Sunday, December 31, 2017

Hopes and Aspirations for 2018

It is important that I write this NOW!

If I don't and the new year commences then some how it will lose its personal impact

2017 was salutatory in a way for my cycling as I realised, and now accept, that age was catching up and powers were beginning to ebb away

I have always loved numbers since I was a toddler and still remember the time I was a choir boy and used to factorise the hymn numbers and check them for primality during the vicar's sermon.

Having targets also motivates me and gives me enjoyment as I can then play around with the streams of personal cycling data that Garmin produces

So here are my ambitions and hopes for 2018

1.  To cycle between 1450 and 4000 km

2. To cycle regularly with the Derby Mercury Veterans and Friends on their mid week rides

3. To join, if only for half the trip, on some of the Derby Mercury All Inclusive Social Rides

4. To complete the entire Mercury 80th Anniversary Ride even if I have to do it solo

5. To get to Harrogate, cycle and visit Betty's Tea Shop before end of May.

6. To use Belisha Brompton and explore further afield using the train and my Senior RailCard

7. To just enjoy being out on a bike

If I manage 80% of that then I will deem the year to have been a success

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Review of the Year 2017

Well let us get the basic statistics out of the way first.

Total distance cycled = 6295 km
Total Ascent   = 47712 m

all encompassed in 173 rides

These are massively down on last years efforts but I still managed to achieve my Annuity Target

I could claim excuses for these figures such as bad weather and a prolonged period of family illness but the real baseline reason I fear is that age is catching up.

Never the less this has been a really enjoyable cycling year and illuminated by two main adventure streams.

The first of these was my Great Railway Journeys and the second was my participation in the Derby Mercury All Inclusive Social Rides.

My wife tells me that like most men I never really grew up and that I am basically a little boy at heart. And when I was a little boy I loved nothing better than Train Spotting and riding on steam powered trains. Latterly there has been a resurgence in Preserved Railway Lines and this last year I decided to make day trips on my Mercian and visit a few of the ones local to us, with my sandwiches and chocolate bars packed in my saddle bag as I used to do so many years ago;  Great Railway Journeys Revisited.

The first trip was to Shackerstone on a wet and dreary morning but it brightened up and I arrived ready for cup of tea and a bit of train spotting.

Even though it was mid week the trains were operating and a steady stream of walkers and tourists meant that the Station Buffet was doing a roaring trade

I have to confess that have not been very adventurous in plotting the routes to these stations and in some cases the return journey was just a replica of the outward bound. But at ~100km per trip it was enough for an Old Age Pensioner

The second trip was to the Foxfield Railway

This was another thriving establishment and I must say that these Preservation Railways do remarkably good value for money in the food department

My third trip was to the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway. This involved much more climbing than is good for me as though the railway line is relatively flat , the terrain around Wirksworth is certainly not..

This was the only non-operating on the day railway I visited but my trusted packed lunch came to the rescue

My final one for this year was The Great Central Railway at Loughborough

and this had an excellent buffet bar

In terms of cycling enjoyment this was the most disappointing journey as I just relied upon RideWithGPS, loaded the route and went. I ended up pushing, then carrying, my bike across muddy fields and water filled ditches before it asked me to ride around Castle Donnington Motor Race this point I opted for Plan B and stopped at a local house and asked for help:-(

My second stream was my participation in the Mercury All Inclusive Social Rides. These were instigated to widen the participation of the membership by promoting rides at a much more modest pace and incorporating a coffee and cake stop.

I have reported on all these rides throughout the year and they were extremely successful regularly attracting over 35 riders drawn from those who do not normally ' compete ' in the weekend SpeedFest '.
It was not a very auspicious start with only 8 out of the original 36 riders making it around the designated route, and I was one of those who took a diversion to a local coffee shop and rode at a more leisurely pace. I was not alone...

and had the opportunity to come to the aid of a damsel in distress when Sasha discovered that puncture repair in arctic conditions was not her forte.

A selection of photos from some of the other Social Rides follows

Perhaps for me, the highlight of these trips was my 70th Birthday Celebration

I have really enjoyed my cycling year with Mercury and made to feel very welcome and the club has expanded and involved a wide range of ages and abilities

It became increasingly obvious though that as the year passed by, my ability to stay in touch ebbed away and whilst people waited for me I know that I am acting as a brake on proceedings. So, next year I must alter my approach to perhaps ride with a different group of Mercury Riders or just do a section of the Social Ride.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Derby Mercury All Inclusive Poppy Ride

For those who have been following my posts you may well recall my report on the first Mercury All Inclusive Social Ride , an event which attracted well over 30 riders of all ages and abilities. You may also recall that the leader, Dave B managed to set a world record for attrition with only 8 survivors making it grovelling to the finish line.

For the Poppy Remembrance Ride, once again over 35 riders gathered at Broadway for the  event.  This time though, due to the mud and freezing temperatures, there were two echelons, the Off Roaders and the Overlanders with the Touring Secretary Nigel C leading the Muddy Ones and Ian S leading the Road Warriors. Meticulous planning by our famed duo had arranged for the groups to intersect at various points along the route before finally all meeting up at the Queen's Head in Little Eaton for food and refreshment.

Sadly I have to report that only 2 riders managed to complete the designated route and neither of them were the ride leaders.

Indeed it was only the Lanterne Rouge, ( Lorraine and myself ) who did actually complete the journey.

And so a new Attrition World Record was set. Step Forward Nigel and Ian !

This ride was different to the other Social Rides in that there was a time cut off of 11-00 to reach the War Memorial at Weston Underwood

 but a delayed start, punctures, and the hills, ( oh those hills! ), meant that the Overlanders were always struggling to meet the target time. Indeed Mugginton Mountain with its conveniently placed graveyard on its summit managed to decimate the peleton and only a few survivors made it the top .

Withe the blustery wind, and temperatures trying valiantly to get into positive territory, refreshment and a warm welcome was urgently needed.

However the conditions must have been so severe that the Off Roaders could stand the conditions no more and took refuge at a hostelry in Holbrook rather than go to the designated meeting point.

Meanwhile the main peleton continued to splinter and the excuses for leaving the plan were both varied and creative. Julie thought her dog might be missing her, Ian claimed to have lost a son, Gill thought her daughter was in danger of getting cold whilst others had just given up the will to live.

And so, this was a Social Ride WITHOUT a cake stop !

Though in conclusion, someone managed to heartily refuel

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Brooks and Me

Women tell me that childbirth can be a painful experience ( but obviously nothing as bad as man flu which can be verified by talking to any man ) but once the act is accomplished then the pain is soon forgotten.  Well in the world of severe pain then breaking in a Brooks Pure Leather Saddle can come pretty close to suffering man flu.

I wrote about this Battling With Brooks just after  my birthday when I turned 65 and acquired my custom made dream bike, a Mercian Vincitore Special.

My first Brooks saddle , acquired when I started cycling at age 62, was a Brooks B17 Honey Leather Saddle with copper rivets and after 8 years and thousands of kilometers it has at last softened and acquired a very comfortable shape.

Like many cyclists I am aware of the saying that ' Weight Kills ' , especially when climbing, so the obvious conclusion is to lose weight.  This can be achieved by one of two ways, eat less cake or reduce the weight of the bikes components...being a Tea Shop Tourist type of cyclist the former was obviously out of the question and so component weight reduction was the only option.

And so I have acquired a Brooks Swift saddle with titanium rails.  Being narrower than the B17 and with the lighter support structure this seemed the obvious way forward.

BUT..I had forgotten the pain and suffering involved in breaking in the new saddle..indeed I am not sure that my life expectancy is long enough to achieve that task and so far all I have been able to achieve is a load of saddle sores :-(

However there is a very good reason for riding a bike with a Brooks saddle in that, if things get really tough, you can always eat it. To do so would not be entirely without precedent. Snowbound in California's Sierra Nevada mountains, the ill-fated wagon-train migrants of the Donner Party resorted to eating their leather clothing and bootlaces, before moving on to eat one another.
There are no known cases of cyclists dying from starvation, resorting to cannibalism, or even eating their leather saddles, yet hunger is a regular companion on any long distance bicycle journey.

So think then of those outlanders who next March will be attempting the Indian Pacific Wheel Race from Freemantle to Sydney Opera House, a distance of 5500 km and which will be completed solo and completely unsupported

Monday, September 25, 2017

Derby Mercury 79th Birthday Social Extravaganza

One of the real success stories of this cycling season at Derby Mercury has been the popularity of the Social Rides and the way they have attracted the less ' racing condition cyclists ' in the Club.  Starting off with a surprising turnout of over 35 riders on a cold, damp January Sunday morning, the rides have steadily increased their reach, and yesterday ' The Birthday Ride' attracted over 100 participants.
To make these rides truly inclusive there are 3 options

a)  a 79 mile  ride for the fit and fast

b) a 79 km ride for those who like to chat and eat cake

c) a 79 furlong ride for the Mercury Future Stars

The whole experience is topped off by a BBQ back at ride HQ, and, for those lucky enough to have chosen a seat at John's table, a slice of the most sumptuous Orange Chocolate Cake

The Fast Boys left early and blasted off into the Peak District and I did not see them again until they stormed past me in a blur of blue and the whirring sound of deep rimmed wheels through Sudbury on their return journey.

The Social Group comprised riders covering an age range from 10 years to 70+ years with an equally wide range of fitness and capability and snaked their way to the coffee stop at Denstone Hall

 where we turned the place into a sea of blue.

Refuelling is a serious business and a lot of thought needs to be given to the correct nutritionally food

Though the cyclists around the tables seemed highly satisfied with their choices

Meanwhile the Mercury Future Stars , along with their support staff,  had made their way to Elvaston

but with the excess energy of youth, burned some of it off on an assault course

before returning for burgers and cake.

It was a great day in the saddle, the weather was kind and the organization great

Thank you to all.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Derby Mercury RC All Inclusive Social Picnic Ride

I was told that ' The Picnic Ride ' used to be an institution within Derby Mercury but had not been held for a I thought I would see if I could revive it.

The aim was to make it truly ' All Inclusive '  from youngsters up to Old Age Pensioners like myself, and, as an addition hold the picnic at a place where mothers with babes in arms could also easily reach. And so I chose as the Picnic Destination, the Tara Centre at Etwall, a place with spacious grounds and, if some weight weenies decided not to carry their own food,  a good cafe serving all the essential nutrition that a cyclist could want.

I chose three routes:

a) a 12km ride along traffic free greenways which Nick offered to lead.
b) a 45 km tortoise ride at around 20kph which I would lead
c) an indeterminate fast route for the road warriors

In addition there was a further option

d) a car ride with a free car park at the  Tara Centre.

In the event there were a lot of good things that came out of this ride and it is difficult to choose the best one.

We did manage to attract around 40+ people to the picnic and the main peleton certainly managed to span the entire age range with the youngsters especially impressive on the racing hill climbs. Mums and OAPs took a more ' measured ' approach to these mountains but one of the seasoned cyclists always went with them to ensure safety.

No one got dropped and Neville very kindly acted as Lanterne Rouge and mechanic though his only maintenance task was to fix a couple of dropped chains and rescue a flying water bottle.
The good thing about being ride leader was that I could set the pace; the bad thing was that I was always head into the wind.

 Being at least 20 years older than any other rider I always worry that my tortoise pace for them ( race speed for me!! ) is spoiling the ride for others but no-one complained.
Another great thing about the ride was that we attracted some new people to group rides who were tempted by the short distance ( 45km to the picnic and 20km back to the start point ) and so felt confident to bring their children along too.

It also turned out to be a family event as mothers and toddlers did join us and the Divas were out in force

as well as some of  the seasoned cyclists

It was good to see a mixture of current and future cyclists

All in all a good day out...and as I had ordered a good sunny day that made it even better.

Thanks to everyone who came and kept me company

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Belisha Goes Exploring

The vast majority of my cycling is done on my Mercian and my Giant...however I do have another bike, a Brompton the colour of a Belisha Beacon.  I acquired this from one of my sons who had originally bought it to commute to work in London but decided he preferred a ' proper' bike. He is also very safety conscious and wanted to be clearly seen..hence the colour.
My idea was to use it for local errands and, more importantly, to explore distant lands outwith the borders of Derbyshire. Take a train trip to exotic places and then ride and explore. This post is about one such trip.

Now many people would not think of  Stoke-on-Trent as being exotic but it is situated on the Trent and Mersey Canal and so has cycle routes to some local places.

Being an Old Age Pensioner and having purchased a Senior Citizens Railcard getting to places is quite affordable and so I set off from Derby to Stoke with Belisha

The canal path is adjacent to the railway station and so soon I was on my way and it was not long before I saw a symbol of this area's historic heritage and why the area is known as ' The Potteries '

The Bottle Kilns were common in this area and , firstly the canals, and later the railways, were used to transport clay in and goods out.

Moving all this stuff is hard work and so to assist small wagons were built and a selection of them have now been converted for use as seats where people can rest and watch the world go by.

Once out of the city and into the countryside the scenery gets greener and one soon encounters some of the many canal boats which still use this waterway.

These waterways also act as a great haven for wildlife as both the heron and I enjoyed the tranquil surroundings

After about 15 km I approached my destination

The canal path was good for cycling, the only real problem being the tree roots disturbing the surface making for a bumpy ride in parts

and then it was time to stop for coffee

The return journey meant just retracing my steps but the weather turned to biblical proportions with thunder, lightening and torrential rain so no stops for photographs. Indeed the weather only relented once I had reached the shelter of Stoke Railway Station but I did not let the weather dampen my spirits and now I am planning my next trip out with Belisha.