On not knowing where your bike has been and on being stung on the head by a striped beastie

I rode to Cheltenham yesterday and I rode back today. It was a slightly circuitous route and several strange things occurred. In the badlands near Kingswood I was stung on the head by a wasp. 

It flew into the vents in my helmet, buzzed around then unleashed hell. I felt like it had punctured my brain and stopped at the side of the road. Televisual visions flooded my mind and checked my breathing carefully lest I experience some kind of anaphylactic catastrophe. I waited for the shock to wear off then took to wondering what Charly Wegelius would do. firstly, he’d sell his jersey for £2.5k to a bunch of win-hungry italians, but secondly, he’d get the hell back on his bike and drag the bunch back up the leaders. I followed his example (the latter one). I recommend Wegelius’ book, Domestique. It’s better than most cycling books. 

It was a hot day so I stopped at Sainsbury’s in Stroud to buy some jungle juice and replenish my bottle. This was part of my pre-ride strategy, I only had one bottle on the bike because the other cage is used for a spare tubular tyre. 


A One Act Play

A country road. A supermarket. 

The entrance area of the supermarket is broad and capacious. The double doors are located to the left, approximately 3 metres from the ‘food to go’ section and lottery kiosk. The front of the shop is all but empty, 2 or 3 shoppers loiter near the baskets. A large and misshapen security guard leans to the right, propped up against the ‘information’ point, attempting unsuccessfully to curry favour with the lady behind the desk. 

A cyclist walks in with his bicycle and stops at the chilled drinks cabinet, trying to choose a suitable refreshment. He looks as though he has just ridden a considerable distance. The security guard approaches. He looks as though he hasn’t ridden more than 2 miles in 20 years.

Guard: I’m sorry Sir, and I can see that it’s an expensive bike, but you can’t bring it in here. You’ll have to leave. 

Cyclist: Why is that? 

Guard: Because it’s policy. 

Cyclist: Can I see the policy please? 

Guard: We don’t have to have everything written down you know. We’re not obliged to write policies. 

Cyclist: So is it a policy or isn’t it a policy? 

Guard: It’s our policy. 

Cyclist: I thought your policy might be to allow a thirsty cyclist to wheel his bicycle across six feet of floor into the shop to spend his money and buy a drink to replenish his thirst. 

Guard: I don’t want to argue, it’s our policy. 

Cyclist: I’m not arguing. You’re trying to frame this discussion as an argument to suit your lack of an argument. There is no argument. My question is, why is it the policy to not allow bikes in the front of the store? 

Guard: Because we don’t know where they might have been. 

Cyclist: Well, I can help you with that. This bike has been along the road from Bristol to here. It’s also been to France several times. It frequently rides uphill. On rest days it sleeps in the spare room with some other bicycles. What about your trolleys? Where have they been? 

Guard: We know where our trolleys have been. They’ve been in the car park. 

Cyclist: I have concerns about them resting outside in all weathers with the peoples of Stroud being able to touch them and do things. What about the prams and pushchairs? And shoes? Can you vouch for their provenance? 

Guard: If you want to argue then I’m going to have to ask you to leave. 

Cyclist: We’re not having an argument and you’ve already asked me to leave. 

At this point the cyclist replaces the bottle of chilled pop on the shelf and leaves the store. 


The rest of the ride was relatively uneventful. On the return leg I got lost looking for Birdlip Hill (which i’d descended the day before) and rode up a curious climb called ‘Dog Lane’, which goes all the way up the escarpment then all the way down. I found Birdlip, it has been resurfaced which makes it marginally less painful going up and quite a lot quicker going down. I managed to break 50mph for the first time in quite a while. I have unpleasant memories of riding up Birdlip in the thick of winter on a 68″ gear. I will never do this again. 

I managed an average speed of 18.5mph for the 50 miles from Bristol to Cheltenham. I took in three big climbs; Wotton, Crawley, and Slad Valley, topping out at 3,500 feet of ascent. On the return my legs complained and I got lost in Stroud (punishment for arguing with the security man), as well as getting lost looking for Birdlip. My average speed was 16.5mph with a similar amount of climbing. It has been two good days of cycling. I’m not sure i’ll have the legs for tomorrow’s hillclimb at Frocester, so may rest and save my energies for the weekend. If I had sufficient room in my pockets I would have brought home some good muck. 


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.

Barcons: keeping it positively retrospective throughout the nuclear winter with a pair of Rivendell Silvers

After an unfortunate incident with a Campagnolo Xenon ergolever I have opted to go down the decidedly scenic and retrotastic route of the barcon. I have a set of shimano dura ace shifters on my TT bike, this is a fairly common set-up and even beloved of global mega-stars and super-champions like Sir Bradley of Wiggins.

The bike of Bradders gets all retro with the friction shifter

I think the reasons is something to do with the 3:1 rule or some other UCI ruling that i really don’t understand at all.

Regulation 1.3.024 (1:3 ratio) applies in this respect as a regulatory consideration. Examples: when using the maximum transverse dimension authorised for an element, namely 8 cm, the associated minimum transverse dimension is 8/3 = 2.66 cm; when using the minimum transverse dimension authorised for an element, namely 2.5 cm, the associated maximum transverse dimension is 2.5 x 3 = 7 cm.50; for all intermediate options, the maximum to minimum transverse dimension ratio must not exceed 3.

For the winter bike I plumped for a set of Dia Compe Silvers. These are badged up as Rivendells and are very lovely. Aesthetic considerations are important in these matters, often more important than any practical or pragmatic aspects.

very seemly

I’ve paired them with a set of dirt-cheap Dia Compe brake levers. I hadn’t expected there to be any issues with this set-up, but such is the nature of making changes that something always comes up. The metal loops attaching ergolevers to the bars are off-set – or more accurately, the back of the lever where it attaches to the bar is at an angle to take into account the curvature of the drops. This provides a flat and comfortable point of contact from the tops into the brake hoods where you do most of your riding. With older style aero-levers, it’s a different story. The back of the hoods and the loops are vertical, meaning you have to mount them lower down the bars, unless you carefully consider a different shaped drop. It wouldn’t work with the 3TTT set-up i was using but luckily I had some Cinelli Criteriums in the shed which were better, although not ideal. I raised the stem and then angled the bars up slightly to compensate for the lower hood position.


I routed the cables under the bars and faffed around a bit with the bar tape, tightened off the cables and left it at that. The next morning I rode to work and it was absolutely fine. The feel of the levers is smooth and they hold position. It’s also surprisingly intuitive. The fundamental difference is that you have to think more carefully about gear choice and pre-empt a little bit, having less of a bail-out option than you might have with a multi-shift STI/ergo lever.

the finished article: not the most amazing brake levers in the world but they cost less than a fish supper
very lovely

I’ve been using them since Wednesday and have managed about180 miles of winter base, including a ride to Cheltenham in the dark yesterday evening and the return leg in glorious sunlight this morning. I’ve had no issues at all and have enjoyed using them.

Cotswold Edge

With the Mercian King Of Mercia Audax Special, Rivendell barcons, Aire saddle (a brilliant purchase from Spa Cycles, more on this another day) and Carradice saddlebag I feel as though I’m slowly being drawn into a dark and scary world. This time next month I’ll be in SPD sandals; it’s a slippery slope. I suspect the Carradice may have been the gateway drug. London-Edinburgh-London here we come.

Top of Fiddler’s Elbow: Nuthill

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