Interstellar Overdrive

After last week’s shenanigans involving getting my bongo weapon out in the balmy sunshine and showing it off to all and sundry, this week has been more sedate. There is much talk of the Hollyoaks Late storyline, suffice to see it seems to involve wanton abuse of random animals and a cast of North Africans. One day it’ll be dramatised, featuring Hugh Grant as Joe Hollyoaks and Ben Whishaw as a hapless puppy, down on his luck and down on all fours.

It has been an amazing run of weather, so I’ve been out and about commuting and general riding through the sunny mornings and close evenings. The ride to work is hilly. It makes a perfect hour long training ride, three times a week. But it is tiring. This veteran status isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, recovery times get longer and  weight loss is much harder.

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I have been enjoying the Giro. My mum loves the cycling, that she does. Today I carefully managed to manipulate naptime of a sleeping child, then had two screens running simulataneously, one showing ‘UK Freight Trains at Speed’ and the other showing the Giro Time Trial. With this elaborate set-up I managed to catch 3 hours of the race. My mum came in during the last, pivotal three minutes.

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Granny Hath Arrived

“What’s this?”

The Giro.

Who won yesterday?

No-one won yesterday.

Why didn’t they win yesterday?

It was a rest day.

Why is he in pink?

It’s the pink jersey. It’s like the yellow, jersey, but pink.

So why is it pink? Why isn’t it yellow?

Because they have pink instead of yellow. Like in yorkshire, where it’s blue instead of pink, or Spain where it’s red instead of blue, but pink in Italy.

So this is a hill climb is it?

No.

Oh it’s not a hill climb. (Yates crosses the line) So he’s beaten all the riders?

No he came 22nd. 

But he’s winning the race?

Yes. 

But he came 22nd? And he’s beaten all the other riders? So he’s won the race?

No

It’s like watching Interstellar, being utterly engrossed for three hours and and just prior to the final head-bending elliptical loop of space where everything is resolved in comes Granny to ask why that man is touching a bookshelf  in  space with weird strings and making dust and the world is curved and his daughter is older than his granny and old people are talking about dust-storms and you have to explain it whilst also giving a primer in quantum theory and the nature of time and space and a traditional narrative arc.

Granny did bring an excellent bit of signage though which I have put up on the wall. I don’t think Belle will notice. However, she might accidentally end up in the garden when needing a wee.

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Suddenly I’m lurching off to the right. I can’t work out why.

Lastly, my new shoes have arrived. That’s another tale for another day.

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Do You Even Race, Bro?

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BONGO

I went down to the Lake yesterday, for to enjoy the evening air and partake of cycling in triangular perambulations. It ended up being quite a long day; I rode to work full-bongo, even if my strava suggests that it was anything but a full bongo ride. I left the bongoweapon in the classroom and it successfully distracted nearly all of the children from the job in hand, namely, the furtherance of a successful education, rather than the pursuit of carbon things. I then rode to the Lake, did the Lake and then rode home again, by which time I was in distinct danger of dropping myself.

It was great fun. It was a balmy evening where nothing really mattered and everyone was out to ride their bikes as quick or as slowly as they wanted to, without fear of anything other than ridicule and club-style abuse. The headline event was the three-way bongo-battle betwixt the young pretender, Josh “POC-TASM” G, Mr Nick Greipelthighs and erstwhile teen hearthrob, Joe Hollyoaks.

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This is taken from Joe’s showreel for Hollyoaks Late. It was a risqué storyline which I can’t repeat on a family blog. 
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Sir David of Braidley was doing the honours at the side of the road. Club TTs are where it’s at.

They all smashed the 19 minute barrier. I ended up just the wrong side of 20 minutes, which I was more than happy with. I think my PB is 18.25 or something stupid, but I was possible more chuffed to not experience abject disgrace on an evening such as this, whilst returning to the scene of many battles as a slightly jaded and greying sage. I rode well and dispensed wisdom to various people. It is a role I think I might grow into.

Midweek Club TTs are the staple of British time-trialling, the life and soul. It’s about camaraderie, and can be the first, and sometimes the last, taste of competitive cycling. They are lovely things. I was reading Chris Boardman’s book today. Jens Voigt was staying over in the GAN days and they both went out to the Wirral Velo evening ten and did 19 minutes on their road bikes. I would love to have been there. It’s a good book, I recommend it. It’s all the better for Gary Imlach doing the edit.

Today I went to try and get some new commuting shoes. These should be cheap and sturdy. I already have a pair, but they are black and lace-up, two reasons as to why I shouldn’t have bought them. I feel like a football player now summer has come, and for that reason I find it upsetting. The fact that they fit beautifully is very much beside the point. I went to a well-known shop on the edges of the motorway to try on shoes. I said I wanted…

“A pair of your cheapest road shoes please for commuting.”

To which they replied;

“Yes that’s fine, we have a range. Have you ever worn a road shoe before?”

I BEG YOUR PARDON??

Imagined, but not stated:

“Yes, but only the once, when I was racing against Bradley Wiggins. Did you not see that race? National Championships 2014.”

Not imagined, but stated:

“Yes, I have.”

I didn’t buy them. They were very nice, but not nice enough. After trying a few shops, I came to the conclusion that shops no longer stock road shoes in a range because it isn’t worth it because everyone buys them on the internet.

This shop also had the new specialized allez, which I have been eyeing up as a potential fast and relatively light commuting bike. It looked very nice. It has eyelets across the board. No wait, it has eyelets at the back, and rack bosses. The front fork has no eyelets. It’s effectively the world’s first cut-and-shut bike on the open market. Specialized did a fork recall after some american hurt hisself. They replaced all the forks with non-eyeletted forks. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Or as the wife said, “Who signed that off?”

Madness.

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Good to see the horns are catching on. This is Ed’s version. It’s a remix, if you like, a sort of care in the community version, to show that club 10s are inclusive and you can ride them in the little ring, even with a shonky horn. Go Ed!
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Testing Times

I’m planning on riding round the lake tomorrow. It’s something I used to do a long time ago when i was thinner and faster. I’m now fatter and slower. The bike is ready. I stuck some Alf stickers on there. I’m aiming for sub 23 minutes for the 8.6 miles. That’ll give me bragging rights over myself.

I’m going to use my Strada skinsuit because it’s big and baggy. I’d love to use my BSCC one but I tried it on earlier and got it halfway up my ankle before giving up. It was like trying to stuff a turducken into a peperami wrapper.

The Alf book is done, now sitting with Adrian Bell for his final run through. Fingers crossed. It should be out in July.

 

 

 

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Tour De Yorkshire

I’ve been watching the Tour de Yorkshire on the terrorbox. I would have liked to have gone up to see it but had to settle for the vicarious thrill of seeing my mum see the race live on the terror box. She loves the bike racings, in fact, it’s her new favourite thing. This is only tempered slightly by the knowledge that she has a burgeoning interest in the triantelopism, which she in turn tempered by saying; “Well Alf did triathlons too you know”. I suspect she has been looking for a riposte to my deep-rooted abhorrence of all things tritardular for some time. She has found it.

Anyway, by way of preparation she asked me what hat to wear.

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She has a lot of good hats which she has ‘acquired’ over the years. Every time I go there I come back with one less hat. These two things may well be linked. I advised the PC one, and sent her an interweb link regarding Macloml Letioll so that she could come across all knowledgeable on the bergs. Second up was the Raphael number, on account of Sowerby Bridge resident Brian Robinson. She went full Piers Plowman. I advised against the carrefour special, there is too much of the recent bike boom convert about it.

She then staked out her place at Haworth, I think near Oxenhope somewhere maybe, Pecket Well, and waited for her moment of glory.

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Top image is native Yorkshire chap and photographer, our Ian. He is in full winter plumage, unwilling to accept that summer hath truly med it t’ top o’ moors. You can tell it’s our Ian by jizz of t’ bird.

Bottom image is our mum rollin’ with the southern power stance, PC cap at a jaunty angle, a little bit artful dodger, with a double hip-hop knee roll. Below is the photo she took.

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It’s pretty goddamn meta isn’t it? I can’t stop looking. It’s a rabbit hole, mum is on TV taking a photo and I took a photo of her on TV and got the photo she took and it put it on the internet next to the photo of her through the lens of the mad eye of terror.

And you’re back in the room. The Tour De Yorkshire was amazing, right down to the ASO approved franconomenclaturated Cols. Day 4 was brutal, beyond brutal, beyond the thunderdome. As oof as it gets. The contrast with the Giro D’Israelitalia could not be more profound, where the best/only shots consisted of a lady showing her breasts at the camera as the peloton rode through a desert for 40 days in quarantine, with accompanying tweets carefully worded to avoid accusations of mysogyny. Most failed. There’s a certain irony to a Grand Tour alledgedly visiting God’s actual country only to be usurped by a Minor Tour’s visit to God’s own country.

I can’t wait to see what the Worlds brings us. I suspect it will be a whole lot of ouch and some rugged Yorkshire beauty.

 

 

Second edition: A Corinthian Endeavour

The initial print run of my hill climb book, A Corinthian Endeavour, sold out. I’ve updated the text with two more chapters and some minor amendments, mainly typographical, but also a couple of very subtle changes where things weren’t perhaps right or simply didn’t reflect something in a way I expected. By and large though, I left it as was in this sense because it reflects the my writing and views at that point in time, you can’t update things for ever, you lose the sense of a point in time, whatever that is called. There’s probably a German word for it.

Anyway, you can now get the book again. I have a limited stock so if you want a signed or randomly defaced copy for the princely sum of £12 posted, let me know. Buying directly from the author is much better for everyone involved, but especially me because the margin is much much higher. I’ll write about this in due course.

Alf book due in 5-6 weeks.

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Recovery and readjustment

I got back on Friday after the overnight ferry from St Malo. It was a very civilized way to travel and miles away from the summer holiday express, which is typically carnage of the highest order, consisting of over-excited and vomiting children and adults. This was much more like one of those cruises for old people advertised in the back of the Guardian magazine. Therefore, I assume I am the target demographic.

This is where I went:

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It was the fulfilment of an ambition, or series of ambitions, I’ve held for many years. In my early teens I used to get books out of the library about cycle touring. It seemed really exciting, but also a bit esoteric. I didn’t have a way into the sport, none of my friends were passionate cyclists and it didn’t run in the family or extended family. In fact, I didn’t know anyone who loved cycling. The closest I got to anything was a series of slightly longer days on the bike. I used to ride along the Tarka Trail in North Devon, from Barnstaple to Bideford, or to Fremington where we lived. I rode to Croyde and back. I didn’t think much  of it, it was the only way to get around. But I really wanted to do more. In the event, nothing happened, my cycling lapsed until my early 20s, and when I started riding again it became suddenly much more race orientated.

With the decline of my racing fitness I’ve turned my attention to touring. Thus far, it has consisted of a couple of saddlebag tours for a few days each. I did the whole of Devon including one ill-conceived 127 mile day. I rode around the Brecon Beacons for a few days. I rode back from Hull. But a longer, place-to-place adventure was still the stuff of dreams. It’s certainly hard to find the time to tour when you work long hours, and it’s even harder when you have other commitments which are more important, namely a family. However, around the end of last year I made a fundamental decision to work to live, and no longer live to work. This provided an unexpected period of relative quiet, and with Belle’s blessing, I booked the cross-France trip.

I love cycling in France. It’s always an incredible experience. Cycling is a part of the fabric of continental life. I’ve ridden in Burgundy, Brittany, the Alps, Provence, Nord-Pas de Calais and other places, but I had never toured in France. It was fantastic to be immersed within the landscape and culture for an extended period of time, to feel the countryside and the city, the physical elements of place, unfold with the air rushing past my cheek. To see the countryside and how different and similar it is to where we live. It was a profound and joyful experience. It also gave me a huge amount of time to think and reflect, although the very nature of flow activities means that these thoughts and reflections were benign and rhythmic, somehow becoming a series of gently circulating expressions which mirrored the movement of the wheel.

I took a Super-C saddlebag and a Nelson Bar Bag. I used a bagman QR on the back and a kwik clip thing on the front which made life inconceivably better. Kit list was as follows:

Bike Kit: 

  • Three pairs of cycling shorts (one too many)
  • Two cycling jerseys
  • One short sleeve, one long sleeve base layer (didn’t need the long sleeve, already had the combinations for all weather)
  • Arm warmers, knee warmers, leg warmers (needed all this, but if it was a bit warmer would have ditched the leg warmers)
  • Shoes and overshoes (ditto the overshoes)
  • 3 pairs of socks (only two pairs needed)
  • One rain jacket (I’d take a waterproof gilet only if it was a teeny bit warmer)
  • One gilet
  • Two caps (why two? Should have chosen one that matched all outfits)
  • One helmet
  • One pair defeet dura gloves (these are brilliant)

Tech kit: 

  • Chain oil – essential
  • 3 inner tubes
  • Patch kit
  • Pump
  • Tyre levers
  • Chain quick links
  • Multitool
  • Leatherman thing with pliers and sharp knife
  • Bungee chord

Off the bike kit:

  • Super light Nike trainers. These were a big concession but worth it. It meant avoiding clumping round the streets in shoes that look a little bit special.
  • One pair of dark blue trousers
  • Merino baselayer
  • T shirt
  • Warm fleecy type thing
  • 3 pairs of pants (really only needed two, honestly, but I won’t go into detail)
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • One pair of merino long johns for sleeping in (so toasty)
  • One vest for sleeping in
  • Washkit
  • One long sleeved shirt. (have no idea why i took this. It’s not like I was going anywhere formal.)

I think that’s it. Unquestionably I could have reduced this down, asindicated in parenthesis, and I will do in future. It’s unnecessary to take more than one change of anything.

The bike was a Mercian King of Mercia Audax special. It’s from 1982 or thereabouts, and is a frame I picked up quite cheaply (£185) and then had renamelled. It is a beauty. Wheels were a DT Swiss equivalent of an open pro, I’d rather take the Open Pro but you go with what you have. Tyre choice was the Vittoria Rubino Pro Endurance. These are amazing tyres, they are super grippy and roll well. I used 23mm which seemed anathema to everyone and anyone, and to be fair, i would take 25mm next time, but it didn’t make a lot of odds. I recommend these tyres for all non-racing applications, they are amazing. I had no punctures despite huge amounts of gravel and filth.

I used a Brooks Cambium saddle; it’s the perfect touring saddle. Super comfy, with loops. The C15 is the right width too. Bars were nitto randonneur I think, with an old school Cinelli quill stem. Gearing was quite controversial, I went with what I had –  a 52:39 on the front and 12:27 on the back. I found it perfectly adequate. I don’t think there were any points where I felt overgeared. This isn’t me being a hardman, it’s simply a case of the times when you genuinely need a super light gear are very few and far between, particularly with a relatively light touring set-up. It’s not like I went over the Pyrenees or up the Angliru.

Ultimately, it’s about the balance between convenience and time. I’d love to go full metal touring. Actually, I wouldn’t. I want to have a shower and keep clean. I want a bed to sleep in. With a saddlebag set-up you can do the miles and the days don’t creep on and on. I averaged 75 miles a day without too much bother, mostly done by 3pm or so. If you want to do more sightseeing or have more time, then it probably makes sense to cut it to 50 miles. Any less than that and you’re going to be spending more time off the bike than on it, which seems strange. However, the longest days I did were nearly 90 miles. These are very long days. I found it fine, but I would consider whether they were perhaps too long. Stringing together big days, day after day, is quite hard. I might self-impse a cap at 75 miles. It takes the pressure off.

Ultimately it worked for me. I enjoyed it, it was a profound and perception-altering experience. If you can, then do it. Take a day, go overnight, take two days, a long weekend, a week, a month, just get out and hit the road.

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Day 11: Vitré to St Malo

I feel like I’ve missed a day somewhere and it should be eleven days. I’ll cross check the details. (Edit: Belle spotted there were two day 8s) It’s indicative of how time and space has slipped by and merged into a flow of movement with no discernible parameters, bar time on or time off the bike. I felt a vague sense of melancholy yesterday, that underlying feeling of slight indefinable sadness that the adventure was finite. Today I felt excited and keen to smash through the last few miles, get sight of the sea and mark the completion.

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Light at the end of the tunnel

Rather than hitting up the road by 8am I had to dilly dally for a while in Vitré. There are worst things to do. It was all to avoid one possible outcome; standing around at the ferry port trying to avoid the slightly scary and sinister lorry drivers. Sometimes when standing around in Lycra I feel like a pervert magnet. It’s not grounded in reality, just self consciousness, stood there in skin tight Lycra with a massive sweaty gusset. Some people like that sort of thing. I’ve heard. It didn’t help that the metal chair in the terminal have me a grid pattern on my ass, all it needed was a bingo board corresponding to the grid and a set of darts and they could have raffled it off like a cowpat funday. Or not.

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I headed out at 11am after slowly and deliberately packing all my stuff. I had a few extra things to squeak in, some treats for the rotters, that sort of thing. It absolutely threw it down moments before leaving and I had a bad feeling about it. The weather forecast gave it to rain, it gave it a lot to rain. I had to suck it up, it was the last day of the tour, and a few encouraging words from belle on the watzap were enough to get me rolling. I paid a final solemn visit to La Mie en Caline and was off.

Today was somewhat fortuitously the biggest tailwind of the day. I fought a few battles with my Garmin and then with the Google lady over what constituted an acceptable road surface.

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Not a road
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Not a road. Maybe once for les paysans sales cXII siècle
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Don’t know if this is a road or not. Best avoided. Might be something to do with Rue Ornery de Ball-Sack.

I went back to manual and rolled along the main road, thoroughly enjoying the hefty tailwind. Brittany was sombre and a bit grey, square buildings of grey stone, with lots of dilapidated ruins. Away from the coast it is heavily agricultural and isn’t awash with money. It reminded me of growing up in North Devon, where the idyllic beaches and full occupancy in summer disguise a bleak and desolate winter.

I stopped for lunch in Combourg. It was a strategic decision, I had some bread and cheese and there was a dry porch providing shelter ahead of the encroaching clouds and spots of rain.

 

 

It left around 25 miles to go. The rain abated, on cue. I was moving quickly, too quickly in one sense, but arriving early was preferable to being caught in the rain. I figured I could find somewhere quiet at St Malo and nurse a café crême for a while, which is exactly what happened. There was a road side sign which I had intended to photograph, but it was really dirty and by the side of a big trunk route so I left it.

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I ate what I think is my tenth eclair of the trip. I’m proud of this fact. I’ve really got a liking for the tasty choux buns and chocolate ganache. Today’s was one of the best ones.

The riding is done, just the vagaries of transport to go. I’ve ridden 741 miles since Monday, averaging 75 miles per day, with a longest ride of 89 miles and one outlier at 36 miles when I felt awful and it was cold and wet. It rained once in that respect, which is incredible really and hard to believe. As Dion Smith said to me on the very first evening; “you make your own luck”.

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