Sunday, 27 November 2011

A highway with no-one on it

It sounds a bit like a headache remedy, but Bunny and I are off to the Pyrenees again next year, late August to do the Coast to Coast "pro-strength" tour with Pyactif, the same guys who hosted us last year.

There is the possibility of another short multi day European adventure, on the bike, in the spring. But that's still just an idea in my head so you will have to wait to see if it becomes a reality.

It's tough, six days of full-on riding over all the cols you can name in the Pyrenees and lots I can't pronounce. So I have to step it up another level I think. I made big improvements in 2010, whereas this year has been more incremental (isn't that a horrible word?). So I have to do something different, and I think introduce some major changes.

I'll keep you posted. No riding this weekend, I hadn't planned to, but then a small window opened. Just as I was about to clamber through it, the sash broke and I had to stay inside after all. Oh well, we will just have to make the pre-Christmas ACG party ride a real belter!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Sun shines through the rain

Circumstances separately collaborated to ensure that neither Skip nor I had riding companions this weekend. She got to ride a loop of the Mendips on a bright and breezy Saturday, while I was enduring Shopping centre hell, followed by what proved to be a precautionary trip to the local A & E (for Mrs Mendip Rouleur, who hasn't broken her fingers, just very badly bruised them, in a bizarre Ferdinandesque incident).

So to make things vaguely interesting, to me at least if no-one else, I decided to ride the same route the following day, but in reverse. Plus a bit more to my house and back. It can therefore be described as a virtual impromptu reverse ride in a pair. Maybe.

My weather was best described as mainly murky. I don't understand how I can have mist and wind all at the same time. But that is what greeted me as I peered out into the gloom. I put a warmer coat on and headed off down to Cheddar, and up its gorge. Almost all the way to the top of the Old Bristol road I had a nagging headwind. I say nagging, because although irritating, it doesn't really make any difference to you, just buzzes around ineffectually and annoyingly.

Old Bristol Hill was wet and bit gritty, so I didn't hit it full gas on the descent, and just as I passed the cathedral, it was time to go up again, although now I had a nice push from the tailwind, but I still found it hard to get into a rhythm. Taking the back lane at the top of the hill past some people in a field, clay-pigeon shooting, I managed to cover myself and the bike in a nice thick layer of mud. By the time I was on the main road I was toying with baling. Good job I didn't, I ate a small energy bar, got my head down and decided I was going to enjoy myself.

With the full wind at my back, the speed rose and I even hit the lights at Green Ore on green, and breezed down into Chewton Mendip and along to Litton and East Harptree. I was on a roll, especially as the sun was out on the north side of the Mendips, and this continued all the way up the hill and along the top to the start of Burrington Coombe. Which is always a great descent. After a slow 90 minutes I was making up for lost time, and looped round through Langford and Churchill and up to Shipham.

I was overtaken by some motorbikes just as I started to descend Shipham gorge, and yes, it was the old braking issue again, which rather spoiled my fun on the last corner and sprint for the roundabout in Cheddar. It was still gloomy back on the south side, but no matter, it was a tailwind up the bypass to home, total distance of 43.74 and average speed of 15.3 mph (Charlie lost reception for a bit, so his stats below are not 100% reliable).

There weren't many cyclists out today, at least, not where I was. I think there may have been something going on in Cheshire, either that or they are all down on the levels at Sweets. I didn't have any problems with cars either, unusual for a Sunday, although I'm beginning to get a hang-up about motorbikes stopping me descending hills at optimum speed.
I have a couple of commuting trips planned for this week, but no riding next weekend as it is mini Mendip Rouleur's birthday, so it will probably go quiet here for a bit. I hope to announce my plans for 2012 shortly, I can tell you are all baiting your breath in feverish excitement.
On a separate note, please keep the evening of 22nd December free. I assume that you will all have your phone's glued to your ears, with Cav's allotted number on speed dial and number repeat. Cycling may well be the new golf, but that does not give us the excuse to allow a man who looks more at home in the pub than in professional sport to win Sports Personality of the Year. Quite simply Mark Cavendish has had the greatest year a British (and I'm not having any truck about his nationality, what was he wearing in Copenhagen? Thank you, end of.) cyclist has ever had, and may well ever have.
Cycling is here to stay. When I was a teenager I tended to wear my heart on my sleeve, yes even more than now. Some of our kit may be carbon, and I know I am a junkie for expensive sunglasses. But cycling still has heart and soul, I was 12 inches away from Cav on Old Bristol Hill for Pete's sake! The same hill that I descended today and Skip climbed yesterday. It is the people's sport and needs that recognition. Rant over.

Friday, 18 November 2011

All things in common, all people one

5 o' clock in the morning is rarely a good time to wake up and get out of bed. Unless you are a child aged less than 10 on Christmas morning, then it's compulsory. But I have been that unfortunate position three times this week, twice because I had to get to our London office at a reasonable time. However, the third of these, today, was far more pleasant. My first Friday ride into work for three weeks, and what's more, some more very reasonable weather.

This is all very confusing for me. I'm now riding in the dark practically the whole of the ride in, and certainly for all of the ride home. So when you stick your head out of the door at that unearthly hour to see if the actual weather correlates with the forecasted weather, the task is made somewhat harder by the dark.

I've just realised that "somewhat" is probably a word banned by the Plain English Campaign. In my defence, when has being "plain" ever been a compliment? I bet they really want to call themselves The Straightforward English Campaign, but that smacks of long-windedness.

Back to the weather. At 5AM in November I can't quite bring myself to believe it is warm. So I was probably a tad over-dressed, but not so much that it mattered. I also felt pretty slow on the way in, over the hill by the airport, but when I reviewed the stats I wasn't. I've stopped taking Charlie to work, no point in mapping the same route over and over again, and I can't see the display in the dark anyway. Saves a bit of faff time pre-ride, and a job of downloading on return.

If you are that bothered about my route, leave me a comment, I'll ignore it, but you might get it out of your system. I'd say it was rather uneventful, with two things of note to report. First was the interesting (as in "may you never live in interesting times" interesting) discovery of ten tones of slippery wet mud on a downhill stretch of back road, just before a nice corner, when I was already doing about 35 mph. In these situations I find the best remedy to an impending crash is to shut your eyes and hope for the best, which I duly did. Probably of more importance in me remaining upright was the successful battle against the urge to brake.

So my resolve did not break, my bike didn't break, I gave myself a break and gently slewed around the corner, just grateful there was no oncoming traffic. Farmers eh? Got to love them.

Secondly I have now passed my total mileage target, to beat last year's total of 5107 miles, so I now officially have achieved all I set out to do on the bike in 2011. Although I have given myself another target to keep me interested and pushing the pedals that little bit harder until 31 December.

On a deeper note I went to St. Paul's Cathedral this week. A long story, but way back in pre-history, when I had half a head of hair, I used to do Banking Exam studies in Moorgate on Thursdays. My employer at the time was generous enough to give me day-release. Classes started at 9AM and went on until lunchtime, when there was a gap of 2 hours until we were finished off by Accountancy at 3PM. Sometimes I would wander up to the Cathedral and sit quietly in one of the side chapels and ponder on things, as is my wont.

So after I finished work on Wednesday, about 5.30PM, I thought I'll pop in and wander up memory lane. I also wanted to gawp at the protest camp, and compare and contrast with the folk we often see outside Heaphy's cafe in Glastonbury.

Inside the cathedral it was all very nice, but a service was going on, with a lovely choral thing going on, but not many in the congregation, and I was prevented from going up to the side chapel by a slightly officious security man. As I wandered out of the main door, the sermon started, all sorts of stuff about "we are all one church", "fellow man", etc. etc.

Outside it was a  bit of a shock to hear a hippie with a large megaphone, preaching essentially the same message but to a much larger, if considerably dirtier, crowd. They were also very friendly to me, despite my business garb, maybe if I'd had lycra on, they would have kicked my head in.

I'm not sure what to make of all that, I'd be interested in your thoughts, and with this one, I will engage in some constructive dialogue, promise. For sure, the world is a crazy, crazy place. And if you've been reading my blogs you will know what I think about cliches. Just because they are doesn't mean they don't contain a truth. But maybe it's time people really did start behaving like we are just one big peloton.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

You always loved this time of year

Despite feeling a bit tired today, it was sunny and dry outside, and these are opportunities not to be missed. Who knows what weather will be thrown at us this winter, so I couldn't pass up the chance to get out on K-1 for a quick blast around the countryside. Cheddar gorge looked like this today, I know it's wrong to take pleasure in global warming, but I do like  the warm weather, it gave me another chance to wear shorts-in November!

I love the turning leaves, and there are still lots of vivid colours attached to the trees, so I did my best to stick to back roads with lots of deciduous trees by the roadside. And sheltered from the stiff easterly breeze. And dry. And a good surface.  So hard to please. It was really a delightful ride. I headed over towards Congresbury and Yatton, before rolling along some quiet lanes to the foot of Brockley Coombe, which is a lovely gentle hill to ride up, and met all of my criteria.

From there it was the long downhill to Chew Stoke, and as an alternative to the West Harptree hill, I found a quiet lane heading up to the top of the Mendips. A lady at the bottom cheerily said hello, and warned me that the hill was steep, long and narrow. She was right, it was about a mile at a steady 10%, but I didn't mind, because it was also car-free, and a road that I had never been on before. I've lived here for 10 years and I'm still finding new roads and hills.

Once up at the top, I ummed and ahhed about what to do next, and decided Cheddar gorge offered the best option. I was overtaken at the top by a couple of motorbikes, but there throttles weren't quite as brave as they thought, as I caught up with them and their constant breaking towards the end.

From the gorge it was a relatively straight route home, via a quick call to make myself more comfortable in central Cheddar. Outside said convenience a large teenager was forcing the head of a small teenager against the wall. I had been discussing the whole idea of civic duty on Friday with a colleague, and here I was faced with a moral dilemma. Fortunately I was in a bit of a rush, so deferred a decision till I came out, by which time they all seemed to be friends again. So I probably did the right thing and saved myself a load of grief.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

All that you build, all that you break

Get yourself a hot drink, plump up the cushions, settle back into your seats, I'm back. So welcome, officially, to Mendip Rouleur, the new home, of, well The Mendip Rouleur. It was OK for Luca Brasi but not for me. I know. One day, I hope this blog will be as big as Fishneedsabicycle wasn't.

I consulted the modern day font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, to see what the official definition of a rouleur is. You can read it here:

Good all-rounder is the essence of it. Or "crap in every position" as we used to say about football's equivalent, the utility player. Either way, I am delighted to see that Jens is quoted as an example of a rouleur, and I hope by re-branding my blog to get one millionth of his savvy coolness rubbing off on my attempts to meet my cycling objectives for 2012.

This is the best clip of Jens that I could find imo. I particularly like his comments about his suitcase, definitely a Perceiving type.

More on the 2012 objectives when I've worked them out. I've already entered a few rides, Mad March Hare, Dartmoor Classic and Tour of Wessex (all 3 days of the latter, which this year I will complete.). Fighting talk. I also have a vague plan to go and do the Dragon ride without paying, I feel morally justified, but don't know if I can be bothered. I won't take their food, so I won't cost them anything, just follow the route and suck the wheels. I also want to do the White Horse challenge for the fun and beauty of it, without aiming for a fast time.

So to today, the ACG, Figgy, Boots, Doc, Skip and I headed out on a lovely route up Shipham Hill, over the top of the Mendips and down to Wells, with a stop at the Fenney Castle tea rooms, before a nice dash over the levels and back home. With a fast descent of Notting Hill in there too, it was a blast, really enjoyed it. I had 3/4 length shorts on, and my legs looked like they had one of those mud baths you get at an expensive hotel spa. Or not. Perhaps this could be the active and cheaper alternative. Muddy does not come close, and as the 5 of us were fairly together most of the time, we all had an urchin look about us at the end.

Route from Charlie is here:

I was having a chat with an IP lawyer the other day about who actually owns my "work" on this blog. As you may be able to imagine if you know any IP lawyers, it was a very interesting discussion, and I think we concluded that Google do. Own the work that is. Which is probably fitting, because in about 10 years time the whole of world's property, tangible, intellectual or any other kind you can imagine, will be owned by either Google or the Chinese government. Or maybe the oil sheiks, but by then their time will be passing. So this blog is a temporary home, someday, maybe not soon, but someday, it will exist as a standalone site. So pay attention or I'll lose even more of you.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Light my way

Twenty years on, much in my thoughts, especially as I passed up the opportunity to ride today.

But much in my thoughts, here is one for you. And a good one to start the next part of the journey.