Benefits of Lockdown

There are some silver linings to this anxiety filled and unprecedented crock of shit that is Lockdown. I have been getting out on the bike more, or at least, I have been doing more of the slightly longer rides and less of the commuting. It is nice to have a bit more time in the mornings and not try to wrangle everyone out the door, fed, washed and shatted in about 6 seconds.

I seem to be out riding more consistently at times when other people are out riding, as opposed to crack of dawn raids on Clutton and Hallatrow, where the god-fearing people have  yet to see a bicycle and would likely summon the local druid to expel the iron horse of witchery should one appear. This means I am seeing more cyclists, both new and old. I feel obliged to include a disclaimer right now, before I say the offensive stuff.

IT IS A GREAT AND JOYFUL THING THAT THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE ON BIKES RIGHT NOW.

OK and on with the show. I notice even fewer club jerseys than ever before. Instead I see way more Rapha than I thought possible, head to toe, in matching bikes. I see people who have gone to enormous lengths to recreate a club jersey with their own logo, shared amongst three male friends. The logo is either comedic “SLOW OLD BASTARD CC” type thing, or some kind of faux-praux logo or acronym. The bikes are shinier and more aero than ever. So many people are riding such a lot of bike. I miss the old days when you had to ride a piece of awfulness made of cast iron for at least 15 years and then maybe someone might let you have a second hand Raleigh 501. The pro look is so current, but it’s a warped simulacrum of a pro-look, and it’s a bit disturbing. Sort of like being a bit mullered at a party and not being able to fully recognise someone because they look somehow not like they should. It is big wraparound glasses and long tesellated socks and long arm sleeves and all the irregular striped patterns and chiaroscuro.

On Sunday I was riding up 2 mile hill, near the bottom when i heard a dreadful wheezing and clanking from behind. It wasn’t me, unusually, but it was a nouvelle-vague ‘roadie’ in some kind of demented colourway, reaching for my wheel like it was the last rolo in the packet. What with the Covid, I let him go past, and because genuinely I thought he was going faster than me and I am slow these days. He duly went past like a wobbly pantechnicon overloaded with timber, and wheezed out a thank you. I think he realised his error quite quickly. As did I, when I saw he was in the bottom sprocket and the gradient was about 4%. I sat tight for a few hundred yards as everything slowed down, then had to hoof it around him on the fixed gear and put in an unseemly effort to get on up the road. It was all a bit weird. It seems quite typical really. I would say ‘don’t you know who I am?’ But I only my mum and three other people can answer this question with any certainty. Maybe I should say “I once went quite quickly up here before you were born, it was the KOM but is now 156th on the strava list, Even the Spinkatron is down at 54th.”

The exception to this wave of curmudgeon is the number of women on bikes. There are lots more, riding together, doing their thing. This is brilliant and great for cycling. Anything that reduces the excessive maleness of this sport is a good thing.

Today I went out super early, didn’t take the dog, but did take the certifiably ‘old skool’ (c. Clutterz) Giant TCR TT bike. It’s fun to ride a TT bike. I miss it, sort of. I think when I ride one there is a moral imperative to at least ride fast, to put in an effort, so it has a distinct training benefit. Hence I managed 40 miles at 20mph. I hurtled past a raphanaut on the way out of Bristol. He was full garbed. The bike looked like it had been freshly shat in a wind tunnel. I began pondering whether a TCR from 2001 is faster than a new aero-bongo road bike. I suspect the bike is less slippery, but the position is a lot more helpful. I have it set-up with a rivendell friction shifters, an old campag record chainset and various other mismatched bits. I took the winter wheels off the Mercian. I do have some racier wheels, but they might stay in the cupboard in case one day I actually do a race. The saddle was from my Decathlon gravel bike. This was a bad decision. I think at my advanced age I need something that has a gentler conversation with the goochular region, as opposed to a bar-room fight with a broken bottle.

It was a lot of fun; the roads are still quiet. Yes, there is traffic, but riding in the rush hour is not like it was. It is getting busier all the time and for the first time I encountered a bit of a queue on the way back into Bristol. I miss the quiet times.

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Frame from a friend, borrowed for now. Everything else bar the shifters from the parts bin or cannibalised.

 

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Rivendell Dia Compe shifters, lovely ratchet motion. Good fun to spend time between gears, trimming, listening to that rattle.

 

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I can’t recall why I had an 11 speed carbon chorus RD in the bin. I think it had something to do with not putting a bike together properly in the Alps about ten years ago, then using great big pliers to squeeze the parallelogram back together, and then buying a new one when I got back.

Training Through

Wednesday night is generally seen as club time trial evening up and down the land. It’s good training, providing the opportunity to blast out an interval prior to the weekend. Over the past few seasons I’ve generally been fairly refreshed and race-ready, but that’s changed this year. Different times and circumstances mean that I’ve made some adaptations to my training. I am racing less and probably training a bit more consistently, this includes training through the midweek races and saving my energy almost resolutely for the weekend.

After Sunday’s horrible hilly i took it fairly steady on Monday, only doing 14 miles. Tuesday was a busier day, a hilly ride on a 68″ gear, about 25 miles for the day. Yesterday I rode to work on the bongo-weapon – Wednesday has become the day of bongo commuting. The 10 mile race ended up being sandwiched with about 60 miles of riding at 21mph. as a result, i felt a little bit off the pace and really struggled to crank it up on the way out. I dribbled back into Bristol a while later, my legs in bits.

bongo commuting

I was kimmaged (famously angry anti-drugs campaigner who blew spectacularly in a Tour stage up the Galibier and was overtaken by a bearded tourist with full panniers) twice today on the way into work; scalped by a fully-laden nodder and some chap on a hybrid. I felt weak and overdone. The only consolation was overtaking a triathlete on his full bongo-weapon on the downs. I was spinning a 65″ gear at about 17mph, replete with Carradice. He had his head down and his shoulders were rolling like a tumultuous sea. I found it strange. I asked him what he was doing. He said ‘intervals’. He rounded the corner and got out of the saddle, churning out the power and pushing up to a blistering 20mph.

The interesting thing about racing less is you tend to get more time to train. I think it’s an approach that should work, but I can’t really tell for sure. We shall see. I’m now taking things very steady in anticipation of the Welsh Championships at the weekend.

Um Bongo, Um Bongo, they drink it in the Congo

Today i went full aerobongo for the commute to work: skinsuit, space helmet, disc wheel, trispoke, shoecovers, everything. I mistimed my commute and ended up over ten minutes early, sat outside on a kerb in my spangly new BSCC skinsuit waiting for the site to open and ignoring the bemused gaze of passers-by. I scraped a 20mph average for the hilly 15 miles.

#bongocommute #bongoweaponry #startledfellowcyclists #slightlyembarassinghackbike

The reason for my aero commute (or lessons in using a crane to squash a fly) was that the last Aust classic league was taking place after work. In a couple of weeks the action shifts to the lake. I needed to have a ‘bit of a dig’ before this weekend’s race and also wanted one last go at the course record for this year. Tonight’s race consisted of 2 separated 5.3 mile races with an aggregate time and individual times recorded for posterity.

It was grand to catch up with people, most of the club-mates were looking utterly resplendent in their new team kit – many thanks to Ade Ridley for a sterling design that captures everything that is important about the club. One chap was sat on the grass getting things ready; he had the dreaded 13 on his back. I told him it was upside down, trying to imply that he needed to turn it the wrong way up in order to escape the curse, but he looked at me blankly and it suddenly seemed a bit complicated to explain so i left it. After my first circuit i saw him wrestling with a puncture and felt bad, as though somehow I’d created the situation by drawing attention to the number error.

Number wrong way up.

It was a fairly balmy evening and I even went so far as to shed my kneewarmers; but there was just enough of a headwind on the way back to dent my ambitions. Nonetheless, i decided to absolutely shank it for the first 5.3 mile circuit in a sort of ‘shit of bust’ (another thing my dad used to say) attempt at the CR, then see what happened on the second 5.3 mile circuit. In the end I came agonisingly close, turning in a 10.46, with the course record being 10.42. It suggests that on the right day the record should be within reach, perhaps even fairly straightforward. Unfortunately that day never seems to come and the window on this course opens and closes very quickly. it’s now closed for another year. The second lap was a formality, I was a busted flush and knew it from the very first second. I coasted round about 30 seconds slower.

This weekend sees the mega-hilly, a truly horrible event in the Cotswolds. I’m organising it and riding. Should be a blast, if a very slow and painful one.

Cervelo R5 Review (new bike alert)

I’ve recently come into possession of a new road bike. it is a replacement for the nanolight i used in last year’s hillclimbs. this year, the nanolight didn’t seem nearly as comfy in longer rides and a few irritating tics started to really get on my nerves, the worst one being more than occasional heelrub on the chainstay. i unceremoniously sold it and began the process of ogling new weaponry.

after eyeing up a few choice pieces of carbon, including the felt f1, i felt that the only way to go was a cervelo for the elusive combination of rigidity and low-weight. the brilliant guys at strada cycles put the build together and i picked it up yesterday afternoon.

i went pretty much the whole hog; 11 speed chorus groupset, rotor chainrings and a fetching 3t cockpit. i even went fully extra on the pedals and got some carbon fibre dura-ace. the saddle is a kit-carbonio that weighs 125g. the new campag levers have odd parallel lines that resemble the gills on a blue whale.

deep-sea cetacean:

ergo-leverage:

i rode the bike to work this morning, and managed a 21mph average over the 15 mile commute, with 900 feet of climbing, which was reassuring. it caused quite a stir at work amongst the cyclerati… as this email demonstrates:

“It is there in the flesh.  mmmmmm. slobber…slaver… Techno techno techno.”

i took the bike out to have a bit of a blast today, factoring in some of my favourite climbs in the mendips. i started with burrington combe, rode tempo, fairly brisk, attacked it quite hard in the face of a gnarled and blustery headwind, but managed a respectable 8.21. i then rode back across shipham and ascended cheddar gorge; i made mincemeat of the one steep bit before putting the hammer down for the rest of the shallow gradient. a couple of killer climbs were quite testing, chew hill is a real beast, rears up to around 20% at key points and is pretty long. i was about three cogs off the bottom and it felt comfortable and certainly had a semblance of reduced effort and more speed. this could be the psychomatic effect of a new bike.

the bling is really truly blung

the downtube is enormous, square and oval, or ‘squoval’, according to the blurb. it meets in the bottom bracket shell with an asymmetric set-up to cover the non-drive side spindle. this means there is very little flex, at all. as a point of comparision, my mercian 531c flexes like a russian gymnast. this r5 is utterly calcified, rigid and unyeilding. in real terms this makes it efficient, but also skittish at low speeds, in a nice way (if that’s possible, i guess what i mean is that it has that sort of reassuring out-and-out racer feel to it). the magic really happens when you start to crank it up, power transmission is instant, the bike flies along and tracks beautifully. i tried the old ‘adjust the jersey, hands in back pockets no hands on bars’ trick at around 22 mph on a fairly lumpy road near priddy. no deviation, it kept a straight face and i felt secure. descending on the r5 leads to a vaguely damascene moment; it’s possible to throw this bike at the corners, work with gravity and ride really aggressively, the stiffness translates into a reassuring stability that means 40mph+ seems like less. at one point during the ride i had to stop and check the cassette because i thought i’d been short changed with a 12 sprocket instead of an 11, but no, it’s just the pace of the beast.i have rotor chainrings, these are very nice.

much nicer than i thought, and also blingety blong

other things to note, the seatstays are absurdly thin and beautifully elegant. with full light build it weighs 6.8kg. it shouldn’t be too much bother to get it under the UCI legal limit – i have some lighter wheels i might be able to switch, i’m currently a set of fairly old but lightweight zipp 340s.

absurdly lovely chainstays

keith bontrager is always right, and unfortunately he was right in this case:

‘light, cheap and strong – pick two’.

i am looking forward to some races where i can turn the very lovely pedals in anger. i am particularly looking forward to hillclimb season, this bike defies newton.

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