Archive for the ‘Cycling’ Category

BobMMM (1)

The obligatory post cake selfie

There are days when there is nothing better than leaping out of bed ready to take on a lovely ride in the spring sunshine on Gracie the trike. Today was not one of those days. I was feeling tired and lethargic and I wanted to stay in bed. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’d lured Keith to come on the ride with promises of eating his body weight in cake I would have probably stayed in bed for another few hours.

I met Keith in the car park of the leisure centre where we signed on, chatted to all and sundry and indulged in some preliminary cake eating. Keith seemed happy that the early cake quota on this ride had exceeded his expectations.

We left the car park at the head of the pack and instantly found the first obstacle. Men in fluorescent jackets had been busy closing one of the roads in town by erecting all kinds of barriers and signs. The road we had been instructed to take on the route sheet was very closed to traffic, luckily it was not closed to pedestrians. If we were being law abiding citizens, we would have taken the diversion or pushed our bikes along the pavement. It was, however, early on a Sunday morning so we took the most obvious course of action.

Once we were reunited with ridable road we bowled along at a nice rate chatting about the trivia of life. I slowly became aware that we were way out in front. There was no one coming up behind us. This was strange. I’m much more used to people flying by me at this stage as the fast-paced ones disappear up the road never to be seen again. It doesn’t matter how much I like to kid myself that I’m in that group, I’m not and when riding Gracie I never will be. I was certain that someone would come past when the road went vaguely upwards. The extra weight of a Trike and my inability to go up hills almost assures this. It didn’t happen; I was starting to get suspicious now. I wondered if I’d printed of the correct route sheet or maybe I’d missed an instruction. I even wondered if the rest of the field had been wiped out by a stray asteroid.

Reality intruded on my revelry, the left side of Gracie started to feel a bit soggy. I tried to ignore it but it was followed by a little metallic bumpiness. I slowed and someone behind me told me I had a puncture. The tyres on Gracie are quite a tight fit, I bought them for the colour, everything else was a minor consideration. Keith and I spent a strenuous five minutes of so deploying the full range of tools and swear words to prise the tyre from the rim. If we’d had grappling hooks and crowbars we would have used time. Everybody came past us as we cursed and swore. At least that confirmed we were on the right route. Eventually we won the fight and got Gracie reinflated but that didn’t stop me fretting quietly that the tyre was going down, I’m never that confident with my puncture repairs, I’ve had far too many failures.

BobMMM (3)

Eating cake to the memory of Bob

We could have tried to catch up with everybody or we could have continued at a leisurely pace admiring the spring scenery as we passed though the countryside. It was too nice a day to rush so we took the easy and more enjoyable option. Had the pubs been open we would have been very tempted for a spot of refreshment. We passed some very nice looking (but closed) pubs.

I’ve often wondered if two people on two wheels is faster than one person on three wheels, today the answer was trike overtakes tandem. This is a useful bit of knowledge for when I’m playing cycle top trumps.

Somewhere outside of Ditchling Keith started to smell the cake and slowly speeded up. I watched as he slowly got smaller. I wasn’t going to chase him, there would have been no point. I guess that a couple of hours riding alongside a Trike can make someone a little stir crazy. I caught him up at the cemetery that was acting as a control. This was the whole point of the ride, to visit Bob. We ate some cake to his memory.

BobMMM (2)

Bikes hiding behind a hedge so the South Downs don’t see them

Keith confessed that he had never been up the Beacon and as we were crossing the bottom of it, it seemed rude not to. I had no intention of taking Gracie up there; it was not something we relish. Luckily there was a group of Rovers who were going up so he would be in good company. I said I would ride slowly so he would catch me up somewhere on the way back.

I spent the rest of the ride spinning gently through the countryside in a world of my own making waiting for Keith to affect the catch, just like the sprinters teams do to the lone breakaway in the Tour de France. The closer I got to the finish the more convinced I became that Keith and the Rovers were bearing down on me. I was being the plucky breakaway rider soloing home and they were the big teams hunting from another victory. They never caught me and I got the pick of the cake.

In hindsight, I’m glad I got up this morning, even if my only motivation was to not let a mate down

Man of Kent 200

Posted: March 26, 2017 in Audax, Cycling
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ManofKent (2)

In an ordinary suburban street…

I really didn’t feel like doing this ride. I woke up but failed to get out of bed. I prayed it was raining to give me a legitimate excuse to stay in bed but the prayers didn’t help. Eventually I dragged myself into an upright position and went through the motions. If I hadn’t prepared everything last night I probably would have stayed in bed. The object of my lethargy was the Man of Kent 200 a one hundred and twenty five mile Audax ride around Kent. Last time I’d done this ride on Gracie the Trike but Gracie had been visited by the puncture fairy so I had decided to do this one on two wheels instead. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a long ride on two wheels. It should make a refreshing difference.

I met up with Mark at the start; Mark and I are veterans of many an Audax ride and more importantly we ride at about the same pace. We often put the world back in to shape whilst meandering down country lanes.

The first and longest section of the ride took us from the village hall to a vicarage for breakfast. I would like to think that the ease of the ride was due to my extensive winter training regime but I suspect that it was a lot more to do with the howling tail wind. It pushed us eastward with ease but we knew in the back of our minds that we would be battling it later. There was only one hill of any significance but the wind assisted climb seemed much easier on two wheels than three. After the climb was a long wind assisted descent to the first stop. This is how I always think cycling should be; moving at speed with the minimum of effort.

ManofKent (3)

My bike was at the bottom

The vicarage didn’t disappoint. A bacon sandwich was slapped into my had the moment I walked into the garden. I like that sort of service. The bacon was followed by a croissant and a chocolate biscuit just to make sure that I had all the major food groups covered.

The next section was still with the wind and this made life easy. We made our way quickly to a cup of tea and a large chocolate brownie in a garden centre café. We all knew that this was the end of the eastward journey, things were about to get a lot harder.

ManofKent (4)

Quality carbohydrates

The wind hit us about a mile from the garden centre. Things went from lovely to very Dutch in a matter of minutes. Now was not the time to be cycling alone and struggling with the wind. Now was the time to be in a group, to hang on to a back wheel and take shelter, and to do your fair share on the front battling against then elements. Mark and I teamed up with one other and we battled the wind with grim determination and bloody mindedness. There was no chat, no batter, just gritted teeth and a constant fight. We came to a junction and the other guy dropped off the back, he apologised saying that he couldn’t keep with the pace. This made me feel a little smug and then guilty at feeling smug.

There was a long descent along a beautiful valley near the end of the section; I assume it was a descent because the road tipped downwards. The wind counteracted any advantage here. I assume it was beautiful as one of the other riders told me it was, in the summer, when there is no wind. Today however, I didn’t see much apart from Mark’s back wheel or the road ahead viewed through squinted eyes.

ManofKent (7)

More quality cardohydrates

The next stop was in a station café, out of the wind and surrounded by the comforting smells of mediocre café food. We did wonder whether the small steam trains would take us back to the HQ but apparently the tracks didn’t go in that direction and it would probably be cheating. At least we felt like we had broken the back of this ride and were heading for the finish.

The route changed direction and the effect of the wind lessened. This was a blessed relief after the battle of the last few hours. We trundled along easily to the penultimate check point. Here we joined forces with another group. We were the youngsters in the pack the other four were in their late 60’s and early 70’s. This didn’t diminish their ability to stay on the pace. As we got closer to the HQ the pace increased. It was probably the smell of the tea and the aroma of peaches in ride pudding that did it. As we hit the final stretch it became an out and out race. There was no way that I could have been accused of letting the 67 year old win, he did it all by himself. It was a good sprint to the finish with neither of us giving any quarter.

ManofKent (8)

It wasn’t going our way

Invicta Hilly

Gracie waiting whilst I fill myself with tea

Gracie was being a little petulant today and refused to get out of the car without a struggle. I should have realised that this was a bad sign but as usual I carried on regardless. We had driven here to take part in the Invicta Hilly, the smaller version of the Invicta Grimpeur, The first long ride that Gracie and I did together. The big version consists of two loops, one clockwise and one anti clockwise. The hilly is just one anti clockwise loop. There was a lot of climbing and I remember from last time that it got quite painful by the end. The smaller version was definitely the one for me today.

It all started well, the Hilly participants were waved off at the allotted time and I made my way out the gates near the front of the pack. I was under no illusions that I would be the fastest round. That will never happen with an extra wheel on a hilly route. I was surprised how long it took for the first few to come past. I was well into the first climb before it happened. This made me happy as it suggested that the minimal amount of winter training had paid off.

The first control came at the top of Yorks Hill. I sat there for a while and contemplated the first descent. Descending on a Trike is a stressful experience at the best of times and Yorks Hill is steep and evil. The road surface was rutted and covered in mud. I decided that a screaming plummeting descent was out of the question and went for the timid cautious approach instead. It still wasn’t a pleasant experience. I got to the bottom shaken and stirred but mainly happy to be alive.

I caught up with a group of riders in front and followed them to the foot of the next hill. It turned out that I went to school with one of them. I didn’t recognise him at all but apparently I was still the same, something that I doubt. Catching up and chatting took the sting out of the next hill, we even passed someone who was attempting the ride on a Moulton.

We reached the top of the next descent. This was a lot more benign than the last one. It was on a wide road with a good surface and no bends. This was a good road to drop down with childish glee. I assumed the position and let the plummet commence. Then the wobbles started. Little wobbles at first but rapidly escalating into violet throwing off the Trike type wobbles. The whole of the front of the trike was vibrating wildly. I tried pulling hard on the brakes but that only made the whole thing worse. I started fearing becoming part of the road surface in a sudden and violent way. I brought Gracie back into the fold with a combination of brute force and intermittent braking. I pulled into a layby and cursed loudly. I’d been on the margin between upright and road surface; that is quite frightening.

Climbing the next hill I noticed that the quick release on the front wheel had come loose. I’ve no idea if the wobble had caused it or it had caused the wobble but I was willing to bet that it hadn’t helped the situation. Maybe that was why Gracie was being so petulant this morning. She was obviously offended that I’d not given her the attention she deserved.

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Gracie, waiting outside whilst I filled myself with tea and biscuits

I’ve done this ride many times and it is always cold. Today was no different. The weather forecast wasn’t too promising either, with the prospect of snow later. I used my usual rule of if it’s not raining when I start I’ll do the ride. I’d chosen to do the ride on Gracie the Trike for a number of reasons, chief amoungst them being stability and the ability to carry a lot of spare clothing. I felt that I may be in need of extra layers as the day wore on.

The start was the usual mix of familiar faces, cups of tea and catching up with the news in the small world of Audax. I met mark in the HQ and as is usual we started the ride together. Again we were the epitome of Audax cyclists: one of us on a fixed with mud guards and panniers and the other on a tricycle, chatting our way round a ride and putting the world to rights.

At various points on the first leg we tangled with a sportive that was also running on our lanes. Sometimes they were cycling with us and sometimes they were on the other side of the road. Gracie managed to raise a smile from a lot of them. On one corner curiosity got the better of me an d I asked one of the riders which sportive and what route they were doing. After a little chat we felt that we had sold the benefits of Audax (mainly more cake) over Sportives with the cyclist promising to look us up on the web.

On another corner I overtook three sportive riders, they seemed to think that having an extra wheel was in some way cheating. They were very vocal about that. I almost offered them a turn on Gracie to show them that a Trike is in no way cheating. I didn’t because I think that Gracie should be paid more respect than that. She is, after all, an old lady who is still keeping up and in some cases passing the youngsters.

The original route took us up a steep hill to a control but the organisers had decided that the road was too dangerous for us to pass. They regaled us with tales of snow and slush and slippery conditions. I wasn’t too sad that I didn’t have to struggle up the hill for a tepid cup of tea and then follow it with a hair raising descent. I quite enjoyed my hot tea and cake instead.

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Mark, at the first control using Gracie as a bike stand

Mark and I set off on the next section as the snow started to fall. It was very light snow that didn’t settle. At least it wasn’t rain. Rain would have made the ride miserable. The sprinkling of snow was little enough to be distracting but not annoying. The route passed along the piece of road that persuaded me that Audax was a good thing to do. It is a lovely narrow lane through trees and past a pond. Even now in the depth of winter it had a certain charm. I may have been viewing it through rose tinted spectacles though.

There seemed to be more slight ups than downs on this part of the route. I’m a lot slower going up than Mark. I can usually catch up on the downs, providing there are sufficient downs. There weren’t. Mark slowly pulled ahead until he disappeared into the distance. It became clear that I’d be finishing the ride alone.

I learnt at the last control that I wasn’t the last on the road. This raised my mood a little as I felt at times that the entire field had passed me. I was now back on familiar roads, I knew all the lumps and bumps and had mental markers all the way home. I was able to retreat into my little world and try to ignore my legs complaining about being used so much. I was so deep into my world that I almost jumped off the Trike when someone passed me with a jaunty “well done!”

Eventually I pulled into the HQ ready for my bowl of hot soup, a bread roll and almost unlimited cake. The feelings of gloom at my fitness faded fast with each mouthful of cake. I felt I’d done quite well for my first ride out of the year on Gracie.

 

A Bike is Born

Posted: February 15, 2017 in Cycling
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I built a bike frame this weekend, I build it using bamboo and hemp with some epoxy resin and a few metal bits. Here are a few pictures of the stages of construction

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It all started with a jig that holds the metal head tube and the bottom bracket

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We then selected just the right bits of bamboo

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Measured them up against the jig to ensure they were just right. I’d selected a few spares as well, just in case I was visited by the catastrophe fairy

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Then the bamboo had to be cut to fit round the metal bits using a viscous cutting tool and an angle measuring thing (it has a name, I don’t know it)

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The masking tape was there to keep splinters to a minimum, splinters are painful.

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The hole is then cut at the correct angle to fit the tube. This is repeated for all the tubes…

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They can then be put into place on the jig to for the first triangle. A blob of epoxy holds the tubs in place but the tape holds them in place until the epoxy is dry. The cup of tea in the corner is a vital lubricant for the novice bike builder.

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The dropouts are then fixed into position on the jig…

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and slots cut into the chain stays and seat stays so that they fit into the dropouts.

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The chain stays are then fitted into place and fixed using epoxy

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As are the seat stays.

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It now looks like a frame but it doesn’t look like it will stay together in a strong wind.

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The frame is held together with hemp strips that are soaked in epoxy resin and then wrapped around the tubes

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Like this.

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Once the joint is formed it is wrapped in electrical tape whilst the epoxy sets

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Initially the epoxy gets warm as the reaction hardens it, then it cools. Once it is cool the electrical tape can be removed

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And there we have it, one bike frame born from a pile of bamboo, some hemp and a few metal bits. It needs to be finished and lacquered to become a proper frame and then equipped to become a real bike but that will have to wait a while.

This was all done on a weekend course with the Bamboo Bicycle Club

 

Living the dream at Herne Hill

Posted: December 1, 2016 in Cycling

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A long time ago I went to the Good Friday meet at Herne Hill Velodrome and watched people cycle very fast around in circles. It was a fantastic day out, I came away wanting to give track cycling a go. It’s taken a long time to fulfill that dream but at last I’ve done it.  I joined up with a group of local cyclists for a coached track session.

The Velodrome was almost how I remembered it, a massive asphalt oval with banked edges sitting in the middle of a field. Last time I was here there had been crowds of people and the smell of hotdogs and cooked onions drifting over. This time, on a cold and grey November day it was almost empty. The building works for the new stand made the place look messy and untidy. It was still the stuff of dreams and I still couldn’t believe I was about to fulfill a dream that I’d had for over 10 years.

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Banking and lines

We started the session by a long line and following each other round the track. We did and exercise were we rode progressively higher on the track. We started on the white line, moved up to the red line, then the blue and finally close to the top of the track. This was the first time I’d been on the banking and I was a little nervous about how it would work. I needn’t have worried, it was easy. I just followed the bike in front and climbed up. It took a while to get used to the slight acceleration coming off the banking but it didn’t take long before I felt comfortable with the whole thing.

The next exercise was all about riding in pairs. The coach instructed us to ride at a conversational pace above the blue line with the front two peeling off at the end of the lap and joining the back of the back. He carful explained that the bottom rider need to push to the banking and clear the bunch so that he didn’t cause a calamity and bring everybody tumbling to the bottom of the track. It was a lot easier done than said. We ambled round at a gentle pace chatting as we went. I was a fair few riders back of I could watch what was happening. It was all  quite straight forward. The top man drifted to the top of the track and the bottom man accelerated to the top. Then the rest of the bunch came through. What I found interesting was the changes in pace as various people it the front. I was also starting to discover that my bike was under geared for track riding. My legs were going round much faster than everyone else’s.

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Hospitality

After a little bit of recovery we worked on changes, the coach carefully explained how the track could be used to slow down and speed up whilst keeping the peddling rate constant. It was one of those things that was obvious once it has been explained.  Soon we were off again in a long line, with the front man peeling off every half lap. My turn came quickly. I could see the line, all I had to do was carry on in a straight line whilst the pack behind me went round underneath me. As the tails came round I came off the banking and joined the tail. I felt like a proper track cyclist.

The coach had yet another game up his sleeve. This time we rode at conversation pace in pairs about the blue line. When he blew his whistle the front four dropped down to the white line and powered round to join the back of the back, changing positions every half lap. It was on this exercise that I realised my bike was severely under geared. I just couldn’t hold the back wheel and had to drop off the back of my group of four. Despite this I was still enjoying myself.

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The last lap bell – a wonderful sound

After a short brake we moved onto a little bit of friendly competition. We started with a team pursuit. I started well, I held the wheel of the bit in front for almost a lap. After that I started to lose contact and had to give up. The rest of the team went on to win the heat. We then went straight onto the next pursuit. This time I was the lead out, this was the only time my under gearing gave me an advantage. I was able to accelerate much faster than anyone else, they just had to hang on to my wheel until I got to the other side of the track and peeled off. I almost managed to get back on, almost.

The session ended with an Australian pursuit, this was new to me. We were set off at equal intervals and the aim was to pass the person in front whilst not being caught by the person behind. I was the very last in the line, I thought that this would be a good position until I saw how far the front of the line was round the track when I set off.  I used my acceleration advantage to pick off about three people by the end of the first lap but by then my legs were spinning at top speed, I couldn’t go any faster whilst those in front with the proper gearing could. I was picked off on the second lap.

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I had a wonderful time at Herne Hill, in my mind I was one of those starts of cycling that I’d seen over 10 years ago swooping round the track. I left with a desire to do more and to get another bike.

 

The Petworth 100

Posted: November 19, 2016 in Audax, Cycling
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Blue bike in repose whilst the rider drinks his body weight in tea

 

After nearly a month of coughing and spluttering and one cancelled long ride I wasn’t about to miss this Audax. It’s so well catered that I’m convinced that it is possible to gain weight during the course of the one hundred kilometers. Just to add to the fun I had arranged to do the event with Trev. He is a keen cyclist but an Audax novice, so this was an idea introduction to the past time for him.

We met up in a car park were everyone was complaining about the cold. It was hovering above freezing but the forecast was for it to hit nearly double figures by lunch time. We ignored the minor fly in the ointment of rain forecast after two as we should be near the end of the ride by then and of course a little rain shouldn’t hurt too much. The wind was taken from our sails when some youths turned up wearing shorts. At least they had the dignity to look very cold.

The route is made up of three loops, each one ending at the same village hall where we would be filled with food. The first loop started with reasonably flat open roads that had Trev and I bowling along quite happily chatting. The odd rise here and there showed up out differences in climbing ability. Trev can climb, I can’t. The last part of the first loop takes in a particularly lumpy road. It was a lot lumpier on a bike that it ever is in a car. As we struggled up one hill we were greeted by a wall of smoke. It looked like we had reached the end of the world and that just nothingness lay beyond the curtain of smoke. In reality, someone was burning garden rubbish and the thick smoke was drifting across the road. I tried to hold my breath whilst travelling through the noxious cloud but it didn’t work. Eventually I had to breath and then all my senses were assaulted by the smoke. The taste lingered long after we exited the cloud. What I needed was a cup of tea and something to eat to take the taste away.

The next loop was to the south and featured a hill, just the thing to show off my climbing inability. We climbed a little hill as an overture to the main event. A number of cyclist passed me on this but I wasn’t too bothered, I knew what was coming next and them passing me now meant that there will be less people to witness my pitiful attempt at the main event. The hill started at the end of a right-hand bend and just went up at a steady rate. I settled into the low gears and started the struggle. Trev disappeared off into the distance and more people passed me. About half way up I got to the point where I had no momentum what so ever. These are the desperate times, close to the moment when I would like to get off and push. If it wasn’t for the photographer on the other side of the road and my vanity I probably would have. Trev was waiting at the top sporting that smug look of someone who was reasonably good at climbing. It took him a few kilometers to mention that his legs were burning and he was feeling the effect of the hill. That did my ego no end of good.

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This picture is in perfect focus as I was moving very slowly

What I lack in climbing ability I make up for in pace on the flat. The return section of the loop went through miles of woods, I just kept up my normal pace and I was surprised to see Trev trailing a little was in the distance. I could have slowed slightly but it felt much better to wait at a junction instead.

There was a small section of main road ahead and it seemed that every boy racer was using this stretch of road to show their lack of taste and driving skills. It was immensely irritating. Up ahead I saw the bare legged youths. The thought of a tow came to mind. It would have been nice to hand onto the back of a group for a while. I made sure that Trev was on my wheel and slowly built up the pace. Trev realised what was going on and stuck to my back wheel like glue. It would have been a brilliant plan but we were thwarted by a small rise in the road that was beyond my climbing prowess. We cruised back to the hall and filled ourselves with beans on toast instead.

It was a struggle to leave the hall for the final loop. It had got significantly colder outside and we were weighed down with beans on the inside. It took me a while to remember the last bit from last year but after a few kilometers it hit me with the force of a brick. This bit was cantered around climbing up a steep and nasty hill. I had begun to notice a pattern with this ride. The hill started gently enough but moved into struggling territory very quickly. Trev was up ahead and disappearing into the distance by the time we reached the pub. A few Sunday diners yelled “allez, allez” at him to spur him on, I took advantage of the question on the card to stop and write the answer down. I continued the struggle up the hill. On the curve a group of mountain bikers were putting their bikes into a van. Now I couldn’t get off and push. Eventually I reached the top, legs burning and chest exploding. Trev was sat in a lay by with the smug look of someone who can climb.

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Preparation for those heart stopping moments

We cruised back to the village hall, Trev was clamped to my back wheel for most of this, claiming that he didn’t have it in him to take the lead. I was alright with this, it meant the hill had taken its toll on him to.

We arrived at the hall and were greeted by a bowl of peaches and rice pudding accompanied with big lumps of cake. It was the only way to end this ride.