverton even went out with anyone else; he did what’s known as a ‘perm’. It’s some kind of existential journey into the long dark night, but with a bicycle. I imagine for Vilas, what with him being a paid-up member of the Sri Chinmoy, there was more than a hefty amount of joy involved.
I salute them all.
In other news, I got hold of my new touring bicycle this weekend.
I’ve been off the bike for 6 days. In days of yore, this wouldn’t really matter, but when you’ve spent pretty much 2 years off the bike it suddenly becomes something more significant; a harbinger of something, a change to a hard-fought rhythm, a reawakening of inertia. I’ve been ill; horribly snotty and overworked.
Today a window opened and I managed to defenestrate myself. It was wet and grotty, so I saddled up the fixed wheel and made for the Mendips. I feel lucky to live within a short distance of the Mendip Hills. A typical ride on fixed takes in the shallower, longer climbs. Today: up and over Dundry via Strawberry Lane (Fly-Tippers’ Delight), Parsonage Lane, Burrington, dodging the Mendip Wood Shaving Artics en route to Shipham, up Redhill and around the airport, up Belmont.
My stated aim for the day was to get out on the bike, but once I realised I had the legs to tap out a rhythm and do some steady climbs, I resolved to hit the 1000ft per 10 mile marker. This is a vague indication of a toughish ride. It felt ok, I tapped it out and didn’t do anything too strenuous. Fixed is fairly limiting anyway.
Hopefully it’s just a temporary blip. It was nice not to be coughing up thick ropes of mucous for the first time this year. We’ll see. The miles are mounting up.
We were discussing ‘Zwift’ the other day. It’s all the rage in the same way that strava was all the rage a few years back, and as such it’s also polarising opinion quite quickly. Far be it for me to have strong opinions about these things. The general consensus is that anything that makes the turbo a better experience is a good thing. However, nothing makes the turbo a better experience than not using the fucking thing in the first place, so I don’t quite get the sudden virtual seduction of otherwise hardy winter cyclists. Anyway, that’s another blog for another day, with multiple layers of reality just waiting to be virtually explored, all undertaken whilst staying in the same place.
The discussion of zwift saw a ‘friend of a friend’ link to these chaps:
He knew what he was doing. “Hey, PJ, have you seen these guys?” he typed, with a coquettish smile and a flirty emoji.
I love a good pre-vetting. Is that an extra layer of vetting? How many layers of vetting does a collective need these days? I always thought that the word ‘collective’ was quite benign, soviet farming notwithstanding, but it’s acquiring increasingly sinister undertones. I’d go so far as to argue that it’s undergoing pejoration.
“The EC1 Collective was founded on strong principles that seek to advocate the interests of its members before all else. We’re not a cycling club in the traditional sense but rather a community of like-minded bike enthusiasts whose propensity to enjoy the finer things is maximised through an aggregated representation. Our aim is to move past the current marketing model of the UK cycling industry where manufacturers & retailers define the value exchange. Instead, our high-net-worth members have empowered themselves under a collective voice, the EC1 Collective, that see’s them dictate the value and experiences they want.”
I’m unsure of these ‘strong principles’. When I was very small I remember my Mum took me to church one Christmas. The Vicar pulled out all the stops on the sermon and gave it some welly about how hell is so terrible because you get everything you want and yet you still want more, you do your bidding, and it’s riven by insatiable avarice and personal desire. I remember at the time thinking that it didn’t sound all that bad. He then said Heaven was much better because you did what Jesus wanted all the time, you did his bidding. It seemed complicated, but to my 7 year old self it made heaven seem like an elaborate hell for Jesus, riven by his insatiable avarice and personal desire, which I didn’t think was the intention. Either way, this dualistic vision of the inferno seems to have several undercurrents with the EC1 “philosophy”, a social model predicated entirely on exchange value and net-worth. It’s the apotheosis of the current wave of materialism and has to be the most loathsome combination of high-capitalism and cycling I’ve yet seen.
“Through this reverse marketing model they are driven directly to the most relevant sources of trade. Our data driven model enables this granular matching up process.”
“Say hello to our community founder Mike and plan your next corporate ride out into the hills. With our industry connections we can piece together a ride or social occasion that’ll knock the cycling socks off your clients. We’ve also piece together many team building days / weekends based on varying abilities. Challenge your team to a ride out that’ll stir the sensing and leave them pumped & positive for the year ahead.”
I’d like to say hello to Mike, but I’m not sure that the granular matching up process would lead me within a hundred miles of him and his stooges, out on their triple-bongo winter bikes, which isn’t to say i don’t want my sensing stirred, it’s just that maximising my aggregated representation isn’t probably the way to do it. Maybe I’m just adrift of the times. Unlike the current POTUS who seems very much in tune with this model.
I have a go-to bike, and it’s my Bob Jackson Vigorelli track frame. It’s not really a track frame, at least not out-and-out; the angles are perfect, slightly relaxed, and it takes full mudguards. I ride it most winters (and summers) and never deviate from a 68″ gear. For those of you living in a metric world, all you crazed audaxers especially, and Matt Clinton who only speaks in ratios, it’s 39:15. In my experience you can get up and down anything in this gear and tack along on the flat at around 19mph without a care in the world. Apart from Draycott. I once went up Birdlip on Boxing Day, I think there’s a blog on here somewhere about it. I won’t ever be doing that again.
I have a pair of flopped and chopped cinelli bars; probably criteriums. They were really scratched and abused so I didn’t feel too bad about hacking them down. The curve is just right; I’ve tried various other set-ups but this is by far the most comfortable. In the early days I ran with a Dirty Harry lever mounted on the tops but this has been replaced by a single TT lever on the widest point, it makes for easier braking and control when riding at speed; your hands are wider and it’s better, especially when your ass is bouncing around from the effect of a 180rpm cadence.
For some time I ran with a double campagnolo chainset, but with the single ring, this made things lighter. I’ve since reverted back to a Miche Primato; it has a better chainline, less faffage and the Q-Factor is good. I also use the Miche sprocket and carrier system, this is a remnant of hill climb days when you could remove a sprocket very quickly without a chainwhip. Some people sneer a bit at this system, as though somehow it’s not reliable. This is total bollocks. They are sturdy and utterly secure.
Wheels are a set of Mavic Open Pro; the front is laced radially to a Phil Wood hub; it’s very tasty. I have a ceramic rim on the rear, just for shits and giggles because I don’t use a caliper brake. In other words, it’s a pointless addition. It makes people laugh when they see it. I went through the rim of an open pro whilst descending Bridge Valley Road. I nearly shat myself. It exploded. There is a lesson: don’t ride on concave rims.
I love this bike; it’s light enough, but not super light, frame and fork come in at 1.4kg; which is pretty heavy. For a winter bike though, without the addition of a groupset and other stuff, it comes in light. It rides beautifully. I have a carradice on the back to keep my school books off of my back. Saddle is a Brooks Cambium – I’ve tried various saddles. I think the trick is with fixed riding for any length of time is to go a tiny tiny bit lower on saddle height; your ass is moving around a lot more, you need a bit of give.
I’ve had it resprayed by Argos, it’s now orange. It used to be blue. I recommend having your bike re-enamelled every 8 to 10 years; it’s worth it. It used to be a royal blue colour. I also had some additional bosses put on, including secret mudguard ones. The bike was stolen about 9 years ago from outside a pub in Bristol. I got it back a year later almost to the day when it was listed on ebay and an eagle-eyed chum, Rob Mortlock, spotted it. I got knocked off by a car last year and broke two ribs. The bike was fine.
There are several clubs in the area in and around Bristol. In fact, there are several more than there used to be, when the big three were Bristol RC, The South and The Severn. Nowadays you can’t move for bike boom clubs clogging up the lanes with their exotic bongo and shiny new bioracer kit. Of course, it’s great to see so many people on bikes, always, apart from when they flout etiquette or common sense in a flagrant manner. Like taking your entire club onto the Bristol-Bath Railway Path at 12pm on a Saturday afternoon to rum amongst the dogs and children and shoppers and leisure-seekers. Yes you, Tetbury Velos. That was a stupid idea. And the ‘s’ on the end of Velo is a bit wrong. But apart from that, well done for getting on bikes and doing it in a way that no-one had ever done before, because all those other clubs are old and crusty and new clubs which aren’t clubs are so much more invigorating and better.
The Severn was formed in 1932 and they’ve been going strong ever since. I was invited to their anniversary dinner at the BAWA this weekend gone, and it was a lovely event. It’s always nice to catch up with Bridget and Ian Boon; they do the timekeeping and other bits and bobs. Ian has a family connection to the original Fred Baker and Bridget was fast enough to ride 457 miles in 24 hours and beat all the men in the North Road 24. Tom Burtenshaw seemed to win most of the prizes. The Georgi clan won a few, which is no surprise now that Etienne has been snapped up by Team Wiggins and Pfeiffer is riding for the academy.
I’m still managing to ride my bike and get some miles in. It’s good fun, but it’s also a bit dispiriting when you ride faster than you’ve ridden for a couple of years up a long, steep climb and don’t even make it into your own top 25 on strava.
I went up to the very top of the Mendips this week for the express purpose of helping Sir Steve of Green to organise the BSCC CycloGrot Race. It took place at the Mendip Raceway. I had planned to ride out but extreme cold put the kibosh on that idea. Instead I stuck on the thermals (well, a pair of running tights with no gert chamois, i knew they’d come in handy one day) and drove out.
It was a crystalline blue day, utterly engrossing and beautiful. We marked out the course with an excess of tape. Glyndwr “The Hobbit” Griffiths and James “Tools of the Trade” Cuff were the other loyal helpers. Towards the end an additional helper turned up on some kind of modish winter bike. It was a bike-salesman’s dream. It had 11×1 or whatever the single ring thing is called, with alternate teeth. They had a name too, something like Gak Cogs or some strange deviant orthography. It had disc brakes. Hell, it even had bolt-through axles and shimano DI2. It was quite the modern bike. I felt a bit inadequate on my mid-80s Mercian which i wasn’t actually on because it was way too cold.
I got through three rolls of professional quality barrier tape, right up to the point when the additional helper took my roll and began taping instead of me. I felt a little bit embittered by his johnny-come-lately attitude, and felt validated when he failed to tape two stakes at the end of a bit of chicanery.
As a result of all this organising, or at the least, the helping of the organising, I did not reach my 150 mile target for the week, bottoming out at 110 instead. That aside, things have been going well and I’m down to 76kg from 79kg at the start of the year, mileage is up to 463 for January, with 10,000 metres of climbing ticked off. Onwards and upwards.