Sunday, 26 February 2012

I just found me a brand new box of matches

I've just come back from Thailand and quite frankly the last week has been a bit of a struggle. Dr. Internet says that jet leg lasts for the same number of days as time zones you cross. Which means I should be back to normal, a statistical average by the way, nothing more, by Monday.

I did still play football, where I was OK, and cycled in to work on Thursday, where I was fantastic on the way in, and hopelessly mangled by the wind, drizzle and mud on the way home. Despite doing no cycling in Thailand, at 36C in the shade, I had little inclination to move never mind clip in, I did get in to the swimming pool on a regular basis. My purple shoulders and upper back on the first day were a bit sore by day 2, especially when they were being pummelled in my massage session.

And before you ask, no I didn't, it was all very respectable thanks for asking. But I'm hoping my calves and hamstrings will have derived some benefit in the weeks to come. I did see some proper cyclists on the road, roadies in lycra and all the trimmings, and if you think us lot in the UK are strange, boy they must be blooming mental. The traffic makes Bristol at rush hour look like the lawn of a vicar's tea party.

I can't think of many successful far-eastern cyclists, I guess there aren't too many roads and hills for them to ride up, and it's not really in the culture of boiling hot countries. Having come from sub zero temperatures in the UK I know a cold as cold as it gets, but honestly, I was glad to get back to the drizzle and the damp of February in the Mendips.

Which brings me to today. One of those days with unseasonal weather, or so it proved in the end. To start the day I was having a faff over clothes, the forecast was for 4C at 9AM, rising to 12C by midday. Given that we had a few hills planned on our ACG trip, this did not seem easy to plan around. But as Skip always says, it's all about layers, and I mixed my ACG coat with some natty HTC gear underneath.

A collection of six of us assembled in the swirling fog, with a route planned by yours truly. I think at one point or other, most of them told me they hated me, as after a warm up around Wedmore, we climbed Deerleap, then a new hill out of Crosscoombe, and finally, for the three hardcore, Rowberrow.

The cafe, btw is called the Rock Cake cafe, but I had a bacon sandwich. On brown, so healthy. I felt a bit sorry for GH, it was only his second ride after 5 months off with a broken wrist. It was good to see said wrist orientated in the correct position, the car drivers seemed a bit tetchy today, and I think his wrist's former inclination may have been misinterpreted. But using that traditional north-easterner's trick of wearing hardly any clothes, while secretly despising us southern softies, got him through.

It was a great ride, and the weather turned out nice, so it did. For sure. Glastonbury Tor poking out of the mist down below us was a highlight, and it felt so nice to be out in the sunshine after the dreary winter. Yes, Spring is coming already.

I am concerned and slightly jealous all at the same time of Skip. She seems to be disappearing before our eyes, and means that she can bound up the hills with little effort. But it can't be healthy and there must a limit. Please.

The ride was cut short as various people had civic duties back in Axbridge, but I enjoyed the descent down Shipham hill tremendously, recording a 2012 top speed of 44.1mph as I hit the final corner. Don't pay too much attention to Charlie either, he lost about 4 miles somewhere, I know because i had to do a little lap of Winscombe to hit the half century. Which was good because at least I got my four climbs in. I did, however, arrive home early enough to earn inadvertent brownie points, not sure if that's good or not yet, time will tell.

One final thing. The eagle-eyed will spot a justgiving banner at the top of the page. For Above and Beyond, my charity of choice for the last three years, for quite personal reasons. I did Bristol to Land's End with them 2 years ago (250 miles) then the Somerset 100 last year (turned out to be 117) and now 'm doing a paltry 100km, but it is at night, real night when everyone is asleep, so that makes it harder.

I don't agree with Bunny about all this. I think everyone can spare something, and I get to enjoy cycling around Bristol on a sportive in the dark. If you feel like joining me, that would be great, it could be fun. But if you don't, I'd really appreciate a donation, even a small one, it all counts. Thanks.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

I met you wild in a snowed up town

This is not a post as such, it's more of a controlled rant. A kind of "get it off my chest" cathartic opportunity to really let rid. Sort of.

Drivers. Or more particularly, drivers who don't look. I commuted today, usual 40 mile round trip, bit of this, bit of that. I counted the number of reflective, hi-viz strips, etc, on my clothing, well started to count. I got bored when I passed 50 (it's the chequer patterns, they all add up). I have three rear red lights, and three white front lights. And yellow, lots of yellow. But they don't know about us, these people, because they don't look in the right places, i.e. beyond the end of their noses. 

Or the tractor driver last Sunday, on his mobile phone who ignored me on the roundabout.

I could go on, but I'm boring myself.

Something must be done.

I could have a herd of wildebeest in front of me, or the hanging gardens of Babylon behind me, it would make no difference. So I promise this is the last time I'm going to complain about car drivers, even though they only get a slap on the wrist of a community service order or a couple of points on the licence. Like the idiot who pulled out of a turning as I was cycling past it.

In other news from the Mendip Rouleur household, I am pleased to say all is well and we can all relax now. If you know what I mean.

Rant over, normal service will resume in two weeks.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

You've got to move in a straight line

Some things strike me as absolutely barking with the benefit of hindsight. Like cycling down Cheddar gorge at sunset on a day like today. Although the temperature had risen, it was 5C at the top of Burrington Coombe according to a friendly man sat in his car, it was a good deal lower than that in the gorge. The verges were still lined with ice, I suppose the sun didn't really get the opportunity to warm the cockles of the tarmac.

I had also mistimed my ride, and was fortunate to have a couple of small lights on my helmet, and of course, my new bib. Not that there was much traffic, most people must have been at home by then. So my brakes got an outing on a descent that I normally take full-on, and I was able to pick a good line, and came through unscathed. But very, very slowly. A lesson learnt.

It was the only thing I got wrong though. For once, the weather people got it spot on, and a very convoluted and complex forecast at the start of the weekend, offered the chance to ride in a temporary thaw this afternoon. And that is how it was, as I took to some main roads, a few south-facing back roads, and combined a good half-century (old money) with some good climbing. Including a new one, the delightful Wraxhall Hill near the Tyntesfield NT estate. Steep, wooded, but with a beautiful surface of freshly laid tarmac. And I do love that.

Not many people about today, which was good, because I have had a busy peopley week, it's nice to get out away from the madding crowd sometimes. I was in London for two days, and stayed over in a hotel in Southwark, which gave me the opportunity to re-visit an old work stomping ground, meet up for dinner with Bunny, (which was great fun) and walk across a new bridge.

If you haven't been paying attention to my ramblings you may have missed that I adore a good bridge. The Millennium footbridge from Bankside to the City is as good as it gets if you want your view spectacular, with the whole panoply of London laid out against the sunrise-red-tinged azure sky. As I walked into work, can't get better than that I'd say. Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner, (song anyone?) and maybe because I have a 20 year affinity with St Paul's Cathedral, but I'm looking forward to doing it again.

I will, however take a different bag with me. I had one of those overnight bags on wheels, with a retractable handle. Boy, they are everywhere in London. I think more and more people are staying down in London, probably working on "projects", and they all pull these bags around after them. And it can make for an interesting obstacle course.

First, you have the ubiquitous problem these days of people not looking where they are going. It used to be a minor irritant, but with the advent of the iPhone and its android cousins, I'd say about 50% of people now convey themselves along the pavement with no real forward gaze of their eyeballs.

Despite my earlier comments, I do like people. Generally, I'm bending over backwards to relate. My bag, and the lattice of the steel of the bridge, combined to produce a noise like a jet engine taking off at Stanstead, one of those short take-off and landing ones. Very high-pitched and very loud. Bunny gave me some sound practical advice, that if you get one wheel right in the side of the bridge, it's only like the plane's undercarriage retracting.

So as I was strolling in to work, admiring the view, I'm right up against the edge of the bridge, keeping the noise down. Halfway across, coming towards me is a woman of a certain age, and I know, I just know this is going to be.....interesting. Five yards from her, I stop. She looks at me, and says, "Who do you think you are, expecting me to move out of your way".

"At least I'm happy" was all I could think to say as I moved out of her way, was that rude? Probably, it didn't occur to me until later that maybe she was someone famous, or maybe she was on some kind of charity bridgeathon, and there were some rules in play.  I think most of all, I felt a twinge of sadness that all those people in London are so busy charging around they never have time to just, be.

On the other hand, some things strike me as absolutely barking while I'm doing them, like washing my bike in the dark, with a headtorch, trying not to slip over on last night's ice. But at least I'm happy.

Friday, 3 February 2012

The tell tale signs of hypothermia

I don't usually blog after commuting on the bike. It's a very repetitious thing, cycling the same roads, avoiding some places, seeking out others, you know the drill.

But today was a bit exceptional. Can you have a bit exceptional? Who cares. Yes it was very cold, and I understand why Jack Dawson didn't last very long once all he had to sustain him was Kate Winslett blathering on. Minus 7 Celsius was the official lowest temperature while I was riding to work this morning. Surprisingly very little ice about, although I was cautious just the same, particularly in the dark. One slightly dodgy moment in Barrow Gurney where there was very thick ice all over the road, where a farmer had considerately flushed his farmyard.

I had five layers on my top half, but I think I could have had fifty on and it would have made no difference. I never warmed up. K-1 wasn't playing ball either, as the back brake cable snapped on first application, so I had to go back and get the Red Madone out of her winter hibernation. Instead of warming up, my muscles seemed to get colder and colder, despite the sunrise as I swooshed down the hill towards Bristol, and very picturesque it was too.

Not too many cyclists out either, lightweights, just like all the New Year's resolutioneers at Kingswood on the first few Sundays of January, all gone back to pies and the sofa on a Sunday afternoon, once the novelty of fresh air and an elevated heart-rate has worn off. My HR was elevated today, trying to keep me warm I guess. Despite our central heating and two fleeces, I still have to wear a hat indoors. I'll have to get one of those Dickensian nightcaps with a tassel on the end. No, we don't want to go there, this is a family blog.

I read recently that there has been a spate (great word) of young women being hospitalised, or worse, in Newcastle, after going out in the evenings, getting lashed and passing out in the cold. Apparently they don't wear enough clothes to protect them from hypothermia.

On days like today, I get a little warm in my heart when I think of Winter, after all it shows the landscape at its best, especially at dawn, all misty and wispy. And temperatures like today, with dry roads, just have to be ridden in my view, for all sorts of reasons.