Monday, December 31, 2012

Have I Offended the Cycling Gods?

I have been off the bike for about 9 days, a combination of holiday travelling and awful weather. However, whilst away I was very busy playing with my  four grandchildren who range from nearly 2 up to 4 and a bit. This crowd seems to have immense stores of energy which is never exhausted when there is someone to play with them.

 Naturally I assumed that all this playing would not only make up for my lack of cycling, but further, the calories used up in playing would more than compensate for the vast amount of mincepies I have consumed.

I was wrong.

Very wrong.

Weight has hit a peak for the year, and with Ride London100 on the horizon something must be done.

So today I ignored my wife's warnings about the weather, ( does she think I am a wimp?? ) and set off for a short tour of the Derbyshire lanes.  I thought at first  perhaps the brakes must be in need of adjustment my speed was so slow, but the bending trees, the cavorting rubbish, inside out umbrellas made me realize that this trip and cycling into a gale force headwind would be no picnic.  The rest of our OAP peleton had wisely stayed at home so this would be a solo Monday Meander. And then the rains began. Noah must have felt like this when he decided to build an ark. My plan was to explore the newly constructed cycle path at Marston on Dove, but today Marston under Dove would have been a better title. Fortunately the flood water was not deep enough to submerge my bottom bracket but the distance was long enough that I had to do a fair amount of pedalling and I was glad of the overshoes.
With the hills and rivers now behind me I was hoping for a smooth run home and perhaps a bit of tail wind but it was not to be. A few miles further on whilst sympathising with the water sodden sheep now visible since the farmer cut his hedges I got a puncture in my new ( and very inflexible ) rear tyre. .Removing the inner tube was quite straightforward even with cold, soaking wet hands but removing the long thorn took a further 20 minutes despite my imprecations for help from the Almighty. New tube in, back wheel re-installed, all that remained was to just pump it up..which was when my get me home pump broke..into lots of bits which flew off into the thick undergrowth.

And so I had to call for the Broom Wagon

Told you you shouldn't go out in this weather. You are mad.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

An OAP's Aspirations for 2013

It is that time of the year when I need to give thought to my cycling aspirations for the coming year and I will try and be realistic.

The main goal will be to cycle a minimum of 2240km, in line with my annuity target ( see last post for an explanation of this ) though I hope to complete 5000km.  This will be the bedrock of my year and if achieved then many of the remaining targets will nearly automatically fall into place.

The overriding event for 2013 will be the  Ride London100 on 4.August where my son and I, travelling as Team Roberts, will attempt to cover the Olympic Road Race Course and raise money in aid of the mental health charity Mind. This will be a huge undertaking for me, travelling further and faster than I have ever done before. If you would like to support us, and in the process obtain a copy of * Cycling Food on the Go- recipes for success * then you can donate at our Virgin site

One of the great things about cycling is the people you meet and the friends that you make. Last year I combined this with exploring new parts of the country and I hope to do the same this coming year. One such challenge is to travel around Rutland Water and I have discovered that there are a couple of routes, the Giant 365,  which will not only allow me to explore some beautiful scenery but, at 100km and 160km, provide excellent training rides for the London adventure. Via twitter I have met a man, Kevin, who lives around that area and who has offered to join me on these trips and so hopefully I will have a local guide. The only thing I will need to watch is that he is much younger than me and I learnt last year, in a painful and exhausting way, that the definition of  *sedate cycling * is a very personal thing!

Since reading about people's  cycling adventures I have been enthused with the idea of touring, nothing dramatic mind, more a few days to explore more deeply a different region. To-date, my aspirations have remained just that, but since I mentioned this in an earlier post, +Trevor Woodford , a highly experienced cyclist has offered to go on a short tour with me. He is much hardier than me and carries tents and stuff on his bike whereas I am more thinking of credit card touring, but perhaps the two can be combined. I have enough trouble moving my own weight never mind increasing the load dramatically!

Like many people I suspect, I hate climbing hills. It can hurt. It can hurt a lot. And as Greg Henderson said, " Hills never get easier, you just get faster ". However I do have to admit that the sense of satisfaction of reaching the top of a gruelling climb and being rewarded with the stunning views can make the effort worthwhile. I am too old now to do no more than dream about the iconic climbs in the Alps and Pyranees, but we do have some of our own iconic climbs much closer to home. One such is Mow Cop and whilst the Killer Mile may be beyond me there are alternative ascents and Mark, who has taken me on other rides in that region has offered to be my domestique on this ascent.

And that will do. You will be able to follow my progress by visiting this blog and also read about the other things I see and do in my cycling year.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Review of the Year

I love numbers

As such I tend to set myself targets, create spreadsheets to monitor progress and scour articles about gear ratios, rotational mass, power to weight ratios and other arcane things.  Needless to say, none of this affects my personal performance and I potter along as before.As a result of all this my favourite essential cycling accessory is probably my Garmin 800 which provides loads of data to keep me out of mischief for hours.
Having taken up cycling only recently, about 5 years ago now, and being an old age pensioner, I do have to accept that my ability on a bike is only going to go one way...downwards.
The act of retiring, and the receipt of a pension,  gives one a crystal clear perception of one's own mortality. The annuity bean counters make an estimate of one's life expectancy and payout accordingly, in my case they placed their bets on my lasting until I was 73 years old, anything beyond that then I am winning! My son tells me to be more optimistic and so for the purpose of target setting I assumed I would live until I was 80 years old. So, being a cycling novice I decided, at 60,  upon a distance target of 2000 miles ( 3200 km ) a year with the aim of reducing this by 100 miles per year to allow for growing infirmity. This then acts as the main yearly goal and for this year that translates into a minimum distance of  2400 km or  1500 miles .
Having so far ridden 7030 km and climbed over 50000m  then this first target has been achieved.

My second aim was to explore more of our countryside on my bike. Here I count this as a partial success. I have been invited to join in with other cycling groups in Cheshire, Shifnall, Leicester and a lung busting ride in Derbyshire. At all the places I have made new friends and been  made exceedingly welcome despite them all having to travel at a much slower pace than they are used to in order to accommodate me. Thanks go to Mark, Andrew, David and Scott for letting me tag along on  their rides. I was hoping to do a short cycle tour but in this I failed, not wanting to cycle alone and being unable to find others who had the same desire.

One of the main reasons for being wary of cycle touring was my lack of ability as a bike mechanic and a fear of  breaking down in the middle of nowhere. During the year I have tried to address this deficiency and regular readers will have seen my efforts as a Novice Bike Mechanic.

Not having been a lifelong cyclist, I do not possess the fund of stories of the trials and tribulations of times past when all the hills were steeper, the wind was windier, the rain was  wetter and carbon was a thing confined to pencils. Indeed climatic and geographical change seems to have happened in the 40 years prior to my getting on a bike!  One of the things I did learn from these tales of yore was that "Steel is Forever "and that Mercians were the Prince of Cycles. And so the highlight of my year was in obtaining my own handmade, personally fitted Mercian Vincitore Special on my 65th birthday in March. This is an example of engineering beauty and excellence and draws spectators wherever I go.

As my interest in cycling has grown I have become aware of the competitive side to this sport. Whilst I am now too old to take part,  I have enjoyed watching the sleek riders on their aerodynamic machines as they compete in local Time Trials, probably the purest form of cycle racing. At the other end of the spectrum I have revelled in the mud spattered and bedraggled riders as they attempt the Cyclo Cross challenges that our  autumn and winter can throw at them. Muffled up against the driving wind and rain I am glad that I AM now too old to participate in this peculiar form of personal pain.

Perhaps my greatest achievement this year was to undertake Wiggy's Challenge. Wiggy was an excellent and enthusiastic cyclist who for a variety of reasons had fallen into the state of becoming a " Lapsed Cyclist ". His challenge was to resolve this problem by undertaking to ride every single day for a week and he asked others to join him on this venture and share their experiences. I wrote an article about this and as a result of the Challenge I have encouraged many others to get on their abandoned bikes and ride again. It mattered not how far, how fast or how often; the important thing was to cycle again and experience the joy and companionship such an activity can bring. So far I know of about two dozen people who have returned to cycling from me telling them this story.

Finally, this year I learnt something about the importance of nutrition to a cyclist. Whilst there are many tomes written about this and experts a plenty; at my level I have discovered it is all about CAKE. Being the generous sort of guy that I am, I wanted to share this knowledge with others and so have produced a little pdf booklet  entitled " Cycling Food on the Go  - Recipes for Success ". If you would like a copy you can get it from :-