Posts Tagged ‘cycling’

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
Tags: , , , ,
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.

 

Although I call myself a triathlete and I belong to a triathlon club the truth of the matter is that I’ve not actually done a triathlon for quite a while. I have a sneaking suspicion that training for all three sports and doing them individually doesn’t really count. Eventually the guilt got too much an I entered one. It helped that it was the first running of the event and that it wasn’t too far to travel.

It was a perfect morning for this sort of silliness, warm and clear. We all racked our bikes, listened to the race briefing and then started some dedicated milling about whilst the swimmers with slower swim times started off. I always enjoy watching swimmers and today was no exception. There was a real mix in the pool, from someone who stopped at the end of each length though some very strange stroke styles to some very polished swimming. This is what I love about these events, people having a go. I sometimes feel that televised sport gives the impression that everyone needs to be absolutely perfect when in fact it’s possible to complete no matter how imperfect you are.

I joined the line and waited to be ushered to my lane. As usual there were people who wanted to talk and people who didn’t. Eventually I was taken to the lane nearest the side and told to get in. The pool seemed very shallow, I was expecting it to be deeper. I got myself prepared and completely missed the starter telling me to go. I thought he was starting someone in another lane. It took a few lengths to get into a rhythm but slowly things started to get a bit smoother. The other person in the lane was quite a bit slower than me so I passed them many times but I made up for it by messing up at least half of the turns by misjudging where the edge was. Before the start of the swim I’d been playing with my watch to put it in “multi-sport” mode. I wasn’t sure if I’d done it right. I was quite relieved when it beeped signalling the last lap.

There was a “no running in the pool area” rule. This meant exiting the pool consisted of a fast walk to the door and then a sprint to the transition area. My transitions have always been slow. I don’t know why I find it hard to put on a helmet and a pair of shoes quickly, I just do.

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Yet another lightening fast transition…

I enjoyed the bike course. I didn’t think I would as they were roads I was familiar with but I was on pretty bike and she always makes me feel good. I was don on the tri bars as much as possible and tried to maintain the position. It took a while but eventually I saw someone up ahead. This always makes me feel better. It didn’t take long to be “that bloke”. The one hunched in the time trial position that comes storming past. It happens to me often, it’s nice when I can do it to someone else. Not long later “that guy” passed me. There was a roundabout at the halfway point. It looked like a whole bunch of bikes had been held up as it seemed to be full of bikes. I negotiated it safely and set about trying to catch someone. I caught a fair few people but not all of them were actually in the race, they still count though.

The bike leg ended with a run down a path in bike shoes. It’s not a thing that fills me with joy. Other sensible people had taken their shoes off. I should have thought of that. Instead I slipped around on the path on route to another tremendously slow transition. This time I had to take shoes off and then put another pair on. How hard can that be?

I always forget how hard it is to run off the bike. I spent the first kilometer of the run wondering what was wrong with my legs. Eventually my body made the necessary adjustments to be able to run more like a runner than a cyclist. The route took in two laps of a sports field. As a chugged round a couple of my club mates came past, one made it look easy and the other looked like he was putting in a lot of effort (he won the over 50’s category). About half way round the second lap I realised that my watch thought I’d not started. I’d clearly managed to get the set up wrong. I started it anyway, now my swim would be in the middle of the field. After four hundred meters I changed the sport. Now I was cycling round the field. Eventually I got it to the running bit. The record of this race is going to look very strange.

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I claim my bottle of water and a medal

Just outside the entrance to the sports centre I heard heavy breathing behind me. Someone was catching me. I had a choice, I could sprint for the line in a display of pride or I could just let them go past. In my last sprint finish I managed to damage myself since then I’ve given up of the notion of sprinting for the line. The extra few seconds gained are not worth the weeks of recovery. I watched him gain a few seconds before I crossed the line and was rewarded with a medal, a bottle of water and a slice of cake.

When the results were published I found I’d done quite well. This could only mean a full fried breakfast to celebrate.

 

Box Hill

Posted: July 15, 2016 in Cycling, Tricycle
Tags: , , , , , , ,

box 2

I’m not a climber, I’m not built for climbing and Gracie the Trike is not a mountain goat. Despite all of this we have struggled up a lot of climbs in the Surrey Hills. I rode some out of necessity, some because they had a name and some just to say that we had. Going uphill on a bike is not an enjoyable experience but having suffered a climb and survived is a retrospective pleasure. It’s because of this that the club run to Box Hill appealed. We’d not been up the climb before, it was meant to be a classic and there was a National Trust café at the top. The last point was the major draw, cake after hard work is always welcome.

It wasn’t a promising day. It wasn’t exactly raining; the dampness could be described as low cloud or drizzle. It just hung in the air and waited for you to pass though it to get you wet. It was very lazy rain. We all met up at the sports centre and sometime later headed out into the wilds of Surrey. Others on the run took great delight in drafting behind me. As a big person on a trike I blocked out a lot of the wind. I was not familiar with the roads to Box Hill, I usually cycle in a different direction when I’m out and about. It was nice to follow the herd and not think about directions. I could keep up with everyone on the flat but the moment the road headed slightly upwards I shot backwards and shot out the back of the pack. This didn’t bode well.

The last time I visited Box Hill it was to watch the Olympic road race. I’d not really noticed anything to do with the gradient apart from the fact that there were some of the best cyclists in the world speeding up them. I’d always assumed that it was steep. I turned onto the climb, selected a suitable gear and started peddling. I assumed that it would get steeper somewhere along the way. I worked my way up through the trees and around the zig-zags. The gradient was constant but not steep. It reminded me of one or two of the alpine passes I’ve traveled up. Every now and again a group of cyclists would push on past. This was a very popular hill.

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Suffering

I broke onto the sunlight and recognised the field to the left as the one I stood in cheering a few years ago. I thin whippet like cyclist dressed in skin tight matching Lycra and riding a lightweight carbon machine came sailing past me. I glanced sideways and Gracie and uttered “nice one” before disappearing up the road.

The car park signaled the end of the climb and the start of the cake. The queue was long but the massive slice of Victoria sponge made it worthwhile. Now there was just the question of riding home on tired legs.

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Cake!!

Evening 10

Preparing for the corner

I’d missed the first evening 10 of the year, the one that the club guys race on fixed gear bike in memory of a departed club member but I managed to get to the next one. I like to do at least one short time trial a year and this was to be the one. It also helped that Pete, my neighbour was going too. It would mean that I would have someone to compete against. I’m not sure if he has forgiven me for taking the minutes back in the evening ten that we did last year.

I took Gracie the Trike along for a number of reasons, firstly I like riding a trike and the thought of doing a time trail on one has an air of silliness about it. It also gives me an excuse for when I come last, my Trike is a lot heavier and a good deal less sleek that all of the other bikes. Finally no one else does the time trail on a trike so even if I come last I will be first in my (completely made up) category.

We signed up and were issued a number, Pete would be departing a minute after me. Now the game was to make sure that he didn’t come past. He could easily make up that minute.

The course is two loops and many corners. It’s not flat either. There are no brutal hill but the undulations are telling. I always feel that I’m at another disadvantage at the beginning of the trial. The starter holds bike and gives them a push start. In my case I don’t need to be held so I just end up having a chat with the starter. He doesn’t push me off. I don’t know if the extra boost would be helpful but I would like to find out.

Even though I’d cycled to the event I was gasping for breath by the first corner. My warming up wasn’t quite as through than I had thought. I made it round the corner without tipping over, my constant fear is to fall off early in the race, and headed up the road. I needed to make as much of that minute gap as I could. A few of the faster bikes that were starting their second lap came past at speed. They would be much slower if they were on Trikes I thought. The second corner leads to an upward slope so there is plenty of potential to loose speed here. Then followed the long undulating section. More bikes passed but none of them were Pete, I didn’t expect Pete to be one of them until the second lap.

I got to the start of the second lap reasonably unscathed but not feeling that fresh. This would be the lap when Pete would come past. I put my head down, grabbed the drops and peddled hard. I was going to make it hard for him, I was convinced that he was breathing down my neck. I got to the long straight and was waiting for it to happen, but it never came. Either I was on a flyer or Pete was having a bad day. By the time I got to the finishing straight it was obvious that Pete was not behind me. I still didn’t let up. As I passed the line I saw Pete standing at the finish. How had he passed me without me noticing?

I looked at my time, it wasn’t evens, I’d wanted evens. I might make that a goal for the year, to ride evens on a Trike in a 10 mile time trial.