Saturday, 14 November 2015

Winter riding

Despite not getting around to putting my mudguards back on yet I'm starting to get weirdly excited about riding this winter.

Emma is back from the bike shop with new cables so for the first time since August I will have most of my gears back.  I have enough winter kit -well nearly enough- I've asked Santa for windproof dwr bib tights. I can cope with the conditions. I can do either windproof and warm, or rainy. I have a thick soft shell for very cold weather and a thinner one for most weather. In short I feel prepared. Weatherproof gloves, shoe covers, tights,  bright lights. 

I'll fit the mudguards and plan some winter routes that allow for slower slightly longer distances, some hill climbing but less fast descents. In short I hope that come Late Feb when I have a hilly sportive planned I'll be in better shape than last year. 

I'm hoping regular yoga, running and either swimming or weights will help. We'll see. I might be more stressed by work than I've ever been but I'm happier and healthier than before. I'll review all the kit as I go throughout the winter. 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Alienation and your local bike shop

Difficult to believe but just because somebody works in a bike shop it doesn't mean they know a lot about bikes.

I try whenever I can to buy at my local bike shop. I've blogged about it in the past. Sometimes you don't need that part that you've been researching online and whatever is in stock at you local bike shop (LBS) is going to be just fine. My saddle, stem, seatpost and wheels were all bought online after extensive research. My headset, bottle cages, tyres, cables and saddle pack were all bought at an LBS after taking their advice. Absolutely happy with all the above items. I've even bought online and contacted my LBS for fitting costs... And happily swallowed them because labour and skills cost money.

I took Emma in to my LBS to get the parts that had worn out in spectacular fashion last week replaced. The chain was measured...

"You replaced that in June"
"Oh. Have you thought about replacing the groupset?"
"Yes, but not before Christmas. I thought maybe before spring though."
"Well 10 speed is fine but you'd need new wheels for 11..."
"No. There's a spacer fitted by you to run the 9 speed. "

Then he went on to tell me that 105 is 10 speed and tiagra is old but probably what I should fit to a
Bike like mine. Wrong on point 1 and the 2nd is subjective.

I'm not going to name the bike shop because I know full well that if the owner had not been busy trying to serve a tricky customer then he would have called him out on some of this. All I suppose I'm saying is that like many things, the right choice is subjective. If I'd been sold the Claud Butler alu road bike I'd gone into Evans to buy in 2003 I'd have ridden that for LEJOG. As it was I got a specialized commuter that I replaced with Emma in 2011. Ironically that did end up working out for the best but at an extra cost of £600 to me.

Anyway. After assessing what needed to be done (and consulting with the owner) they did what I asked and Emma is waiting for pick up. I have 2 cycling mad friends who won't use my favourite bike shop because of past experiences. Assistants need to be a salesman where an excuse is needed and a solution when money is tight. I'll continue to patronise my LBS because I know Emma will come back to me better for the visit. I know the onsite mechanic loves her too. Just maybe not the floor staff.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

2015 as it nears the end

As we get towards the end of 2015 I can look back from a position I didn't expect to be in.

I signed up to do the Newcastle to London this year but dropped out after my partner asked me to. I wasn't prepared and it wouldn't have gone well. I did spend the year doing sportives for the first time. I did 4 this year totalling 300 miles riding at speed. This is something I intend to keep up and I've already booked my first for next year. Regularly pushing myself with a group of friends meant I went out most weeks and rode hard. On my own.

I didn't do another triathlon. After the broken foot I was scared to. But I'll be back and I already have a duathlon booked for the end of next year.

I've lost weight through the regular exercise and I've done almost as much yoga as I have cycling. I've found the calm, intense, slow stretching and introspection good for improving both my physical and mental flexibility and resilience.

I didn't buy a new bike. Emma is still going strong although she has a few new parts. Some of the remaining original parts have got to be replaced after last weeks adventures.

I now work in a different field for different people at a different organisation. 12 years at Lewisham and now 6 months in a new job.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

A lovely day out

I don't get to ride with Jonny very often and this day out had been planned for a couple of months. Quite simply I was going to ride up to his, have a cup of tea with the family, go for a ride, pub lunch and back. 

Inauspiciously I had been out to Camden to enjoy all that Camden had to offer the previous night. For those of you that don't know, Camden mostly offers loud music, greasy food and beer. I may not have been in peak physical form at the point of departure. 

To get to Jonny's house I have to climb out of Stoke Newington up the Holloway Road, and up through Highgate. The first 3 miles are mostly climbing. 

At mile 4 a horrible crunching noise preceded my bike changing itself into top gear. My rear derailleur cable had snapped. 

Never one to let a problem like only having 2 gears get in the way of a nice day out I carried on. The thinking was that I'd bodge it into a medium gear at Jonny's and just get on with riding. 

At Jonny's after a brief respite for cheese on toast and tea I preceded to discover that there was nothing to be done about the gearing. I'd got 2 gears (50x11 and 34x11) and I was 13 km from home. 

Not ideal but I'd survive if there wasn't too much climbing. There were 2 large hills at the beginning and then a few flat miles and shallow swooping descents. By the time we reached the pub there was a loud grinding noise from chain rub at the front derailleur and a clattering as the chain loosely wove through the jockey wheels at the back. I checked the GPS. Another 14.6km done. 

We were at the edge of the M25 so I couldn't be too far from home. 

We looked into the pub. Mostly Middle-Aged, tweed-wearing and definitely not in sweaty Lycra. We sat outside until Debs and A arrived. 

A pleasant lunch with some fine ale followed. The sitting changes and more families arrived. We felt just about OK in Lycra. 

By the time we left the pub, the evening was drawing in. I'd only got prescription sunglasses with me and I realised as it got progressively darker that I'd need to lose them shortly. 

An improbably long descent followed. I must really check how it's possible, but the journey from the pub right back to my house had 2 short climbs. The rest I did in the larger (and less noisy) gear. All 23.5 kms. 

All told, an improbably sunny day and fine riding despite the odds being against us. I'd always wondered how people managed to do long rides like the Dunwich Dynamo on a singlespeed and I think the answer is simply psychological. When I started riding I always worried that I didn't have enough low gears. I don;t worry about that so much now. Some hills are just too steep and long for me to manage, but very few these days. The question is "Can I do this?" not "Should I?" or "Do I want to?"