Sunday, 17 November 2013

Tempting Fate

Back at the end of April I found myself off work for a day when I had expected to be on it. Work that is. I didn't want to just sit around the house, but I was finding it quite hard to concentrate on anything, so of course the only option was to go out on the bike.

It was a nice sunny day, a bit windy as I recall, but it was one of the first days that I wore shorts after a long, long Winter. Recalling the Christmas party conversation, I resolved, and succeeded in doing A pair of trousers. Which of course includes Draycott Steep, considered by many, including me, to be the toughest hill on the Mendips.

I was on one that day, for all sorts of reasons, so it's no surprise that I got up that hill fairly easily. It was a marked contrast to most of the cycling I had done up till then in 2013. I hadn't done the miles, my health had been sub-optimal and it had not been a good time generally. In fact, the optimistic target of 6000 miles I had set myself for the year, a jump of about 5% on 2012, seemed such a long way off that I had all but abandoned hope of achieving it. Despite two thirds of the year still to go.

What do you do in circumstances like that? Well according to Jennifer I should just write it off as one of those years, and come back stronger next year. Good advice. As was the advice of another friend who told me to enjoy the cycling, and not worry too much about hitting targets and achieving goals. Definitely the basis for a more contented life.

Unfortunately, those that know me know that I don't ever give up. It's one of the things that define me. And causes me a lot of grief sometimes, as well as a lot of amusement and bemusement to friends, family and work colleagues. C'est la vie. That's French. One for you ;-)

And yet something seemed to happen over the Summer. I did adjust the target slightly, to beat 2012 by 1 mile, but it still left a very tall order to be filled. I had another couple of tough months, got pasted in the Tour of Wessex and beaten up in the Dragon Ride and wrecked in sundry other sportives I did in June. But when I came back from the Pyrenees in July, and the weather improved considerably, I started to get a modicum, then a smidgeon, and finally a full complement of form back.

By the time I came to do Ride London, I was flying, enjoying my cycling and just starting to believe that I might not have to write off 2013 at all.

So much so, that the sad, obsessive weekly mileage target figure (the number of miles I need to do per week to hit the annual target) started to come down. From a seemingly impossible 160 miles per week at the start of July, to about 100 miles at the beginning of September, it has, as of today, reached the very doable figure of 19.27 miles per week for the last six weeks of 2013. Yes 116 miles is all it is going to take.

Now, being of a somewhat superstitious nature I now feel that the fates are well and truly tempted. What could possibly go wrong now? Easy. Well, cast your mind back a few years to the Winter of 2010, when it was practically impossible to ride a bike, or drive a car come to think of it, because of the appalling snowfall we had in November and December. I sneaked my target in the last couple of weeks.

I have also been playing a bit fast and loose with my front wheels. This picture, showing my wheel on the commute last Friday night, with its very effective spoke reflectors, records the last time the wheel saw service.

The wheel had been juddering a lot in the last couple of weeks since K-1 came out for the Winter. So I consulted the experts, the Internet and Paul at Cheddar cyclestore who duly confirmed that the rim was very badly-worn. So, not wanting to tempt fate I decided to have the wheel re-built. While I wait I decided to substitute one of the old wheels that came with K-1, tyre, inner tube and all.

Despite pumping up the tyre, and it seemed OK last night, I soon discovered this morning, five miles out, that it was a bit on the flat side. Nothing too bad, but sub-optimal. I checked my pump, thinking I'd add a bit of air, only to find the pump was seized and useless. I decided to press on, metaphorical fingers crossed, and hope I wouldn't get a puncture and have to call on the sleepy Mrs Mendip Rouleur to come and get me.

A few weeks ago Martyn and I had been humbled by Steep End Down as we got off and walked for 100 yards on the Steep, while he sailed up it. It was the first time I had walked on that hill for years, and left me a bit surprised given my resurgence in form. Well it's one thing to fly around the levels all day, or cycle to Bristol, but I have obviously not been going up enough hills.

So I decided to have another goal, because I thought I was hard enough. Weather was grey, misty, dank, and cold. The road surface was slippery, full of leaves, and surprisingly busy with traffic. October, one of the wettest for years, has certainly left its mark, my lungs are beginning to feel the onset of the rotten weather, and all of this did not point the way to a successful ascent.

But what did I say about not giving up? And I'd learnt from Mr Down. Slow and steady. Huff followed puff, followed curse followed grimace. One of my slowest, no doubt, but one of my proudest achievements. The Steep in November. 2-1 to the Mendip Rouleur.

The rest of the ride? Who cares. A few smaller hills, lots of mud, mist, got mixed up a couple of times in Somer Valley CC's sportive, before rolling home with 33 miles on the clock. And absolutely knackered.  It's been a hard week, two trips to London, one a late night, a couple of tough cycling commutes to Bristol, one of them in sub-zero temperatures, and not forgetting my flu vaccination. OK that last bit is an irrelevant embellishment, but you get the picture.

One last thing. I picked up the bike to start the washing process and the front wheel fell out. I'd failed to tighten it properly when I put it in yesterday and had done the entire ride, including the 40 mph descent of Shipham Hill with a wheel that could have fallen out with one bump.

So I need all of you to pray for good weather, for the next week at least, as I have an ambitious plan to knock off the last 116 miles by Saturday lunchtime. It will involve riding to work twice and then again on Saturday morning, but at least it gets it done. As for the rest of the year, well I'm going to have to resort to the old sales management ploy of doing as little as possible.

Targets are always based on your achievement in the previous year aren't they? Once you have got one year's target, the last thing you do is pile the miles on. You only end up with a bigger target the next year, and who wants that?

In other news, the countdown has started, so here is A bang on the ear for my sister!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


Come by train if that’s easier

If I hear more I’ll let you know

Here’s your verification code

Want Indian food or not?


I must have been watching you

Thank you for booking a table

A cheque will be sent to you soon

He’s denying everything


If you go out keep safe

Where do you want to meet?

Got to drop my son off

Payment will be taken


Software for your phone

For doing what you did

Any subtle changes yet?

Just politics with a small p

Sunday, 3 November 2013

I should have lied like everybody else

It's Autumn, time to bring out the mudguards and the winter bike. Which in my case is K-1, still full carbon, but now starting to show it's age. Cables for gears? How quaint.

But when I'm on K-1 I'm fearless, scared of absolutely nothing.

Apart from leaf mulch, that can be quite frightening at this time of year, especially in combination with roads that are more like rivers, and covering up the hidden potholes. There was large amounts of it on the Exmoor Beast a couple of weeks ago, and even more today. Dave and I did one of our typical biathlons - a combination of steep hills and muddy lanes, and at times a boat would have been more useful.

Then of course there is the dark. That can be a bit scary, particularly if you are sleep-deprived, as I was earlier in the week, and on your second commute in a row. It's not so much the dark that scares me, more the things that come out of it. Full beam headlights attached to cars coming around corners, drivers in a line of traffic deciding to do a sudden )-turn without checking their mirrors, random wildlife (badgers/deer/rabbits/birds, I've narrowly avoided collisions with them all and more). Particularly bad at this time of year when the clocks go back, and drivers are not fully used to the change.

Potholes, definitely a bit scared of them. (see "the dark" above). Combined with surface water and a bit of leaf mulch to boot, they make a lovely puncture-creation device at best, and something a lot worse if you are hurtling down a hill at speed.

White vans fill me with dread, and as with all stereotypes I'm sure it's unfounded, but I seem to get passed much more closely, at faster speeds and with more aggression by said vehicles.

But apart form that, as I said, fearless and joyful. And the selection of cycling-related pictures from this week's escapades show.

Because the compensations, the health, the fresh air, the fellowship, the countryside, the components, the carbon, and yes, even the lycra, out-weigh all of the other stuff. And today, despite strong winds, hail, rain, mucky roads, spray, cold, and all that, it was a great day. Not just because of the outside either, it was one of those days when most of the ACG were either off doing a sportive, hunkering down on the sofa or trapped in their homes by visiting in-laws.

But Dave and I discovered a little bit of Paris at the Rock Cake café near Croscombe, all in aid of Children in Need, to which both Dave and I gave generously!

This time of year is not my favourite, despite all the beautiful colours. Less light, that's what I blame it on and I always struggle a bit with my mood in the time between mid October and the run up to Christmas. So anything anyone can do to raise a smile is all right in my book. Especially if it's for charity.

Song of the week.