Friday, 31 August 2007

Ride 31 of 31

The last ride of the 31 has been done. Like so much of the summer, it was wet, but
still it's always nice to get out onto the moors for a couple of hours. I met
Carolyn and we did a few tried and trusted tracks, I'm convinced I've got quicker up
some of my local hills over this month of riding. Is a month enough to have an
impact on fitness? I don't know, maybe I should have kept track of some statistics!
I do know that over the month I've done approximately 330 miles, which is something
like 242,000 revolutions of each wheel, my maths doesn't stretch to working out how
many turns of the cranks that is but it must be a lot. It's certainly been a good
excuse to eat more cake.


Thursday, 30 August 2007

Ride 30 of 31

We put bikes and Flipper the dog in the car and drove to the posh bit of the north, Cheshire, Tatton Park to be precise, just outside Knutsford, picture it, the sort of place that has a Rolls Royce dealership and an Aga shop. Due to our usual disorganisation it was lunchtime before we got to the park so we decided to have food and then ride, let's just say that Flipper is no respecter of National Trust tea room etiquette and after a kerfuffle involving tipped tables and flying cakes we thought we'd better get on the bikes. Dog and bikes having already caused an incident we decided not to risk mixing with valuable antiques so we stuck to looking at the stately home bit from the outside and then rode the mostly flat, grassy trails. Lots of deer, rabbits and an entire flock of stereotype defying, well behaved, black sheep. Husband managed to do an over the handle bar flip worthy of a Russian gymnast, fortunately bouncy grass minimised the damage. A fun couple of hours, with grateful thanks to the last Lord Egerton for having the decency to bequeath his estate to the National Trust in 1958.


Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Ride 29 of 31

Tea, the drink of champions! Best drunk, in my opinion, brewed quite strong with a good glug of milk, no sugar. We get our milk delivered to the doorstep from a local farm but due to excess hot chocolate consumption when we got back last night we ran out of the white stuff this afternoon. So I pedalled to the corner shop for a pint. Somehow, I also came home with some egg custard tarts. Mmmmm tea and a cake. Perfect afternoon treat.


Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Ride 28 of 31

8 miles of truly spectacular biking tonight as Blackpool held its annual "Ride the Lights" event. The full switch on of this years illuminations is on Friday but tonight was a special sneak preview for bikes only. From 8 'til 10 some 4 miles of prom' closed off to traffic, the out and back route was well marshalled with first aid stations and a roving bike doctor van for sick bikes. For me two layers of merino wool and a beanie kept the sea breeze at bay, a few emergency bits were stuffed in my courier bag, I wished I'd made a flask of tea, but as husband told me the day I'm organised enough to do something like that will also be the day we live in a sparkling clean house that won't have a bike living in the kitchen! Several thousand riders were there and we saw everything imaginable; tandems, recumbents, tiny pink bikes with stabilisers, BMX's, supermarket specials, high-end road bikes, trikes, shoppers with baskets, babies in seats, MTBs, bikes with trailers containing small children or dogs, all bicycle life was there. It was an amazing thing to be part off, some were riding to raise money for the British Heart Foundation and fluorescent sashes were for sale at a pound a go to raise money for an MRI scanner (much needed at Blackpool Vic hospital). A fab evening and on the drive home with bikes in the back I was discussing plans to ride it again next year.


Monday, 27 August 2007

right click

There's the merest hint of a chill in the morning air but summer's finally shown her face. Briefly, I suspect. so we ride all day, up and down too many hills, sampling views, singletrack and skies. Find a new tea room in Findon that sells quiche and apple pie by weight (very dangerous), find the heavily hogweeded trails of last week all neatly strimmed to giggly pinball runs, drink quietly under acid green canopies, spin hot and windblown over the tops.

Last descent, I look back to make sure they're still behind me and get the mental snapshot to beat all others. Three riders, singletrack, blue sky, cloud of dust. File>Save As>Perfection...


Ride 27 of 31

Bank Holiday Monday! Rode today with the "Groovy Chicks" or at least a few of them. Luckily for me the ride was around the Rivington area so I was able to pedal to the meeting place and avoid the holiday traffic. Nearly every bit of the 20 or so mile ride was busy with people out getting their annual suck in of fresh air on the hills, or so it seemed to me. I was flagging badly today, the last one to the top of everything, this month of riding is taking it toll on my legs. A cookie and hot chocolate at the cafe near the end of the ride only just restored me. But, it was great to meet some really cool new people. And come on what could the alternatives have been on a Bank Holiday, some dodgy repeats on telly or worse still a trip to a DIY superstore? Thank goodness for bikes!


Sunday, 26 August 2007

Ride 26 of 31

We had a wedge of letters to send, I gripped 'em in my teeth and I pedalled in my sandals to the post-box. Frankly, my legs are too ruined today for anything else!


Saturday, 25 August 2007

intrepidly storming the shed...

Packing. A stressfull business. I am off to Scotland shortly; it has just dawned on me that what with one thing and another I am going to have everything ready to go by Monday. I can hear the gods of the time concertina laughing mightily from here - I still have a great deal of work to do before I can go and so - of course - I am doing my best to ignore the gritty quick release grouptest scattered around the desk and the half-written emails littering the desktop and instead I am playing with kit...

How to carry enough stuff for two weeks of racing and riding in one capable-of-swallowing-a-keg-and-a-cake-but-suddenly-oh-so-small Timbuk2? Start with basics. Two crops, two race jerseys, two pairs of MT500s - what's not being worn can be washed. Then, a warm layer: arm, knee and leg warmers, a long-sleeved jersey (break out the old, old Cannondale waffle top - deeply uncool in these days of dye-sub prints and stockbroker merino but oh so nice to pull on when the wind nips). Finally, the outer layer - and here is where it gets tricky, because I need to take a proper waterproof but I'll wear the softshell more if the weather is anything less than vile, and I'll need a gilet as well, and a light pocketable windproof for the option of a packless excursion or two... So the pile of jackets ends up being as big as everything else altogether. Back to the drawing board.

Elsewhere, it's easy; everything must be able to do double duty if required (so tech and wool tees replace cotton, and Fireflys are the order of the day), and bike kit acts as outer layers. One pair of Sidis, one pair of Salomons. Two... three... six pairs of socks. Hardware is simply a matter of emptying the camping box and the saddle pack straight into the Timbuk2, remembering to add CO2 pump for racing, buying a new bottle of travelwash and remembering to pack one of those lethal matchbox-sized tin openers that would have a finger off as soon as actually allow access to supper, except in a classic example of sod's law in action I can't find the compass, and I'm not quite sure where the super-cute camping toothbrush went after last time, either...

Sod it, maybe I'll just do some work instead.


Ride 25 of 31

Got picked up this morning by Carolyn and we crossed that great divide that is the Pennines and headed into Yorkshire. We parked up in Grassington and did a cracking 25 mile loop. Some hard slogs up over open windy moorland rewarded with rolling descents, lots of limestone to pick a line through, a few dull bits of tarmac, a section of manmade track, and a bit that Carolyn thought was like riding over green carpet. My legs struggled a bit the last 7 miles and are feeling sore now but it was worth it.


Friday, 24 August 2007

Ride 24 0f 31

Flipper the dog had to be wormed today, I find she actually quite likes tablets coated in a blob of peanut butter to turn them into a little treat but husband did the administering so she just had her mouth opened and the medicine poked in and her head held until she swallowed. He gave her a biscuit after the event but this wasn't sufficient to stop her sulking and hiding her in her house. She looked so sad that today's ride couldn't be anything but a pedal along the old railway line so she could have a scamper and forget the nasty tablets. I mean who could resist that face.


Thursday, 23 August 2007

Ride 23 of 31

Phew, what a scorcher! Two consecutive days of sunshine here in the north counts as a heat wave so it seemed appropriate today to go for ice cream. We are blessed to be within an easy 2 mile pedal of an Italian owned gelateria. Husband was easily encouraged onto his bike with the promise of an iced treat, we opted for choc and nut waffle cones with a single scoop, he chose amaretto flavour and I went for toffee crunch. Yum! I'm well aware more calories were consumed than burnt on the 4 mile round trip but sometimes these things just have to be done.


Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Ride 22 of 31

So, as a well known tartan clad poet would put it "the best laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft agley" which roughly translates to a biker girl who can't scrape her head off the pillow and then forgets her map will not get that planned ride done. A few friends had arranged to meet in Blackpool for lunch today at 1pm, trusting the BBC weather to correctly predict sunshine I boldly announced that I would ride all the way there and back (probably a total trip of 60 miles). So first hiccup was the oversleep situation, meaning I couldn't possibly make it on time for my friends, a quick check of the train timetable and I decided Northern Rail could chew up a few of the miles for me and get me back on some sort of schedule. I hopped on the train with the bike and piled out at Kirkham station, at this point the forgotten map became an issue, after asking 3 different people I managed to establish which way Blackpool might be, a gloriously accidental route was discovered, a really nice b-road weaved me round to Lytham, a bit of a guess had me finding the sea at St Annes and I rode mostly on the prom in to Blackpool. Found my friends, who were suitably impressed by my athletic endeavour. Face stuffed with food, 2 pints of soda water glugged and all news exchanged I got back on the bike. This is where that lack of map became a problem again, I've ridden from Blackpool to home before and the ride as far as Preston is OK, but then I always end up on the worst bit of dual carriageway ever, and was hoping today to be armed with a map and find an elusive b-road to ride the final 10 miles. As I reached Preston at a few minutes to five, I just couldn't face the prospect of having to deal with death trap roads in rush hour so I cut through the city to the train station and let the railway save me for the second time. A total of about 36 miles and not the planned 60, but I had a good day out on the bike and that is surely what matters.


Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Strengths and weaknesses

Strengths and weaknesses are to be celebrated. It is not weak to admit weakness but it is strong to overcome it. Celebrate weakness, sure, but celebrate kicking the ass out of weakness through hard work, long hours and eye-bleeding determination. Celebrate getting to the hill first, getting up the hill first, recovering first, getting home first, getting to the cake first, being first to be proud of your own achievements no matter what anyone else says.

There is painful, embarrassing, cringeworthy weakness in anonymity. No strength there. Nothing to celebrate.



a·non·y·mous [uh-non-uh-muhs]
1. without any name acknowledged, whose name is withheld, as that of author or the like: an anonymous comment left within a blog, particularly by those choosing to remove passages from a previous context and bend them to a similar but incorrect meaning; see also coward.
2. of unknown name; an anonymous rider, who passes quietly over the hills without reason to pause, converse or generally shoot the breeze with individuals, known or otherwise, and who remains unencumbered by recognition as she rides under cover of gathering darkness to work and back, feeling rather proud and happy that all of these hills are home even if her battery is mostly flat and she can't quite see where she's going...


Ride 21 of 31

Fuelled by the constant stream of homemade cake that husband of mine seems to making I left the house at 8.30 to meet friend Carolyn at 9 for a morning whizz round the moors. A slight Autumnal nip in the air made me wish I'd worn a base layer but once I got going I wasn't too cold, I certainly can't have been as chilly as the man I rode past changing his pants in the middle of a field next to a tent. I got to our meeting place and we decided to ride up to the Pike (local hill top stone tower, see photo), from the top we discussed riding down the more scary bit off the front of the hill and then opted for the nicer roll off the back. A very wet track then took us over the moor to Lead Mines Clough. On the way we met a man on a road motorbike who must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and then bizarrely passed "catalogue man" in leather shoes, stay press slacks, smart shirt and jacket slung over his shoulder, what on earth he was doing on that wild, soggy, sheep poo strewn bit of Lancashire is anyone's guess. A few more bits of up and down and we were flying along a fast bit of bridleway by the reservoir when we encountered one of those "la-la land" groups of walkers who are 4 abreast across the whole path and although looking right towards us seem unable to actually see us, a squishing was narrowly avoided. Just after this I opted out of doing another climb feeling I need to save a bit of something in the legs for tomorrow and took the road home, first bend and coming towards me on the opposite side is a group of octogenarian roadies the front rider of which seemed to be wearing a tweed deer-stalker hat. I got back to the house full of tales of how busy it seemed in the hills this morning.


The Trans Dusties

So I'm done. I'm back in Calgary after the Trans Rockies. What an epic. I can't begin to describe how amazing this race is. It is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. Meg and I rose to the challenge pretty darn well, I'd say. We faced illness, altitude problems, men problems, bike problems and food problems. But we got through it. And we got third spot. As the Canadians are wont to say, 'good job!"

I learnt a lot. I found that I can ride hard all day every day, keep smiling, climb for hours, descend with my eyes shut, fix punctures that aren't there and peel Torq Bars one handed. I learnt that I can ride singletrack with a stupidly high heart rate after 6hrs in the saddle and I'm not afraid to jump over stuff in order to get past trail slugs. I learnt that friendship is more important that bikes, and that honesty is more important than bravery. I learnt that dust is more painful than mud and that suncream is more important than chamois cream. I learnt to trust myself and that instincts are instinctual for a reason.

Having hit the Calgarian bike shops rather hard it's time to take the bike out to the Canada Olympic Park for some singletrack action. The more I ride the more I want to ride. I am reminded of one of the songs they played when we were on the podium entitled 'the greatest game of all.' Cheers to that.


Monday, 20 August 2007

status quo

I don't get to ride with other people very much. Life is hectic and I don't have the hours spare to be able to spend long days in the saddle gathering chamois time* but not necessarily miles; they have to be used efficiently, and that means riding alone, unfettered and undistracted. And so, I don't have much basis for measuring my own strength. In any group there's a pecking order, and though everyone has good and bad days, it's normally possible to measure your progress, positive or otherwise, against your friends. It's usually the same people that get to the top (and the bottom) of the hills first, in the middle and last, and it's unusual for the apple cart to be upset in mid-season (late winter/early spring pecking order rides being a subject for another day) but it was yesterday.

(*rides gauged by time spent wearing bike clothing, being around bikes, and talking about bikes, rather than time spent actually riding bikes.)

I knew nothing about it at the time but whilst grinding my way up a particular climb, in pursuit of one rider ahead, others were climbing off behind me. Deafened by the sound of blood in ears, teeth gritting, welds popping off the frame, worn chain links creaking their way onto hooked and jagged chainring teeth, tyres slipping on chalk and gravel, I couldn't hear the sound of cleat leaving pedal several times over and thus with no excuses (because the rider in front had stayed on, damn him, no matter how much I wished he might falter and stop and therefore let me off the hook), I made the top and sat looking at the view, feeling rather pleased that I'd managed to clean a climb I'd thought would be impossibly steep, and not a little out of breath and knackered.

Did it make it any sweeter knowing that I'd beaten riders who I'd once have been walking far behind? Of course it did. It's an indication that I'm starting to get things right, that my legs are coming back to life after the summer's solo efforts, that the hard road miles and the deliberately, frustratingly truncated 'easy' rides are having an effect on my strength and fitness. And it also means that my head is starting to come together again, because I had to think damn hard to get up that hill, had to concentrate on lines as well as legs and block out all the other churning mess. And that clarity is the one thing that I have been dreaming of, for a long, long year.


Ride 20 of 31

SPuDs-a-go-go! After yesterdays ride with the slip-fest feet I have (with assistance from mechanical minded husband) set to my pedals with a screwdriver and hex key. A bit of poking with the screwdriver and we were able to pop the flat side off the pedal and create a proper double sided SPD. I then did a bit of hex key twisting and turned the spring tension down. Some test rides round the park and a bit more adjusting became multiple laps of the park clip in, clip out, clip in, clip out, yes, indeed, I can now attach and free myself from the pedals whenever I feel like it. It's a cross bike and Minx has assured me that riding a cross bike with mountain bike shoes is OK and that the bike fashion police won't be round to get me!


Sunday, 19 August 2007

Ride 19 of 31

From my house I know of a good undulating and not too trafficy 10 mile road loop so a quick blast round this on the new crosscheck seemed in order once the rain had stopped. I decided to ride with the SPD/flat combo pedals I mentioned a few posts back and not being confident enough to be on a new bike and in my cleats I just had my skate shoes on. These are a great footwear choice on my mountain bike but they turned out to be horrid on the glossy surface that seemed to materialise on the flat side of the new pedals in the eternal damp that is the British summer. After 5 or so miles I was feeling less wary of my slidey feet as I hadn't come to any harm and then I reached the first real incline of the ride. I'm not going to big it up and call it a hill, it's just an upward slope of road, I changed down a bit, I haven't yet needed to use the "granny ring" on the new bike and so thought I might as well change right down and just make sure all was well with the gears. Unfamiliarity with the bike struck I made that stupid mistake of changing up not down, well I know I said it's not a hill, but it's not a "big ring" situation either and I basically ground to a standstill. I hopped off, lifted back wheel off the ground, a quick click and pedal spin and the right gear ring was engaged. I then tried to launch myself again, uphill, slippy shoes, pah, forget it, it just couldn't happen, so I had to push. The indignity of this pushing wouldn't have been so bad had I not been wearing my (courtesy of Minx) Twin Six, Queen of the Mountains shirt, I hung my head in shame as I pushed. I was of course rewarded soon after with a fab downhill that I don't mind admitting caused me to let my fingers hover on the brake levers all the way. Home reached safely with the announcement that I need new pedals, husband seemed less than interested and carried on making a sponge cake.


Saturday, 18 August 2007

Ride 18 of 31

What should have been a gentle pedal with Flipper the dog in the only break we've had in the rain today turned into a bit of a frantic event. Off we set and all seemed fine, tail wagging dog seemed happy to be out for a run until "the noise" happened. Flipper is a rescue dog, we've had her since she was a puppy but we don't know what she experienced before joining the Hughes family and just occasionally she reminds us that she didn't maybe have the best start to life. Noises sometimes just freak her out. So, we're scampering and riding along and then we hear a mechanical rumbling, I know it's just farm machinery but Flipper evidently thinks it's the four horsemen of the apocalypse, or one of them at least. Tail goes down and she simply turns round and bolts for home. I swing round and worriedly pedal flat out after her, I lost sight of her at one point but caught up to her as she made a stop just long enough to make sure I was following and then we just kept going. We finally met up again at the front door. She's curled up next to me now with big eyes making the occasional grumbly growl just in case anything needs scaring off. I don't think either of us are going out again today.


Friday, 17 August 2007

Ride 17 of 31

Before I write about today's ride we're going to have one of those all goes hazy cinematic flashback moments. Summer 1993, I was living with my parents in one of those kinda-in-between-things periods that many of us have as young adults. It had the potential to be a desperate summer, but I was saved by cycling. A friend of a friend ran a bar and was a real Tour de France nut he took pity on the miserable me and every afternoon called me round to watch tour highlights on Channel 4 on the big screen and give me a free beer. As the tour progressed and I developed a crush on Miguel Indurain I knew I wanted to ride bikes fast. At this time I didn't have a bike or any money, my Dad's answer to my predicament was to point me towards his ancient red Carlton in the cellar, I know a family photo exists from 1979 of my Dad on this bike so we're talking retro in 1993. I cleaned it up a bit and gave it a lube, Dad coughed for some new tyres and grip tape and it was ready to roll. I rode all summer, bars flipped because the bike was too big for me to ride any other way, it was a great bike and a great summer. I got it together and moved on, the bike went back to the cellar and I guess at some point went to the great bicycle heaven the sky, but I never forgot that bike.

Fast forward to present and the desire to own a new bike. As I mentioned a few posts ago I've ordered a Surly, I'd had that old Carlton in mind when we talked over the build spec. Gear levers on the down tube, leather saddle, I wanted something with a really traditional feel to it but with a sensible modern twist (think new Beetle). Today was the day this bike became mine, husband drove me into Manchester just after lunch and following a few final adjustments by Rich at Bicycle Doctor I was ready to ride home. 22 miles and not quite two hours later I was pulling up outside my house. What a bike, what a ride, it didn't quite make me feel nearly fifteen years younger, but it was close.


Thursday, 16 August 2007

Ride 16 of 31

My village has a hardware shop that used to sell a few bikes but of late they've given up on the fun stuff and decided to focus on shovels and nails and. A bit ago I was in there buying clothes pegs (oh the excitement) and noticed a cardboard box of bikey looking bits on the floor at the back. Well, what girl can resist a rummage in such a box of potential goodies. Amongst what was actually a load of junk I spotted some Shimano pedals, the sort that are SPD on one side and flat on the other, one pedal was in a packet the other loose, no cleats with them. They decided they only wanted a fiver for the pedals, so bargain had by me. Shoes ordered from t'internet, cleats from local bike shop, I was all ready to go "spuddy" for less than £40. I tried them out once on the park on my commuter and kept doing the comedy fall sideways slowly when stopping thing. So I gave up and sort of forgot about them. Well, today saw another attempt, it went well, I graduated from the park to round the block. In a calm roundabout/red light approaching situation I can unclip gracefully and put a foot down. Will my first emergency stop be so elegant?


Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Ride 15 of 31

It's been raining nearly all day but at about 3pm I spied some blue sky trying really hard to make it to my bit of Lancashire. I willed it to get to me by 5pm when I'd arranged to meet Carolyn. Luck was with me and I actually needed my sunnies by ride time. I'm still feeling quite a bit below my best all full of cold and coughing a lot, so we agreed to take it steady this evening. Some fun rolling bits along the reservoir, a couple of gentle climbs and a some really nice descents. Home after about 3 hours of this feeling way better than if I'd stayed on the couch with paracetomol, lemony drinks and self pity, thus proving that a bicycle is a better cold remedy than anything your pharmacist can sell you. Mind you, try telling husband of mine that I do need that new Santa Cruz Juliana for purely medicinal purposes!


Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Ride 14 of 31

Today, I did something that I've not done since I was about 10 and went for a whizz round a BMX track. I put on my extra tough helmet, I tucked the right leg of my jeans into my sock and off I pedalled, it was awesome. I'd like to think that I flew round, took the perfect line, caught stacks of air and generally rocked. I doubt that was actually the case but I had a great time no matter what. Fortunately apart from husband of mine who thinks I rock all the time, there were no witnesses to spoil my delusions, the rain seeming to have kept all small boys at home with their Nintendos.


Monday, 13 August 2007

Ride 13 of 31

I am trying to convince myself that the bizarre and worsening noise coming from my bike is not it's way of telling me the bottom bracket is broken. So today's riding was a host of diagnostic laps round the block each following a "procedure" at my oh so not expert bike fixing hands. I rode in a variety of inappropriate gears, extremes of legs spinning like mad on the flat and stomping over hump back bridge in my big ring. Gear choice does not seem to be related to the noise. I cleaned a chunk of gunk off the cranks and front mech in case it was something as simple as grinding grit, no joy. I oiled bits that seemed dry, I wiped bits that seemed too greasy, I checked all teeth and chain links. I injected my pedals. Each lap of the block the bike made a noise. Small boys watched me bunny hop as I tried to bounce the noise out of my bike. I have exhausted my skills as a bike mechanic. It will have to be looked at by a professional.


ginger stepchild

Funny thing, riding cross bikes.

Ginger stepchildren of the road and mountain bike world, roadies can't understand the appropriate convention of baggies and packs (baggies for brambles, pack for three litres of water and eight spare tubes), so dispense with the nod of recognition and break out the old-school sour-faced glare.

And mountain bikers, well, what would you do if somebody riding what is apparently a road bike overtook you and your five inches on a technical descent?

Caught somewhere in the middle, and usually with a foot in one or both camps on other days anyway, those that do seem to plump for either grinning a big, fat, myteetharebeingrattledoutofmyheadbutboyisitfun hello to everyone, or nothing at all - which goes to show how people are funny things as well.

Tell you what, though - cross bikes are the best thing in the world for poaching N. Downs cheek. The ramblers don't have a clue what they are...


Sunday, 12 August 2007

Ride 12 of 31

I'm a bit ill. I've been riding the last few days with a bit of a cold, a bunged up nose but nothing too serious. Today I woke up feeling rough. The cold has become a cough. The restorative properties of ice cream are well known so I very gently pedalled to the corner shop for a Fab lolly. The packet said made with real strawberry but when I actually read the ingredients something makes me think I can't count it as one of my 5 a day. Still, it made me feel much better.


Ride 11 of 31

I've been riding bikes most of my life but have only just seriously started getting into mountain biking this year, I'm spoilt by having natural riding right on my doorstep so have never visited a man-made trail centre, but that has just changed. Alarm at seven this morning, too early for a Saturday, but up I got. Dress for riding, bike into back of car, husband bid farewell. Drive to Carolyn's house, pop her bike in to car, off we go for an adventure. Just over an hour in the car and we pull into the car park of Coed Llandegla (North Wales). Bikes readied, sun cream applied, helmets on, off we set. Carolyn's a pretty experienced rider and assured me I could cope with the "Black Run" so this is our first target. Steady climb to begin with and then we reached the first berm I've not much experience of berms and somehow all went slidey and sideways, my bike skidded towards the fence, fortunately my body was in the way so no serious damage done to the steed. Dust myself down and back on the bike. The "Black Run" was a tad too scary for me, lots of berms and I now have a new phobia of them. Lots of bits where I was off and pushing. Fortunately the trail was pretty quiet so I didn't get in anyone else's way. Made it back down to the shop and cafe. A few minutes in the shop eyeing up shiny bits and shorts and we hit the cafe. A big slab of carrot cake and a can of coke restored my self confidence so out we went again. "Red Trail" this time. Shared start to some of the routes so the berm of evil is soon approached, this time no problem. The "Red Trail" is ace, super swooshy, lots of nice linking berms, oh yes I am quickly cured of my new phobia. A great run back down to the trail centre. Coffee, jaffa cakes, and a banana. Bikes back in car and the drive home. What a great day!


Saturday, 11 August 2007

24hr party girl

Friday nights have been somewhat lacking of late. Either driving to a race, or travelling across London to see the boy, but precious few spent doing something nice to make it feel like a weekend. Frenetic. Time to take some time out for self. Cancelled all plans and left work at 7pm with nothing to get up for on Saturday and therefore no time constraints. Cross bike, pocketful of gels, one bottle, lights and a warm thing. Glowing sunlight. Up across the golf course to Cissbury and then a meandering route to Steyning through singletrack (all off-camber and dusty after so much wet); some road hills to Jack & Jill. Back across the tops, getting stuck into the climbs, pausing to watch the pinkest sunset and a pair of kestrels hunting (wildlife all over the place at the moment, seen hares twice this week, buzzard struggling to escape a roadside perch with breakfast in its claws, many deer displaced by the crop cutting that's going on around the clock, dodging bats between hedges and the inevitable rabbit encounters), for a welcome wee in the bushes (can anyone else not concentrate when they're bursting?)... Then putting the hammer down and flying to Blackcap along hard-packed, glowing white chalk, big ring, sore legs, joy of speed through the dusk. Investigations of new trails down from the hill and then quiet lanes to the village. Topped off with the piece of litter caught in an overhead branch suddenly coming to life and swooping down over my head as I rode beneath; a barn owl, so close I could have reached out and touched it, flying alongside for a few wingbeats and then circling out over the field into the darkness. Level crossing open, beer in the fridge. Bliss.


Friday, 10 August 2007

Ride 10 of 31

I ran errands today, the sort of stuff I might normally have hopped in the car to do but because of my pedal every day policy I was out on two wheels. A carrier bag classily swinging from the handlebars. Dry cleaners, post office, appointment making at the dentist, really dull stuff. In the car it would have been nothing but a bit of a drag but somehow all the chores seemed balanced out nicely by the always taken at top speed fab swoosh down the hill into my bit of the village.


Thursday, 9 August 2007

Ride 9 of 31

Husband of mine is not a biker, very rarely I manage to lure him out for a ride and today was such an occasion. Chicken sandwiches, mini pork pies, cherries, malt loaf, fizzy water and a rug stuffed into a ruc-sack off we set for a family picnic. Flipper the dog lolloped along next to the bikes as we did a very steady 4 miles along the canal tow path to the woods. Rug spread, sarnies scoffed, sticks thrown and mud spread (Flipper obviously involved), cherry pips spat, bit of a relax, then rubbish and rug all stuffed back into ruc-sack and pedal home. It was a dreamy sort of afternoon, dragon flies and swans, Wigan in the distance even managed to look like a Tuscan hill town in the sun. All that was missing is that we weren't wearing straw boaters and striped blazers and riding Pashley Princesses.


Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Ride 8 of 31

Riding this afternoon with two friends. I've got one of those speed, distance, GPS units, I mostly use it for running but occasionally take it out on the bike. Statistics for my ride. Duration 4 hours 41 minutes. Total distance 23.26 miles. Max speed 26mph. Total amount of climbing 878m. Highest point reached Winter Hill at 456 metres above sea level, but honestly the descent made it seemed like the highest point on the planet. An even gnarlier descent followed later, locally known as the ice cream run. I hadn't done it before, I had visions of a soft scoop raspberry ripple sort of happy time. Instead there were rocks, big ones. The sort of riding that leaves you feeling pounded. I'll confess I wimped out of the final climb of the day, left the others and peeled off for home. I feel good but both me and the bike have got a kinda crunchy, clicky thing going on in the drivetrain, I recommend oil for one of us and apparently chocolate milkshake is good for the other.


Tuesday, 7 August 2007

nettle stings.

and sun burn.

that is all :o)


Ride 7 of 31

I went into Manchester today on the train (no bike) to meet my friend. He's a very stylish photographer so although I don't really do city chic I felt a bit compelled to make an effort, you know the sort of thing, hair actually dried instead of being allowed to form in it's usual tangle of tails. I had a lovely time, doing lunch, catching up on gossip and shopping but I had that slightly overwhelmed feeling that a city always gives me. I got home feeling a bit zonked. Flipper the dog was very pleased to see me home and instantly set about me with the heart melting rays she can magic from her eyes. I quickly changed into some baggies and a tech tee, grabbed a bike and headed out with the dog. Just a quick nip along the disused railway track and back but the perfect antidote to the city. Now, if I could just work out how to bottle that "bike riding good" feeling I'd be onto something.


Grizzly bears and bicycles

I had a dream last night that I was walking along a warm, quiet, hedge-lined country lane. I came across a large, hungry looking Grizzly Bear pawing at the ground, so after a sigh of gentle annoyance I turned right and broke through the dense hawthorn hedge and scaled a muddy bank to get to the field above and out of sight. Odd.

So I obviously have bears on the brain. That is most likely because today I'm driving to Gatwick and tomorrow flying to Calgary. On Sunday the Trans Rockies begins.

I can't believe it's crept up on me like this, stealthily hiding behind the excitement (and pain) of Mayhem before jumping out on me: 'Da daaaaaa'. Last week was mental. Packing, washing, buying, breaking, re-buying, unpacking, packing again, unpacking, removing home comforts, packing again.

Now I just can't wait to get out there and ride my bike. I'll be writing a blog each day (facilities permitting) so you can see how I'm getting on.

As my friend Huw wrote in his good luck card to me "Take it easy girl, but take it". Will do...


Monday, 6 August 2007

a little spot of bother.

British Cycling. Something is deeply, deeply wrong with an organisation which purports to uphold the best interests of our sport and then refuses to send the four-times national champion to the Worlds in her own country. Thankfully, they relented - or at least we hope they have, because the list of 'additional' riders still hasn't been announced, and we don't know who will have been 'allowed' to go.

To cut a long, convoluted and really bloody depressing story short, their sole purpose as an organisation is to grab as many Olympic medals for Team GB as possible. Medals mean funding (via the National Lottery/Sport England), presumably for more medals (and salaries). Therefore, anyone who does not stand a chance at podiuming stays home...

What would be a better use of all that lottery money, a couple of brassy coins on a ribbon every four years or the opportunity to inspire people to ride, by 'just' participating?

A solution? Get the suits out on a bike. Not an elitist track bike, or an unattractive road bike, but a mountain bike of the sort found in (maybe) every third shed in the country. Send them to a Merida, or a Gorrick, or a 24. Let them see and ride with real people, who live nowhere near a velodrome or an iconic hill climb but do have woods or the park just down their road and for whom participation is what matters, not winning. Riders who don't stand a chance of ever seeing the world from the top of a podium but are still out there every weekend, getting fitter and happier as a consequence, as a by-product of joining in.

Spend my share of the lottery money (and all of my licence fee) on that, please, British Cycling.

(BC licence 707895)

Ride 6 of 31

Didn't really have a plan in mind for a specific ride so just went out to play for an hour. Rode a mixture of canal tow path, disused railway line, farm track, woodland paths, nettle patches and B-roads. Sunny but not too hot. The ride turned into something like an animal magic roadshow, sadly no Johnny Morris voiceover. I saw ducks, moor hens, butterflies, sheep, cows, goats, a frog (left unkissed for someone in greater need of a prince than me), a pheasant, a squirrel, a huge shuffling hairy caterpillar, and best of all a pig. I was just meandering along past a bit of a small-holding which has a couple of fields of free range porkers when I hear a lot of piggy grunts a lot closer to me than expected. I turn to see a good size pink lady coming towards me with a sort of piggy indignation as to why I was on her patch. After a bit of an inspect of the back wheel she seemed satisfied I was no competition for her mud patch and let me go on my way.


Heat and Dust

The edges of my eyes are still red and my skin is bronzed where I sweated off the suncream. Yesterday was a proper summer's day. This weekend was a proper summer's weekend.

Saturday night we escaped. Tent up next to the river. Dunster Castle behind us. Mist clinging to the long grass in the valley. Hip flask, Jack Daniels, sound sleep.

Morning saw a beautiful sunrise, tinkering with bikes, hot tea and bacon rolls. 500 riders pouring out of Dunster and climbing up and up and up (and up) into Exmoor.

The views were breathtaking, hazy, summery, golden. The ups were sweaty, hot, bent double. The downs were eye watering, dangerous, fast, flowing. The end was welcome, more tea, cold cans of coke, congratulations, washing in the river and a sleepy crawl back down the motorway to Bristol.

People who don't have weekends like these are missing a huge chunk of happiness from their lives. Next year...


Sunday, 5 August 2007

Ride 5 of 31

Today I thought I'd go for the one wheeled option. I've been trying to learn to ride a unicycle. It's frustrating as I am finding it incredibly difficult. In fact, possibly the most difficult thing I've ever tried to do. It's a bizarre mental and physical challenge. Speaking to others who've tamed the one wheeled beast apparently it's just a knack, a sudden mental clicking that allows the physical act of riding to happen. I have yet to experience this moment of mental clarity. I mostly still need to hang onto a wall with one hand, I can manage a few turns of the pedals without this aid to balance, something starts to feel like I'm going to make it and then it all just goes pear shaped. And when things start to go a bit wrong on the unicycle I find they rapidly go very wrong. Believe me unicycles bite. My shins are mostly being held together with Germolene new skin and I have a bruise on my thigh the like of which I've not seen since a cowboy once suggested I try my hand at riding a mechanical bucking bull (that's a whole other story). I have given up for today, but I will be trying again.


Saturday, 4 August 2007

Ride 4 of 31

A friend of mine claims the best things to go shopping for are shoes and hats because no matter what neither can make you look fat. While I agree with this statement I have to add that the absolute finest thing in the world to go shopping for is a new bicycle. A new bike can do nothing but make a girl look fabulous. To this end today's ride was a ride to have a ride. I pedalled to my local railway station, and hopped me and the bike onto the train to Manchester. A speedy, bus dodging, nip along the cities Oxford Road onto an aromatically mouth watering "curry mile" and a left turn found me outside Manchester's Bicycle Doctor. There is nothing quite like the smell of vulcanised rubber to get my wallet itching to make its way out of my pocket. I was expected at the shop as a Surly cross-check was there waiting for to test ride to make the final decision on frame size before ordering. A few whips round the block and as expected I do indeed need the smallest one they make. Lots of chat followed about exact spec with my bank balance having to unfortunately over-rule my heart on certain points, but a decision was made and an order placed. A happy me then cycled back along the Oxford Road stopping to take in an exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery and some lovely salad for a late lunch at a vegetarian restaurant I spotted. Then it was back to the station. Rather than hang around on the platform for the train directly to my village I got the first one available that got me within 6 miles of home and rode the rest of the way from there. A relaxing day, lots of fun, some easy riding and a new bike to look forward to.


Friday, 3 August 2007

Ride 3 of 31

Ride 3 means day 3 of the 31, so not quite a tenth of the way through my self inflicted challenge and already I'm suffering the physical consequences. I'd arranged to meet my friend Carolyn at 5pm at Rivington Barn (cafe just outside village of Rivington). (Carolyn organises the women's rides of a local mountain bike club and so she had also arranged to meet Nicola, a new rider thinking about joining the club.) From my house to the barn is about 3 miles by road but I always nip up a grassy track I know to cut a corner off. This short cut has a gate that is my nemesis, it has one of those very strange revolving stile things next to the very locked standard 5 bar gate. To get through this I have to pop the bike up onto it's back wheel, then wedge the bike into the revolving bit, a weird balancing act that defies every law of science. I then have to climb the 5 bar bit swing the bike though towards me and begin the untangling process. Every time something goes a bit wrong and I lose a chunk of skin, today was particularly dodgy and I lost 2 bits of arm and scraped my ear on my front tyre. Made it the rest of the way to the barn without incident. Met up with the others and off we all set for what I knew would be a cracking ride all around the Rivington area. The rain mostly held off, not too many other people about, and felt really good to be out with other bikers. All well until about the ten mile point when on a bit of a breath catch and drink stop a sudden stingy itchy sensation on the back of the knee made me realise I was stopped above a patch of evil ants. Several minutes later and a bramble patch scraped another bit of arm. Nicola left us at about the 12 or 14 mile point but Carolyn and I felt we had another climb in our legs so off we went, now I'm home my legs are not thanking for me this decision. But through all this physical adversity I was grinning like every biker on a good ride does. I smiled as I made it to the top of the climbs and I giggled my way down the down bits. I made it home at about 9pm, gobbled down some stir-fry and glugged a beer. I ache and I'm scratched up, but nothing another beer and a bath won't sort out and I'll be more than ready to do it all again.


Thursday, 2 August 2007

Ride 2 of 31

When I initially discussed this plan for summer cycling with Minx I mentioned that my childhood rides had all been fuelled by Kia-Ora orange squash and Wagon Wheels, these two products ranking somewhere alongside Smash instant potato and fish fingers, anyone who grew up in the 70's will no doubt share this culinary nostalgia. So I decided today to ride to my local Tesco to purchase Wagon Wheels and Kia-Ora. I recently bought a new Chrome courier bag and yet to ride with it thought this little shopping trip the perfect opportunity to test it out. The easiest way to get to Tesco is an unimaginative 6 miles along a wind tunnel like section of the A6, but instead I took the back lanes which can get me most of the way there. Cows and horses in the fields, tree lined farm tracks, the sun shining, it's more hilly and a longer ride than the main road but none of that seemed to matter as I tootled along in my little nostalgia bubble. As soon as I started towards rejoining the main road a car cut across in front of me causing me to brake hard to avoid being squished, my nostalgia bubble was a little dented but not popped by this incident. Then I had the tricky bit of the ride negotiating a series of roundabouts including one where traffic leaves and joins the M61, there are some cycle lanes here but they sort of appear and disappear leaving a rider occasionally stranded, as I picked my way through this section I could feel my little nostalgia bubble shrinking a bit more but I pressed on. Tesco finally reached safely. Biscuit aisle found, wagon wheels into basket, squash aisle located, no sign of Kia-Ora, checked shirt assistant tracked down, no they don't do Kia-Ora, puzzled look given as to why none of the other 9 brands of orange squash stocked will satisfy my needs. I decide not to try and explain. I spy instead some Panda orange drink, thinking this may be a satisfactory alternative I reach up for a bottle. Before I even have time to register the split in the plastic I am partially coated in sticky orange. Nostalgia bubble well and truly bursts at this point. I abandon the Wagon Wheels and head for wines and spirits. I am happy to report that all the necessary ingredients for making Margaritas will fit into a Chrome messenger bag and can be comfortably transported home at speed over windy distances of 6 miles.


Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Ride 1 of 31

When I came up with the plan of riding every day in August I had this idea of re-creating the summers of childhood, I pictured sunshine and just being outside pedalling all the time. Somehow I forgot all that annoying grown up stuff that just gets in the way. I've been away on holiday and only got back last night so after collecting Flipper the dog from friends, wading through mountains of laundry (how can two people have worn so much in two weeks), grocery shopping and sorting out some paperwork I finally got round to a ride at about 7pm. Feeling a bit pudgy and tired from holiday and noticing that Flipper looked like she'd gained a few pounds from 2 weeks with a retired butcher I decided on a gentle pedal with the dog. We did the 200m to the end of our road and joined the bank of the Leeds-Liverpool canal, 200m of tow path and we dropped down the steps under the aqueduct up the steep slope and onto the dis-used railway line. This is the start of lots of my rides as from this point I can stay on the railway line, access some cheeky singletrack through woods or take advantage of lots of points to rejoin the canal tow path. This evening was a gentle pedal down the railway line for a few miles and a turn round and pedal back. Nothing technical, nothing challenging, just me making the most of two things I love to do, riding a bike and being with my dog. We both hung our tongues out, wagged our tails and let our ears flap in the breeze.