Rollapaluza comes to town

Rollapaluza made their second visit to Bristol yesterday; pitching up with Winston, Caspar, Chris and the roller disco for some stupidly high-cadence action. The rigs are pretty amazing, two condor pistas stuck onto a sort of floating dampener, attached to a humongous big countdown style clock that creates almost unbearable levels of tension.

The ‘bristol fixie scene’™ was out in force, and pretty much everyone put down a time. After the morning chaingang i was feeling more than a little ropey, but put my legs on the line. Essentially, you spin at around 175rpm for 30 seconds, and the fastest rider wins. There’s a qualifying series, followed by elimination race-offs. I got through the first lot with a time of 23.15, good enough for 11th or so, meaning progression to the next round and a knockout race with some lithe bradley wiggins lookalike. The pressure was on from the start with George offering some kind of lurid sex deal involving something or other if i was to beat the opposition. Anyway, i was utterly annihilated. i went much slower the second time, and completely blew about halfway through; hitting the wall and just felt everything go. Still, i got to wear my vest, which was immensely satisfying, and i shall look forward to seeing some genuinely lovely pictures of the wifebeater in action.

There were some very quick riders, one of them seemed to be the living representation of the proverbial outhouse made of bricks. Each of his biceps was bigger than my waist and his chest was like an elephant’s head. he reminded me of dolph lundgren in rocky 4, the russian killing machine. The winner was some spindly chap in a bandana and lycra, who seemed to have perfected the art of spinning legs at close to 200rpm, whilst looking like he was out for a sunday stroll. i think he won a bidon and a helmet, which happen to be two of the shittest prizes i have ever seen. last time the winner took home a bicycle; this time it was a plastic bottle. i guess the credit crunch has hit the cycling industry.

after the race we headed off for some quite intense and athletic drinking. i fell off my bike by riding into the kerb, this provoked furious laughter. i then nearly got killed by a car, this spurred the fixie goons into even larger paroxysms of drunken hysteria. i think i should eat more next time, rather than have a late lunch and then think that a banana will suffice.

excuse to post my favourite crash video ever:

the dreaded chaingang

i’ve been eating out on my hillclimb triumph for about four weeks now, telling all and sundry how quick I am, esentially allowing my cycling-ego to soar through the roof in a riot of endorphins and unchecked triumphalism. i even turned up to the monthly club meeting, solely in the hope that some more glory might come my way – and some did, the results sheet pointed out that the club record certainly was within reach for next year. so, yes, all in all, i’ve been full of piss and vinegar, but also a little bit maudlin, because finding out you have a knack for cycling competitively is all well and good when your sporting life stretches out ahead of you, like a patient etherised on a table, but when your post-30, it’s quite chastening, because time is not on your side. I only have three or so years to achieve the polka dot jersey.

so anyway, the next step in my quest for cycling armageddon came with the club’s saturday morning chaingang. i awoke to the sound of truisms ringing in my ears, ‘it can’t be that hard’, ‘there just a bunch of clubmen’, and ‘i’m the club hillclimb champion they will surely defer to my superhuman powers’. I even fitted my brand new san marco regal saddle, a prize in last week’s ‘hacksaw’s challenge’, and just for fun, whacked a deep-section hed jet 2000 on the front, you know, to show i meant business and was going to make my bike fly.

well, a little bit of hubris goes a long way. the first five miles were run at around 21-23mph, a fast start, and it hurt. i already have 150 miles in my legs this week and feel deserted by form, that most fickle of friends. that was fine, but imediately riders were getting shelled out the back like discarded pistachio shells. the pace continued to climb, until it reached around 25-26mph, with a constant through and off. and pretty soon, the elastic snapped for me too, and i considered myself well and truly dropped. i limped home with a similarly abandoned rider (although the psychology of riding is that you aren’t abandoned, you make the choice, and the group hurtles on, it’s you who can’t keep up).

and that’s that really, back to the drawing board, i’ve discovered my strength, it’s riding up hills quickly. i am a grimpeur.

stop the clocks

the clocks have gone back, it’s some kind of medieval remnant to the days when small children were needed to milk the cows before school but had no lights or anything, just their flaxen hair to light the way. anyway, digression aside, it’s a bleak time for cycling to work; up until the fateful moment you can just about convince yourself it’s not far from summer, autumn is around, keep those 3/4 length tights going for another day or so. it’s hard to maintain optimism in the face of eternal darkness, slurry-covered roads, manhole covers waiting to lure you to a painful death and the savagery of car drivers who haven’t realised that it’s dark and windy and wet and that they have a dimmer function and that sharing the road is a good thing, rather than a source for vengeance and retribution. nevertheless’ there are a few positives about cycling in winter, i’ll try to list them:

– the sense of masochism acheived from struggling into a headwind and driving rain for one hour, before arriving at work looking like you’ve just yomped from stanley to goose green with eyes that tell of a desire to chop the heads off a few argies with a blunt bayonet

– it’s pitch black so you can’t see the wondrous array of freshly-minted roadkill, instead you get to physically experience it, a tactile and sensory treat as the putrescent carcass of a badger wraps itself around your chainstays

– on certain crisp clear mornings it can feel pretty amazing to both be alive and out on a bicycle, especially when narrowly escaping death from a sleep-addled audi driver

– a particularly bright light is a really useful tool for detaching the retinas of errant, feckless car-drivers, and can cause amusement

my patience this week has been sorely tested, and my willingness to test myself with a full winter’s commute, rather than a halfway train/bike compromise, has already been undermined. i’m going to need some bigger lights, brighter ones. a colleague said to me; ‘wear lots of high viz, get lit up like a gift from the norwegian government to the people of north somerset, that way when you do get killed you’ll know that the guy might go to prison for a few months’. continuing this theme, i was amazed to see a barn owl fly across in front of me on a steep hill, i apologise for the effect my hope vision front light may have had on its ability to hunt and kill and feed itself, but it was a fantastic moment. i recounted this to a friend at work, who replied, ‘ah that’s nice. of course, barn owls are a symbol of death you know, you saw death right there, across your path, i’d be careful if i were you’. which took the shine off it a little. i feel slightly better knowing that she has been struck down with swine ‘flu since our conversation.

90 fixed miles this week @72″

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