I’ve changed my mind.

Had you asked me six months ago what it was I enjoyed about road riding, I’d have replied with the full Kelvin, followed by a swift slap to the chops for your impertinence. And assuming I hadn’t flounced off in disgust or a proper fight had ensued, my response would have far outstripped your interest.

Still since you didn’t ask, it goes something like this; it’s is MTB’s boring brother, it has no vibe, no life, no thrill. The only activity that is actually considered less cool than Mountain Biking. An evil of necessity. A pale shadow of proper riding; just about good enough to be better than driving to work. A tedious alternative to being fat and grumpy, only slightly less horrid than a Gym.

I felt pretty strongly about that. Fat men smuggling their love spuds into tight lycra or food-weighing twiglets obsessed by power output and peak performance. Heart rates without any heart. Fat lads without any fun. Wheeled sheep line astern, grim faced and suffering. Two words. No Thanks. Two more. Fuck That.

Something has changed. More than one thing. First there was Wog. Cheap, stout and, well, honest. Equipped with mudguards and treaded tyres, we struck forth into winter with a frozen grin and a never-say-drive attitude. Then riding without a reason to go. Long loops out through the Cotswolds, striking out still deep in the chilly season. A different types of fitness, looser trousers* and riding on days when the chunky tyred ones would be grim.

And my Brother, surprisingly. Ever since he insisted on entering a proper road event, I felt some sibling obligation to join him. Especially once the forms were completed with my witticism bringing the organisers attention to his medical condition – namely “noticeably porky“. To be fair he was. To be fairer, it was a cheap shot.

Doubt began to creep in a couple of months ago. After never-seen-before early season fitness, one accident put me on my arse and apathy kept me there. However much I told myself otherwise, you cannot taper from eight weeks before an event. Especially if tapering is nothing more than lying on the sofa sprinkled in crisp remains.

Those doubts became proper worries on receiving ever more positive texts from evidently shrinking brother talking of 20, 30 then 40 mile rides. Six of those in one week. I was genuinely shocked on actually seeing the fella (in the pub tho, he’s not gone entirely mental) missing half of his gut, and all of his extra chins. He’s also invested in a bike weighing the same as two slices of tissue paper providing motivation enough to keep him training.

Not me tho. One 100k+ ride in May, bugger all since. A few desultory long commutes, one quick hilly pre-breakfast 50k that nearly put me in hospital, and mountain bikes of course. But my “A” game was merely displacing the “I” in fit. Inevitably the day dawned and we turned up to everything I hate about cycling – all enclosed in the standard god-forsaken field with the standard air of worry, testosterone and ego.

Let’s count the bad things out shall we; Road Riding. Middle Aged White Men*. Timings. Competitiveness. Pain, deferred but coming. Boredom, Same. Too much lycra, no baggies, no knobbly tyres, no mud. Christ it was Mountain Mayhem without any of the hard to find good bits. And I properly loathe Mayhem.

Good things. Easier to enumerate. Not hungover. Unheralded restraint made me amusingly proud. Bike is light and lovely. After hauling Wog over hill and more hill, the Boardman is a thing of race honed beauty. Bro, going to be slow even with his outstanding efforts this year. Slower than me anyway. So however rubbish my performance, I can hide behind worthiness and brotherly love. “Well I could have gone mad, but it’s not really on is it?“. 100 kilometres not 100 miles.

Get it done. Get a beer. Get over it. Don’t volunteer again. Having spent too much of my spare time being pointlessly herded by officiousness, the organisation here is superb. From the staggered start through the cheery marshals and fantastic food, it feels quite special. And that’s before random spectators clap you on. Could get used to that.

We start slowly climbing into grey, drizzly cloud that looks nothing like the forecasted horizon splitting sunshine. The pace winds up as I grab a random wheel to suck, risking disaster with quick over-the-shoulder glances to check on the state of my bro. He’s going well but it’s too fast too soon, so we back off a little more and enjoy a non speedy spin. Riders are passing left and right and my competitive twitch is suffering delusional suppression.

I’m not bothered” says me to the bro. He grins back knowingly. We hit the first proper climb and suddenly my narrowly spaced rear sprocket is a problem. Not for me right now, but I cannot ride at the pace of the monster 12-29 spinning on bro’s wheel. Crikey I’ve run less on an MTB! We agree to meet at the summit so I stretch my anxious legs passing loads and internally ticking my roadie-pals assertion that “most guys here can’t climb, you’ll beast the lot of them“. I know I’m as shallow as a tea spoon and I don’t care.

I care a little more as those bested stream past my freewheeling wait. Soon enough Bro arrives and we crack on up and, occasionally, down merely killing time before the first of two proper climbs. This rises from the River Dart stretching 2500 riders up a thousand feet on gradients up past 1 in 4. 12-23 Al? Fine plan.

So it goes. Up, mainly. I leave the bro again and “go for the gurn”. I’m passing people everywhere, some walking, some looking deeply unimpressed, one on a carbon fibre monster decked out like a sponsors billboard. He’s really not happy. Especially since I’ve enough reserve breath for a quick needle, and he’s basically 30 seconds from an oxygen tent. I stick by his side until it’s clearly he’s gone, then give it a bit.

Until the next corner. Where I back off otherwise it’s a tent for two. Bro makes it without getting off which is a bloody fine effort and we fall off the summit into dark, dank and wet woods. Twice I’ve considered a sneaky overtake on some mincers in front, both times I’ve reigned it back. Half way down it’s a decision vindicated by flashing blue lights, concerned expressions and the brief view of a bloodied rider strapped into a spinal board.

We’re chastised but glad it’s not us. Back onto the moor lit by patches of blue puncturing the gloom. It’s a hell of a view and a hell of a ride. Slightly uphill, significant tailwind, I wind it up, direct bro right onto my back wheel and slide past a few suffering already. This is always my favourite bit in any event, when I feel better than most of the others in our class. It doesn’t last long generally but it makes most of the future pain worthwhile. Almost.

We’ve settled into a group now. I pass most of them on the climbs, they come steaming past as I wait for my bro. A few proper riders blast through at a pace that looks illegal. Or drug assisted. I ignore those and concentrate on taking the wind***. Eventually he’s bored of my pace – so sends me on my way to the food stop. Released, I go a bit mental knowing it’s less than ten miles and I’m barely sweating.

Good job it’s not eleven miles. I arrive with a sore knee, an absence of spare breadth and a stiffening hamstring. Hot now, sun fully out, lots of racing snakes downing energy drinks. Lots of people like me pigging out on the cake stall. We set sail for the safe harbour of race end only once our faces are stuffed and bottles refilled. I’m on a heady cocktail of energy drink and anti-cramp potion. It tastes horrid but appears to be working so far.

A couple of nasty, sharp and un-shaded pulls us out of Princetown. My bro is now in uncharted territory having passed his furthest distance. We’re still 40ks from home and his pace has gone from steady to slow. I’m chaffing but trying not to show it. My elder Bro has always been the sensible one, made the right decisions, weighed up the options. I owe him unconditional help without being patronising. We started this together, that’s how we’ll finish.

But he is sensible and measured and understands the difference between personal and important. So he insists I fuck off and leave him to suffer alone. I protest a bit. He then really tells me to fuck off and – because I’m not any of those things – I do with a couple of guilty backward glances. One more big hill but it’s all into a head wind, and I’ve abandoned the bloke I promised to pull round.

Still no point worrying about that now, I’ve people to catch and scores to settle. A couple of times already I’ve been passed downhill. That’s going to stop right now. Quick yomp up the latest climb with slightly creaking knees and I’m on the wheel of a clubman decked out in socks to helmet livery. We swoop down some epic steep hairpins before blasting through the trees at speeds rarely attained on mountain bikes.

A right hander looms and I’m so deep into fuck-it mode, ego has displaced me in the pilot’s seat. He hits the brakes, I fly by on the outside – giggling insanely – grab the brakes myself, feel the oh-so-thin tyres squirm, wait, wait, wait, got to pitch it in, look up Landrover approaching tight to the white line. Hmmm this could be lively, push hard on the left hand side of the bar, and pray everything I’ve heard about slick tyres and tarmac is true.

It is. Fly out of the corner like berms for road bikes and never see the fella behind again. Spurred on, I push on up the final climb not so fast now but ensuring I’m presenting a heroic bent to the many photographers camped out on the steep bits. Still very few go past with my Malvern-Legs driving me on. Irritatingly while all is well in lungs and legs, my back and neck are now demanding some recompense for constant battering. I can offer nothing more than 20ks left to go, but first a final descent through dappled woods occasionally sprinkled with damp leaves.

It’s a lesson in road riding I get taught by a few whooshing past. I hang in there but it feels like I’ve pushed it a bit too far already. Finally we’re spat out into the valley and closer to home than I date think. Forgot my GPS so I’m asking riders how far we’ve got to go. Please don’t tell me it’s that far, because I’m suffering now.

12k a lovely man says. Then he sprints off. I sit on his wheel for a bit before being overcome by strange feelings of guilt. I take a turn, then a well honed lady with a toned arse does the same. We watch her for a bit before guilt trips back in. Three of us are now pushing bloody hard and it’s fantastic. Behind seven or eight show no interest in taking a turn. I’m blowing it out of my arse here and you’re basically freewheeling in the gas. That’ll not do at all.

Whispered conference up the front. Agreement in tight smiles. There’s one proper hill left and we sprint up it, calves screaming, respiratory system fully anaerobic, muscles demanding instant respite but still we steam on, hit the summit, glance back to see nothing but empty tarmac and broken men.

The last few k’s continue to hurt. I’m getting a count now, 4ks, 3ks, little hill..ow…ow..ow don’t back off, 2k, we’ve got to be there, round the next corner and we are. Slide to a stop, grin, shake hands, fall off bike. Even the freebies are great with a little bit of Dartmoor rock and a medal to add to the standard t-shirt.

My time isn’t brilliant, but it’s not too shabby. Bro comes in 30 minutes later which is fantastic and he’s properly – and rightly – impressed with his effort. We decamp to his house to drink beer gloating about those still out in the broiling heat. Half way though our second beer, we’re singing up for the “135k circuit of Kent” in September.

Road bikes you see. Rubbish. Really, terrible things. Entirely pointless. Can’t recommend them enough 😉

* Although this may have been my two month weekday prohibition of all things hop and grape. I’m back to normal now. And the trousers know it.

** I appreciate the hypocrisy. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

*** So much of road cycling is about getting out of the wind. It kills speeds and urks the soul.


That is. Amazing how much bike technology has come on in the six years since this race. Nowhere near as amazing as the genius of routing the course through someone’s kitchen 🙂

Talking of mental, that’s a good description of my current vocational workload, and my cerebral state going into the Dartmoor Sportive. Good job we’re doing the girl’s race with only 110k/7500 feet of climbing due to my outstandingly slack preparation.

Which did include one ride of over 100k, and many, many nights sitting inside wondering which Pringles flavour was the most performance enhancing. The research is well and truly done, but the results are yet to be proven. Ask me Sunday, if I’m still alive.

2500 riders as well. Most of them wrapped tight in lycra, sporting zero body fat, preparing strange liquid concoctions and worrying over heart rate zones. Mr Bro and I won’t be like that. Aside from the obvious physical attributes we entirely fail to share with such riders*, we also share none of their competitive edge or medal chasing aspirations.

Already I feel my flirtations with the dark side of cycling have gone way too far. Not only do I own a roadie pair of bib shorts (that act as a homage to Freddy Mercury’s Spandex phase), but I’m unlikely to accessorise these skintight trousers-and-a-bit with additional willy-coverage baggies. Instead I shall stay-press the wedding vegetables for anyone to see.

So that’ll be use then. Testiclappers to the fore, while riding at the back. And there’s the whole riding in a group thing. Done this once. Nearly totalled everyone behind me. Was not asked to lead again. They’ll be scraping innocent racers off the tarmac with a spatula if I’m allowed anywhere near the peloton.

My strategy therefore is not just to be so slow I’ll not be bothering those who are taking the whole thing a bit seriously, but also to break road riding protocol by stopping in one of the many pubs for refuelling. Assuming they haven’t got pringles, I’ll settle for some dry roasted nuts** assuming they are accompanied by an ice cold beer.

But it would be wrong to say I’m not intending to finish. Oh no. That’d just be too rubbish even for me. So no more than two pub stops. Three, at the most.

* My bro especially although he’s slimmed down quite impressively this year. Bit of a worry.

** Looking at the forecast, I may be able to harvest my own.

Not Again.

Enjoying one road ride is probably acceptable, enjoying two is tantamount to MTB treason. Before my skinny tired bike is behead-tubed*, let me at least present a case for the defence.

Firstly it wasn’t a long ride. The plan for a metric century was curtailed by a lack of time. Further scaling back became necessary once a small mechanical oversight popped up in the first 200 metres.

Not so much popped up, more popped out, with a cranked chain spinning uselessly over un-indexable cogs. Look with that many little sprockets and associated spacers, anyone could have inadvertently misaligned the two.

It was me of course. And as such, I was deemed unfit to effect a repair which saw Jezz seemingly chase the wheel around the workshop using his biggest hammer. An opportune time perhaps for a quick spanner twirl elsewhere on the innocent frame.

First time out on Mr. Plastic Fantastic in 2011, all a-bling with new wheels (cassette not fitted properly, tyres under-inflated), new saddle (testicle splitting angle due to poor fitment) and new carbon post (unfitted due to it being entirely the wrong size).

Eventually, after some embarrassment and more excuses, the good ship Malvern-Route set sail under fair conditions with little wind and temperatures close to double digits.

Riding the Boardman after Woger Wibble was something of a revelation. Best described as being gifted a proper cyclist’s set of legs, and an extra lung. Crikey it’s light – at least six pounds under the honest toiler of my winter bike – and *ahem* stiff. Having campaigned the thick end of 600k this winter on Wog sets a telling precedent on what a proper race bike feels like.

Feels fast for a start. Emboldened by climatic conditions, super light bike, dry road and an inability to clip out (new road shoes, new road pedals, stopping and starting involved lampposts and increasingly agitated foot waggling) my pace was both brisk and entirely inappropriate.

The latter I would only discover some two hours later when that “little wind” could be more accurately described as “a bastard headwind seeking to reduce me to a little cry”. Still having a trick bike is a great leveller.

Jezz was riding a oversized Wibble that puts one in mind of a farm gate cleverly accessorised with a wheel at either end. Not only tall, it has sufficient length to factory-fit a claxon and speaking tube for turns: “All Ahead Flank Engine Room” can often be heard bouncing off random Malvern hills.

So my bike is light and fast which is an almost perfect juxtaposition to the rider. Whereas Jezz – an Etape veteran and unapologetic semi-roadie – can normally rip my little stumps off at will. At this point, I can share with you that it is entirely about the bike.

For two hours, we jested and jousted up and over hilly terrain. I still lost more than I won but derived some pleasure from the look on Jezz’s fizog a couple of times. One I recognised as “Just give me a minute, once the black spots have faded, we’ll be on our way”.

Somewhere in between such hyper-competitivety, I realised with horror this was really quite enjoyable. Even a jaunt through Malvern traffic didn’t disappoint as my “London Commuter Elbows” have lost nothing in their vigorousness over the last few years.

And then the headwind. With all the climbing done, I was ready for an easy 25k spin home along the valley bottom. The only match to that idyllic description was the distance. Not flat, slight climb all the way home, arrow straight roads horizon long, and into the teeth of a headwind that sought out my tiring limbs and made them tireder still.

I swallowed a little water, slightly more pride and hid behind Jezz for a while until we mercifully turned the relentless blast into a crosswind. That couldn’t hide the fact I’d shot my bolt though and – light bike or not – the last few climbs were properly hurty.

Lesson learned? Probably not, ego not generally gapped my ambition. 70k, 890m of climbing, similar average speed to last time out but on a route made far tougher by elevation. Riding in this morning was a fairly sedate affair, but not for a minute did I consider driving.

Actually I was looking forward to getting back on the (heavy) bike. That’s a worrying development.

* Been reading lots of Tudor history. After considering disease, poverty, hangman’s noose and executioner’s blade, hard to believe the population of England during that time could be more than about 7.

That’s not a forecast..

.. that’s somewhere between a wild guess and an electronic shrug. Obsessed by the weather as I am, three sites lurk in my favourites offering – generally – biblical visions of the prevailing conditions come home time

1) between -3 and 8 degrees

2) Between -6 and 1 degree

3) Between -2 and 4 degrees.

The final one is the venerable beeb, the first two are clearly programmed by some stoner quiche-eater stroking a hamster. I mean really, potential statisical inacurracy of 11 degrees bounded by a total of about 30.

I could do better leaning out of the window and declaring “h’mm chilly, potentially parky later“. In fact I just have. I think the workers from the building opposite were crowded round thinking it was a suicide attempt.

It may well be if forecast 2) is correct. I appear to have contracted “frost-willy” after a sub zero ride in earlier.

I spent ages dithering this morning trying to find stuff. I failed to uncover my motivation which has been lost for the last week. Apparently it was last seen holding Spring hostage.

Large reward for its’ return.

That’s really annoying.

Cotswold Road Ride

Many – and most would say far too many – times have I banged on about how rubbish road riding is. The key thrust of what passed as my argument was blacktop wheeling was dull, painful and entirely missing the joy, risk and skill of Mountain Biking. It appears I may have been more than a little wrong.

Before lambasting me for a U-Turn not seen since, er let me think – oh yes, last week by the not-Forest selling lunatics as Westminster, let me first explain that the change of heart is based entirely on context. I’ve always maintained that half the fun of riding MTBs is who you are with, with the other half being where you are riding. What I failed to understand is this has a 100% crossover with road bikes.

Over 1200 kilometres have passed under skinny wheel in the last twelve months, and – until today – only 40 of them had been shared with others. The majority of the remainder are tagged onto work days, chasing trains weighed down with commuting collateral – while a very few fired the guilt trigger and had me yomping around local lanes feeling more miserable that worthy.

Today failed to deliver any promising portents. Cold, grey and wet. Chance of dampness in the air, lots of it already on the ground. 8am start, 80k plugged into Jezz’s GPS and an Al mentally porpoising between fear and boredom. The really bloody annoying thing was not just that I enjoyed it, but rather I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Cotswold Road Ride Cotswold Road Ride

Some reasons; Jezz – who is properly fit and fast – generously refused to roast me over the tarmac spit with a maximum attack from the first minute. The lack of rucksack, darkness, desperation to make a train/get home removed any real reason to whinge. A route winding pleasantly thought the Cotswolds, without climbing over any monstrous hills, made for looking around rather than looking for a spare lung.

But mainly it was not being solo. If I’d ridden this on my own a finish would be doubtful, excuses and early baleouts almost guaranteed. Which is pretty much how Billy-no-mates MTB rides end as well. Arguably You could even argue that road riding is more social on traffic free roads and without the standard straining Malvern Gurn in place.

For balance, important to state quite clearly it’s not as good as Mountain Biking. But it was today when off road trails would have been a muddy horror show. I learned some things as well: “How to trim my big ring” which I’d always assumed was some lycra-creepy initiation ceremony. And – even being a roadie novice – the art of drafting came easily to a man for whom cheating is a life skill.

First 20k were fine, second not so bad. Break for coffee and food was welcome, certainly more welcome than next 20k which dragged a little on less fun roads marked by traffic and gradients. Last 20k was surprisingly painless even with tiring legs and ice cold feet. Descending on twisty roads was friskier than I expected, and even some of the climbing felt kind of nice.

Don’t worry tho; the dark side shall not claim me. Chunky winter boots, flappy clothing and an absolute refusal to stay-press my willy in an orgy of lycra categorised me perfectly. I’m a Mountain Biker who will ride anything rather than not ride at all. Having said all that, a nice 100k out to Broadway is planned for next month, and I find myself looking forward to it.

Best hide the razor.

The hardest month

Wet Wibble

Or, February – it’s a proper bastard. Aside from a few over-medicated nutjobs, there is a collective and plaintive whinge from the cycling community come November. Too cold, too dark, too bloody miserable to ride, too much effort for too little gain. Too much kit, too much washing, hit the hibernate button and wake me in Spring.

I am one of the over-medicated nutters. Although individual rides may trigger mad delusions that my life had ended only to be reincarnated as a dolphin, the collective revolution of a million* moist pedal strokes leaves Al’s world sunny side up.

Not that much of that sun is going on outside. Which brings me back to why February can only be conquered through gritted teeth, and the vague promise of something better soon.

November is fine, really. Some ace riding on still dry trails, bits of the commute lack benightment, still time for a trip away or two. December can go either way, but dicking about in the snow is the only Christmas present that makes you feel ten years old again.

And while the road bike is tending to the grim, it’s worth it for the looks on the be-suited faces of people not quite like you. Short month as well, before the excesses of a holiday period where getting out is the pefect release valve for being stuck inside with relatives who are not obsessed by cycling. Honestly, what’s wrong with these people?

January is brutal. Always cold, not much light, the misery on the faces of those swapping pasties for lentils. A spike in the number of off road riders spotted spluttering up the hills early Sunday morning. It is always like this – when the year turns – and it never lasts.

February tho, you feel cheated. Daffodils break through the winter crust, white ice is replaced by snowdrops of the same colour, occasional bright and warm days are snatched away by freezing easterlies and bands of spiteful rain. And you know it might snow again, which gets old so damn quickly and sends you back indoors in a grump.

Having missed a couple of rides already, my last commute was powered from a position of weather forecast denial. 6am in the wind and the wet confirmed the tea-leaf readers actually had it about right. After drying out at the office, the train home provided a further opportunity to view the hard rain slashing at the windows.

Wet weather gear is fantastic, but the problem is that it does not wateproof your brain. It’s a struggle sometimes to install the “it’ll all be alright in a few minutes” template as everyone else is rushing for their cars.

No choice but to get on with it. Displacement strategies include marvelling at how damn fab this is going to be in the light and warmth, calculating savings over the easy-drive option and wondering if hitting something is the right approach, as road bike brakes have a “work to rule” clause in the pissing rain.

Arriving home, you signal to the family that – contrary to all appearances – you are not an avenging swamp monster in control of an epic storm. Accept you’ve lost a bike and acquired a wheeled shed, peel off layers of dampness and hurry into the light.

Then do the same again on the Mountain bike the next night. The mud is up, the grip is down, the brakes are so much better but tyres – slicked by slushy crap – offers them nothing to work with. A dirty brown protest marks your rucksack, crack and back, but two hours of this beats an inside job with the TV.

So it’s time for a change. No more low-rent, truculent light mocking your motivation. Spring has to crank the season-ratchet and turn up the sun. What do we want?Double digit temperatures, more light that dark, sunshine and no snow“, When do we want it?RIGHT NOW”.

Maybe I’ll get some posters made up.

* well possibly not that many. But close enough if my not insignificant investment in bottom brackets is anything to go by.

Danger of Death

H'mm shiny

As a man who has been categorised as “unsafe at any speed“, I’ve always viewed wheels as an accessory to murder. If one irresponsibly rotates them to terminal velocity, then their part in the ensuing accident can be robustly defended by the claim that no other choice was available.

But it seems I was wrong. In a three card trick where parts are shuffled between my extensive bicycle collection, woger has lost a bit of rotating mass and gained a set of gear ratios chosen specifically to prolong my knee joints. This has been facilitated by Mr Plastic-Fantastic – the hibernated horizon foreshortening road bike – receiving a late Christmas pimping of some Italian loveliness.

Although having read the instructions* I was more than a little geographically confused. Because not only had Health and Safety gone mad, it had taken over the asylum. And yet rather than the product origin being some European Nanny State or our litigious colonial cousins, these revolutionary lovelies have apparently been hand crafted on the thighs of an Italian virgin**

Let me summarise the multi-lingual sheet accompanying what – after we’ve waded through the marketing nonsense trumpeting innovative spoke design and juxtaposed nipple alignment – are nothing more dangerous that something first installed on an ox-cart. If you fit a tyre that is too big, YOU WILL DIE, if you fit a tyre that is too small YOU WILL DIE, if the cassette is not precision installed by a 3rd generation mechanic steeped in bicycle law THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT YOU SHALL DIE.

Incorrectly inflated inner tubes? CERTAIN DEATH. Rider over 82kgs (I’m not too many pies short) LUCKY TO MAKE IT ONTO THE ROAD. Under 82s? Might survive until the END OF THE DAY. Riding at Night? Put your affairs in order, YOU ARE TOAST. I could go on as the instructions did, but instead let me share with you the comedy catch all which suffixed the death threats “And if you die – as you inevitably will – don’t try blaming us for any manufacturing fault known, unknown or hushed up to get the product out, as we’ve got lawyers crossed with Rotweillers'”

Nice. So it seems that I have not in fact purchased some fast riding wheels for summer jaunts to far off places, nope what we have here are weapons of mass rotation. Best thing would be to hide the box underground and hope they don’t blow up the neighbourhood because “you looked at them in a funny way. Don’t call us, see note re: Lawyers

Light tho. Didn’t think there was anything in the box. In fact the weightiest item by far were the YOU WILL DIE instructions in nine different languages and signed for the blind. Somewhere hidden was the procedure for correct fitment but frankly I was so terrified by this time, I just went with my standard tongue out, hammer handed approach to percussion engineering.

And before unfair and hurtful accusations of wanton spending to no good effect, let me explain this is all part of my wider strategy. That’s what I am calling it anyway as “Internet Magpie Geekery” sounds a bit lame. Sure I’ve spent about£5*** on essential components absolutely necessary for me to commute by bike/possibly die by my own wheel, while slimming down the bike fleet by a significant one.

Come Tuesday, the Pace goes. To a man who really wants it and shall probably ride it more than the three times I managed last year. Of course the second it’s gone, every other bike will fail in some spectacular way, and I’ll be left wondering if strategy is clever anagram of stupidity. Already there is talk of a DH day at Cwmcarn which I’ll probably undertake/die on my faithful old hardtail, and – even more worryingly – of the tiny fleet of five bikes remaining, two of them are entirely configured for the road.

That’s not a strategy, that’s heading off towards lunacy and accelerating. I think we all know what might happen next 🙂

* There’s always a first time. It won’t happen again. No highlighting of most expensive parts to adjust with a hammer. Useless.

** Assuming they could find one.

*** Hi Carol 🙂

Politeness costs nothing.

Roadrat on the train

So it is said, but – as with many such proclamations – it is nothing more than a anodyne lie. Certainly for the lazy, the graceless, the empathy-voids and the arrogant even the lowest common denominator of human decency seems to be beyond them.

I find in any situation where such an arse is being an arse, the most satisfying solution is some form of petty revenge. Sure it lacks a high minded ‘turning the other cheek‘ response and scores not at all in persuasive education, but it’s a whole lot of fun.

That picture represents London Midland’s concession to bicycles, baby buggies and wheel chairs. Not all at the same time obviously with it being such a spiteful little space. Somehow during high summer, we crack the code to sequence up to six bikes in there which – as an added bonus – prevents the fat ticket inspector getting through, and traps any poor soul whose dived into the loo while carriage re-alignment was under way.

And it’s done generally in good humour and a “to me, to you” kind of way with layers unpeeled based on exit station. Sure there are occasional flash points when a rusty pedal gouges out a man sized chunk of prized carbon chainstay, but generally it just works because everyone is polite and helpful.

Come winter, it’s just me. Except occasionally some random spod cruises up with some worthless nasty which is carelessly thrown into the space from the next carriage. Tonight a man with a supercilious expression supported by a tweed jacket really broke all the unwritten rules.

Firstly he showed no interest in my destination, second he shoved his bike roughly against mine failing – or not caring – to notice his horrid bar end was repeatedly beating my expensive Exposure Light. Thirdly he showed no contrition when this was pointed out, instead continuing to mine his bike into some kind of stable position. Fourth he knobbed off into some unspecified carriage leaving me to shift his bike some two stops down the line.

I did shift it. But not before I’d sabotaged it. Both tyres, down to about 5 psi, the guilty air sizzling loudly in the now almost empty carriage. I would have nicked his pump as well, if he’d had one. The only other occupant was staring, pointing and giggling as I reduced his future mobility to pushing.

“What if he notices?” she asked looking slightly concerned “Oh tell him I did it, and that I travel on this train at least twice a week if he’d like to discuss it“. I didn’t add that any such discussion would start and end with “Well I hope a walk home in the wind and pissing rain taught you a lesson eh? And if it didn’t, no worries it kept me amused for a few hours

On reflection, both tyres may not have been a proportional response. I think it was the tweed jacket that pushed me over the edge.

Blown out.

Finally my experimental* nutrional approach to create a God Like cycling persona is paying off. This morning me and Wog completed the inbound commute a massive 15% quicker than the one only three days previous.

I’m going to be RICH. That kind of performance improvement is only normally available to those nose down in a bag of Bolivian Marching Powder. People will be flocking to my door demanding I furnish them with a Bacon Butty and a bill for a thousand pounds.

As I was contemplating the myriad ways to spend my impending windfall, I couldn’t help noticing that “Wind” and “Fall” seemed to be playing merry havoc with the trees. Bent almost double under the power of an Autumn gale, it would seem my velocity gains may be horribly reversed come home time.

I was going to write some more but then realised I aleady had some time ago

Instead, let me share a quote from our train driver this morning: “I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen about the late running of this service. Railtrack appear to have been surprised by Autumn, and we are operating at restricted speed so we don’t pass through our next scheduled stop at 40mph”

Apparently the train operating company has a£1m leaf cleaning machine. This was not in evidence, although two blokes in high viz jackets alighted at Worcester carrying a pair of petrol leaf blowers.

If they’re available during the return journey, I’ll nick ’em and strap ’em to the frame to create a poor man’s rocket-bike. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again “What could possibly go wrong?”

* Beer, Wine, Bacon Sandwiches, Pringles, Occasional lettuce.

Woger Wog!

Woger and out!

Shonky phone pic showing the end of the first commute. Proper pea-souper it was this morning which pushed any thoughts of how the bike rode behind “where the bloody hell is the road then?”

However, some implications of swapping from the Angel-Delight Boardman to the Iron-Bru Ribble are apparent. Firstly, a combination of a couple of kg weight difference and that insanely small rear cassette will likely be Making a Man of Me.

Or possibly an Internet Shopper looking to purchase a cassette with more teeth to make up for my less leg. Failing that, would a MTB block look out of place?

Mudguards are ace. Official. The hiss of road moistness being diverted down the shallow silver culvert is really quite gratifying. As are dry feet, and a bike the same colour at the end of the journey as the start.

The tyres are clearly remoulds from a Russian tractor and the saddle appears to be more in the Testicle “lift and separate” mould than providing much comfort for my arse, but otherwise we’re good to go for Winter.

With the caveat that the big climb at the end of the ride home can be dispatched without whimpering or walking.