christmas cycling

christmas cycling

Something has happened to Christmas.  Not commercialism, nor loss of its true meaning (that happened in the 4th Century AD when the Christians hijacked various Pagans’ Winter Solstice festivals).  No Christmas has changed because of the rapha.cc/feature/festive-500 on www.strava.com/.

Everyone is cycling.  Every day between Christmas and New Year.  Trying to rack up a cold, wintry 500 km.

Christmas used to be incarceration by family, with no escape as friends were similarly imprisoned, seemingly for the full 12 days of Christmas.  This year, everyday there’s been rides with organised or available for the riding with good mates (or with someone you vaguely know on the cycle club’s WhatsApp).  Even on Christmas Day (if you wanted/needed one).

Only Daley Thompson used to train on Christmas Day!

Winter cycling kit has been tested to the extreme.  Motivation is equally tested by an increase in punctures from dirty winter roads.

Starting with Hurricane Barbara, the weather systems have thrown everything at festive cyclists:  rain, wind, sub-zero temperatures, deep fog and stunning early morning sunrises (it may be Christmas but seasonal goodwill does not extend far enough to grant cycle-passes outside of the statutory hours of 7-11am).

It would’ve been great to stop for a photo but the riding has been fat, fast and suburban (to keep clear of rural ice roads), no time to stop for snaps.  The energy burn has been high too, as fast as the turkey and spuds are shovelled in they’re burnt off the next morning (that’s the theory, par is probably the best that can be hoped for).

Best Christmas ever!

(and I didn’t even sign up for the Festive 500).

(Photos courtesy of @kieranhc)

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testing times

testing times

I’m testing whether I can ride a bike again after my carpel tunnel operation.  It’s interesting (if it wasn’t so annoying) to consider how a small thing – like a great big incision just where the hand holds the bars – can destabilise the functioning of the rest of the body.

I will spare you the detail on what functions are impaired by temporary loss of use of a right hand other than to say riding a bike is one of them.  Not only do you grip your bars with your hands to steer (obvious 1 that) they also stop your 5kg head banging of your handlebars (assuming that your core isn’t super conditioned – mine neither).  A whole lot of your weight goes down through the palm of your hands and a whole lot of pain comes back up as you crash over another pothole.

Then there’s the starting off, keeping the bars straight as you stamp down on the pedals, accelerating away from the lights.  You can’t change gears easily or brake when the muscles in your hand have been severed.  Whilst I was listing out my exhaustive excuses not to cycle in the winter, a ‘good friend’ reminded me of Danny Crates, the 1 handed cyclist we rode with on Ride Across Britain – his only concession was to walk over cattle grids over the 960 mile journey.

So I shut up, which I think was my friends hope.

I’m back riding, out with some of the crew of the newly formed Kew Riverside Primary School CC.  Formed with the intent of completing the 1st Bicycle Moaning Collective Sponsored Rides for Schools of 2017.  They’ve chosen London to Bruges.  It feels good to be back out on the road, it feels good to be helping the new to riding riders, talking them through gear changes, road positioning, refuelling, new kit choices and telling them not to worry (as long as they train) about cycling 200 miles in 2 days.

It feels good to be introducing new riders to riding a bike – hoping that my bike-chat isn’t putting them off.

The Bicycle Moaning Collective have 3 more schools signed up for epic 24 hour rides in 2017.  That’s 4 new Cycling Clubs!  Covering off the distance to their respective destinations (Amsterdam, Paris, Paris from Henley & Marlow) is half the test.  Getting everyone up to pace (an average of 15mph), with the right kit and most importantly riding as a cohesive peloton the other.

The good news is that they’re already out training.  I’ve got some catching up to do.

stranger things have happened

stranger things have happened

I’ve called a lot of things wrong this year.  The unexpected has caught me out time and time again.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so shocked/surprised to get a puncture in the rear tyre of the bike currently doing Indoor Training service.

But come on – who has ever heard of an ‘indoor puncture’?!

It wasn’t caused by the rear tyre overheating, my wattage is mediocre at best.  Nor the usual pinch flat that my shoddy tyre changing skills are prone to.  The only evidence is a small pin-prick in the inner tube.

I don’t want to cast aspersions and as ashamed as I am to even think it, I can’t look past my 4 year old daughter as a likely culprit to test the pretty blue tyre with a pin.  She has form – previously dispatching a blow-up mattress with a BBQ fork just before bedtime whilst camping.

She’s the easiest target after all and I don’t want to risk accusing my wife, things would really blow up then.

What strange and unexpected events can we expect in 2017?  Trump brokers a lasting peace in the Middle East supported by his ally Putin?  Assuming that US Election isn’t declared null and void when Trump is revealed as a Russian ‘Sleeper Agent’ – a puppet of Putin.

Maybe the European Union disintegrates when a new Government in Germany – elected in reaction to Merkel’s open-door immigration policy – refuses to prop up the failing economies of Italy, Spain and Portugal (maybe that is not so strange/unexpected).

What kind of 2017 do we want/need?  Dull and predictable or for the crazy to continue?  I’m not making any predictions (except that Chris Froome will win his 4th Tour de France – assuming Team Sky isn’t kicked out of the World Tour for TUE abuse).

sweat out Brexit

sweat out Brexit

I’m loving indoor training.  I get it. It’s my new favourite evening (in).  A cycling variation on Netflix & Chill.  Just sweatier. For 1.

Netflix & Spin.

It’s OK to change your mind.

Select interval training program, clip in and sweat.  I’ve always loved a good sweat – somehow cleansing.  This is sweating of a different magnitude – puddle on the floor sweating, I’m considering wearing a McEnroe-esque head band.  Just considering, I’m not there yet.

It helps that I can overlay a box-set on to the trainer control panel, positioning it over the ever slow ‘time to go’.  An episode (or 2) of Vikings later (I’m fully up to speed on Game of Thrones) and with total mileage spun loaded up to Strava.com, keeping the annual mileage ticking up – it’s an hour well spent.

I admit I was wrong about indoor training.  I’m not going to stop now even though my hand is healing and ready to get back on the road.  As I mop the floor, I ask myself what else might I be wrong about?

Might I be wrong about BREXIT?  What if…

Britain is a trailblazer (BREXITEERS would love that), the sparks of the EXITEER-movement shows signs of catching alight in Continental Europe.  Amongst the post-truth hysteria there are some incontrovertible truths.

  • The EU is a project that needs a reboot for our times. A post war concept born out of disaster it has served to preserve peace for 70 years.  But nothing lasts forever.  European Federalism looks tired and outdated.
  • Globalisation needs the brakes applied. Globalisation is super-efficiency, super-low-cost, super-I-want-it-now.  Is it worth it?  Are the jobs lost making jeans in the UK* to 3rd World Sweatshop using child labour worth it?  Globalisation isn’t by the people for the people.  The Globalisation we have allowed is for the ever-demanding consumer by the stateless corporations.**
  • Political and Civil Bureaucracy needs trimming a back. Central Governments are weighed down by unnecessary self-fulfilling bureaucracy that has lost sight of its original purpose.  The gravy train is running at full speed, no one can jump off (even if they wanted to), it’s impossible to get on.  Maybe it’s time to drain the swamp.  Just not if it’s to build a parking lot (that’s not progress).

We don’t need the same-old capitalism, liberalism, socialism (see above outdated project needing a re-boot), we can’t turn back the clock but we can work out a new modern international dynamism.

I hope the UK can be at the vanguard, sweat out the clowns (boris, farage, rees-mogg) and show the right way through smart thinking, hard work, no cutting corners.***

*Substitute with any Developed World country

** http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/12/05/mark-carney-warns-first-lost-decade-150-years-brands-eurozone/

*** I’m not convinced we’re heading in this direction.

stop to go forwards

stop to go forwards

Professional sportsmen are special.  Special in lots of ways. Physically obviously.  Mentally as well.

The latter often not as lauded as the former. Indoor training is challenging me more mentally than physically.  It is sometimes difficult enough to drag myself out on a road bike for training, I’m finding the Indoor Trainer harder despite its ease: ease of accessibility, ease of set up, ease of kitting up – shoes and shorts, maybe a jersey if my sister is in the house.  That’s it. Good to go in 2 minutes.

What’s the problem? It’s warm, safe and convenient?

In part, it’s the lack of visual stimulus (nothing beats being outside, riding in the real world) but most of all its static. Done right, the legs burn but distance is only a number on a screen, a sterile statistic.  All that effort gets you nowhere.

That’s just life. It could be worse I could be going backwards.  Like our World.  I’m not talking about world politics (2nd Cold War anyone?), climate control (new Coal Power Stations please), or intolerance (re-rise of the Fascists).  Whilst cycling no where I was thinking about riding a bike. In Hull.  Recently the Guardian ran an article about Hull in the 1950s being a cycling city.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/dec/05/cycling-heaven-hull-city-recapture-1950s-pedal-power-heyday

Now it isn’t.  It’s choked by stagnant, stationary traffic.  It still has all the raw materials to be a cycling city but its collective mind-set has adopted the car as its mass-transport of choice.  There’s little progress.

As I churn out virtual kilometres (hoping to be match fit/ firing on all cylinders in Spring), I consider that being made to slow down, stop, look backwards is part of moving forwards.  Stop freewheeling and learn from our past mistakes (1930s Rise of Fascism / 1960s Cold War tensions / 1980s Acid Rain) and ask ourselves: what’s worked before to get us back on track?

Nothing wrong with re-inventing the wheel, especially if there is nothing wrong with the wheel first time round.

Whilst motivation can be hard to find I’m not going to give up on staying put to move forward just yet.  When you hear a professional cyclist say “I’ve spent the Winter in the Wind Tunnel” I won’t envy them but I will respect them – constantly looking at ways to go forward, faster, harder, better.

making everyone happy

making everyone happy

My friend was knocked off her bike Yesterday and ended up in A&E.  It was a classic car/bike accident where a car turning right down a side street cuts through static traffic but doesn’t anticipate the cyclists still riding up the inside. Car/bicycle meet at 90 degrees.

Or was it the cyclist not anticipating a car turning right down a side street cutting through static traffic.  It’s rarely clear cut.  I’d put the onus on the cyclist to anticipate – they’re the most at risk – and they can’t rely on anyone else to look out for them.

The London Mayor is going to drop £770 million on cycling over the next 5 years to make cycling a “safe and obvious choice for Londoners or all ages and backgrounds”. That’s £17 per Londoner (whether they want £17 to get them cycling or not!)

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/sadiq-khan-announces-770-cash-injection-for-london-cycling-infrastructure-a3412221.html

This will buy new segregated cycle superhighways, extensions to existing cycle superhighways and mini-Holland schemes in the suburbs.

Car drivers and the Daily Mail are no doubt in outrage – why are cyclists so indulged? But put this in context: its only 5.5% of total TFL budget.  Cars, Trains, Buses, Underground are still hoovering up the lions share.

What’s the solution? Segregation is great (of bikes and vehicles) until the segregation ends, then chaos breaks out. Cyclists become complacent, forget that the risk factor has just turned up.  Cars have forgotten that they’re sharing the road with cyclists and have a duty of care (NB. a cyclist is a real live person (just on a bike)).

The solution: cyclists need to be controlled and drivers need to be educated – the best way is to get drivers on a bike.  Which will only happen if they are incentivised to do so. How? Penalise them?  That won’t help. Make it safe? We’ve tried that.  Make it easy?  Easier said than done.

What about paying them?

Smartphone technology could make a carbon offset scheme work.  What about £10 of your road tax for every 100 city miles cycled? (Paid for by: VAT on bike sales, decreased NHS costs from a fitter, healthier population and reduction in pollution/respiratory related illnesses).

Surely it’s worth a try.