Thursday 16 May 2013

Sunday with the whippets

I know what you're thinking. No blogs for weeks and then they come all at once, just like buses. Well this ones for my father in law. Due to the bad weather, have I mentioned how wet and snowy it's been this winter ? I decided I needed some motivation to keep on the bike and ride during the winter.

Back in February I joined a local cycling club (The Calder Clarions) with view of meeting some like minded cyclists and encouragement to go out in the cold and ride.   But due to loads of snow in February and March, a back injury through ice skating and a bad chest it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that I finally made a ride.

I researched before I went and the club has 3 Sunday rides.  The A ride is 70+ miles at an average of 18 mph, the B a similar distance at 15mph and the Masters Ride which is 50 miles at an average of 12 mph.  Even the masters ride has a warning not to underestimate the level of fitness required to complete.  I therefore decide, hesitantly, to go for the masters ride.

It meets at 9:00am on the Sunday morning at a local park.  I was running late so threw the bike in the boot of the car and drove down.  When I arrived they all laughed at the guy arriving by car. You're supposed to ride there, then do the 50 miles and then ride home.

I introduce myself to the other riders and prepare for group ride.  Riding in formation is new to me so one of the cub members hangs back and explains what I need to do.  George leads us out (George is 80 and still time trials) and Jimmy who's 77.  Most of the others in the group are a similar age to me.

The ride was a steady pace riding to Thorpe Arch Retail Park which is 25 miles.  At this point I'm learning how to ride in group, anticipating breaking in front, taking reference to the pothole warnings being passed back through the group and making sure I signal in plenty of time.  George up front is leading the ride and although the pace drops off a bit on the hills, overall I can't help but hope I am as fit as him when I hit 80.

It's a very civilised ride, where we ride to Thorpe Arch and stop at the cafe with all the shoppers being invaded by Lycra clad riders. It's obviously the Sunday Cycling place to be as we order our drinks and cakes only to then be flocked with 20 or so further riders from the Otley Cycling Club. A family with two young kids were trying to console their kids at the strange sight of all these Lycra clad individuals within the cafe. We are all middle to old aged men, but the Otley Crew was a mixed crowd covering both sexes and all ages.

Whilst eating, George mentions to me, it's going to be a lot harder going back.  We's gonna be riding into the wind quite a bit and a few of the climbs are a bit steeper, so if we're slowing too much on the hills please feel free to break club etiquette, come through to the front and feel free to take up the lead.

So I feel honoured that George mentions to me that, due to my obvious fitness, I should take the lead of the ride for a while.  Sure enough we start heading back and hit a few climbs with the wind in our faces myself and Ian work our way to the front of the group and take up the lead.  At this point I am really pleased with myself, my apprehension as to whether I would be fit enough completely forgotten and I'm leading a peloton !

It's only on reflection that realise that they probably decided to pick the two largest, lardy arsed riders to move to the front so that we could be effective wind breaks for the rest of the crew.  It really didn't have anything to do with my fitness levels, awesome bike control and excellent sense of direction.  No, it was pick the fattest, largest idiot who's stupid enough to do it and send him to the front for lead so everyone else can have a much easier ride.  Gutted......

As we get closer to Wakefield, some of the riders peel off and head home (unlike the bozo who left his car at the park and therefore had to ride back to the start).  Total ride is 49 and a bit miles, a great social ride and really good group of guys for cycling with.  Can't wait for my next outing..

and.... if you're wondering about the title, my Father-In-Law knew I had joined the cycling club which he has affectionately called "The Whippets".  Every week since becoming a member he has asked me if  I am out with the Whippets this weekend?  You never know, I might need to get a flat cap and a ferret down me trousers to complete the Yorkshireman in me.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Damage Attempts 3 - Damage Sustained 1%

Just been out on a training ride in Hampshire, preparing for the Cyclothon 2013 that I am riding in on Sunday and thinking to myself how my recent rides have been quite boring with not much to blog about.  Well, big mistake,  they always say things come in three's and today just proved it.

I set off at a pretty good pace (for me at least) averaging a good 16 miles an hour. The sun was out as I ride from Hook towards Old Basing on a peaceful back road and generally feeling good with managing to get out on the bike bearing in mind the recent inclement weather. As those of you in the UK know, this winter has been horrible with snow, rain, cold, wind oh and more rain and snow.

Riding into the beautiful village of Old Basing, I hit a slight rise near some cottages so I kick down a gear and decide I am going for a really good average speed and I ain't slowing for no one.  Over the top of the hill I'm at 20mph and thinking if only Wiggo could climb this good he'd be doing better in the Giro at the moment.  Then again, my rise was a couple of hundred feet, his is several thousand, but hey he gets paid for it.

Facing towards me on my side of the road is a white van with two occupants talking, as I get to a few feet from the van the guy in the passenger side throws his door open.  With little time to react I brake, swerve, catch the door with my shoulder and slam the door back trapping the guys leg hanging out of the van.  He then starts to shout at me as though its my fault.  After a brief exchange where I made comments at both his parentage and sexual habits, I continue on my way.  I was unhurt, the door didn't hit my beloved bike and the guy will probably have a limp for a day or two. Strike One.

Putting it behind me, I climb out of Old Basing, turn right and head down another quiet country lane heading towards a place called Bramley.  Here I pick up the pace and tap out 18-20 mph stints, except for a brief drink and energy bar stop, and waiting at a couple of junctions.

There is cycle path on part of it so jump onto that for a while and come up to a main road to cross. Here the traffic lights are at green, the cycle path to the right also has a green man allowing me to cross. But as I approach the lights change.  Now being a dual carriageway there is no way I am going to jump the lights to make a mad dash so hit the brakes hard.

As I come to stop very quickly I don't have time to unclip my feet from the SPD's, so I stop and then elegantly fall over onto a grass bank.  Graze my foot and scuff the pedal on the bike.  At this point I am laughing historically about my total stupidity and still can't get my foot off the cleat.  Wiggo, how the hell did you unclip so quick when falling in the Giro on Stage 8? It's a skill I have yet to master.  However,  whilst laughing and generally trying to get unclipped a guy stops his car to the left with everyone honking their horns, winds down his passenger window and asks me if I am ok.  I am sure all Toyota drivers are so considerate (I'm one myself) and this West Indian driver of the beat up red Toyota Camry probably did not expect some mad laughing Yorkshireman in Lycra gabbling madly at the side of the road.  But thank you sir, you are a gent and when you realised I was ok and laughing your laugh was maybe the deepest rumbling laugh I have ever heard.

When I finally dismount, I do a quick Lycra check, quick bike check and decide to walk across the dual carriageway. Strike 2. Slight scuff to pedal, slight graze on foot (damage 1%).

At this point I realise I am still a few miles from Bramley.  There's a station and level crossing there and I have been caught there before around 6:00pm where the crossing closes for a parade of trains going in each direction.  You can seriously be held up there for fifteen minutes.  So I get back on the road, start tapping out to rhythm again with a huge desire to reach Bramley before it shuts for 15 minutes. It's no fun waiting in your Lycra with just about every resident of Bramley stood waiting.  Not sure why they do it but there's usually 1,000's of cars and people.  If you know it's gonna happen every day, surely you wouldn't go out at that time.

So, I'm hitting 22mph again and even do a brief stint at 30, reach the level crossing and bounce over at 5:48.  As my back wheel reaches the far side, the lights start to flash and barriers come down.  Wahoo job done.  Bet Wiggo doesn't have to put up with that in the Giro.

I then leave the sleepy village of Bramley I notice a tractor spreading something that I could smelly mile away and he's getting close to the edge of the field.  I decide I'm either gonna choke and die, or, get past quick.  This was a good move.  Hitting 32 mph I go flying past the field, as I look over my shoulder I notice his spreader sprays its contents over the hedge behind me.  Good move or I would have returned back to the hotel a rather smelly brown colour.

As I head up the A30 trunk and turn right towards Heckfield it starts to rain.  So I don't ease up, I keep hitting out the Ruth, and get back to the hotel. I am now writing this up in the restaurant thinking of how I've been hit by a door, fallen on the road and almost shit on, all in the process of getting fitter.  Strange day.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

The Tissington Trail

The sun is out, spring is finally in the air and my wife is intent on cycling the Tissington Trail in Derbyshire.  We've decided to do part of it from Ashbourne up to Hartington Signal Box (Around 11.5 miles each way).  I also have my disabled son (Alex "Ballast" Newbould) keeping me honest.

The write up for the trail says it's a medium level of effort, and to be fair it's almost a complete uphill ride from Ashbourne to Hartington (and if you didn't have a 19 year old behind you I guess it would be no difficulty at all, but the loose shingle means working hard and pumping away at a relative high cadence to make progress with a trailer).  To be honest,  I have a few events planned for this year and a couple of quite high climbs so having a permanent level of resistance provides great training (or at least that's what I kept reminding myself).

Me with my Resistance Trainer in tow

Well to the trail itself.  Like many of the cycle route trails it is entirely off-road and on an old railway line.  Unlike the Monsal Trail, it's a much looser surface but other than that it's very similar.  There are picnic tables at various locations and a number of benches allowing you to admire the breathtaking views if you want to stop.

And that's really a key point, the views out over the hills as you climb are spectacular, made even better by that fact that it's lambing season and there are fields full of new lambs bounding around in the sunshine. One thing to note though is, if you go in the dry summer there is a lot of dust kicked up, the bikes needed complete clean down's once we got back but I tell you it is well worth it.

Leaving out of Ashbourne it's a gentle climb towards Tissington which is only around 4 miles up the track.  Most of this part of the ride is through tree clad areas with a couple of picnic sites complete with tables etc.

Once out of Tissington you continue the climb and soon are out looking over the excellent scenery.  I think my wife was extremely happy to be finally riding the Tissington Trail.

My wife Joanne on the trail
To be fair, without the trailer I would class this as a truly excellent and relatively easy ride with something to look at all of the time through the ride.

Excellent Scenery in all directions
 Eventually you come out over the tops of the hills and have a relatively flat ride to the signal box at Tissington.

 Here you will find a small ice cream store, toilets and more picnic benches allowing you to snack up ready for the descent back to Ashbourne.

Tissington Signal Box
Or, if your'e feeling more energetic it is possible to add up the trail for a further 3 miles or so where you can then head down an alternative fork for a further 12 miles allowing you to ride a full length of maybe 25 miles plus 25 miles return journey.

So, if you want an excellent ride in great countryside, I can thoroughly recommend the Tissington trail. If you're in training I can also hire out an excellent resistance trainer in the form of my son and his trailer as he too thoroughly enjoyed the ride.