Tuesday, 27 November 2007

The misty moutains (well......... hills)!

My Tuesday luck continues with me having the day off and also finding a friend available to ride with. No sunshine this week just a lot of mist to make for some reduced visibility riding. Lack of visibility not aided by the amount of mud spraying up into my face, and smiling in such situations also leads to gritty teeth, still my teeth didn't seem to be attracting as much grit as my brakes and drivetrain if the grinding noises were anything to go by. Great way to spend the morning!


Thursday, 22 November 2007


I wimped out of commuting by bike today because the intermittent drizzle and heavy rain looked too nasty. Then the sun came out to scorn me for my lack of fortitude. The shame stayed with me all day.


Monday, 19 November 2007

Fi's Top 10 things At The Moment.

1. Molly Brown. My friend Kate's 9 year old daughter who I hung out with all weekend. 'Hope or Rhyddian for X-factor victory: Discuss'.
2. The Boy (will I get in trouble for putting him second?)
3. Icebreaker 200 bodyfit thermal top. I could not survive my cold university office, nor night rides, nor existing in general this time of year without it.
4. Slightly green bananas
5. Smartwool socks (especially the ones with snowflaks round the ankle)
6. GAP denim mini skirt
7. Tea. What kind? Builders of course.
8. Hashing in the rain
9. Porridge with apple bits in.
10. My new bike - arriving next week...


Sunday, 18 November 2007

Delamere Forest

Delamere forest (Cheshire) yesterday with some of the Groovy Chicks and Rob our guide for the day. 18 miles of mud, wet leaves, slippy tree roots, eye level branches, sandy climbs, one mad dog, a short 4X course, two cafe stops, and a descent called "No Brainer." Great fun but hard work and I'm a little bit tired today.


Thursday, 15 November 2007

23:51 Thursday November 15th

Home, bed. Feet still chilled through. Shoulders still tense from the cold.

I rode from university to my friend Phil's for dinner tonight. It took me over an hour with a huge bag full of laptop and papers named things like "social class and the meanings of physical activity: a social constructionist's viewpoint" which are now dog eared and slightly damp. I got a twitch in my shoulder from the weight digging in to a nerve.

I also lost the feeling in both feet, one calf and all my fingers. My knees ached from the cold and my nose turned red. Even after a hot shower and 3 mugs of tea I sat with my ankles tucked underneath me to warm my feet. I failed. They are still cold.

Nicky offered me a lift home and for the first time in a long long time I accepted. I am tired and slow and cold and wanted my bed. I discarded by bike at the back door and reached for the fluffy bedsocks quicker than you could say 'assoss overshoes'.


Bad Thing, Good Thing

Bad Thing: Despite speedy pedalling I missed the early train by a minute.
Good Thing: I didn't miss the next train.
Bad Thing: My bike fell over on the train.
Good Thing: I wore my new Swrve Knickers today and they were lush.
Bad Thing: I forgot my sunglasses.
Good Thing: At least the sun was out.
Good Thing: Made it to Uni on time.
Good Thing: Wasn't cold for the ride home.
Good Thing: My untried commuting lights turned out to be little gems.
Good Thing: I got a really cheery "hello" as a series roadie overtook me going uphill.
Good Thing: I've just about ridden enough miles to justify a slice of apple crumble.

Bike riding equals more good things than bad, that's why we do it!


Wednesday, 14 November 2007


This is me at the end of Mountain Mayhem this year. I look a mess? I was...
For some totally unknown reason all I can think about today is Mountain Mayhem. I can't wait. Well, I can't wait to be fast enough to kick ass. I am doing long slow miles at the moment. Not even that long actually. Building my engine slowly with the awesome support of Rob Lee. I am eating good food and have a speedily developing six-pack. All very lovely. Haven't been on the mtb for ages though which is a bugger but will do in time, no doubt.

But Mayhem still eats away at the back of my mind. It was the most exhilarating feeling in the world finishing that race and my whole being is aching to do it again. The pain was indescribable but I will be better prepared next year. Each night as I layer on the thermals and strap lights to my head and handlebars I think of all those people sat behind Hollyoaks and feel pride that I am not just thinking it, I'm doing it.

Nothing worth doing was ever easy.


Tuesday, 13 November 2007

TFI Tuesday!

Tuesdays are rapidly becoming my favourite day of the week. For the second Tuesday running I've been lucky enough to have free time, a friend also not at work to ride with, nice weather and almost empty trails right on my doorstep. This Tuesdays ride was better than last Tuesdays, no punctures and a ride route that took in the cafe for the best slab of carrot cake ever! Absolute Autumnal perfection.


Monday, 12 November 2007

uh oh.

just checked the weather forecast in preparation for the begining of the commuting week.


it has been a long time since i've had to cope with weather like this and i can't remember what i need to wear to stay warm under these conditions (did you notice it's also going to be raining? oh yeah). factor in the windchill of a cyclist travelling between 15 and 20mph and it gets a whole load colder. the pile of clothes by the bed currently consists of:

endura mt500 short
very old pace cycles roubaix tights
icebreaker ls wool base layer
howies ls wool base layer with the long zip-up neck
mint sauce race and flowers jersey (tis a well known fact that bright pink makes you feel warm)
gore softshell
two buffs (one for head, one for neck, eyes and nose in the gap between the two)
assos overshoes
gore softshell gloves

and, er, the hip flask with the sloe gin in it.

well, i figure if it works for 24's... ;o)


Old friend, new rider.

One of my oldest and very best friends Meriel came up from London to visit for the weekend. I've had a few adventures with her in the past, we've hiked mountains, dived the seas and drunk more than one town dry, but until this weekend never ridden bike together. She's been a road rider for as long as I've known her but is a very new mountain biker. I'm hardly an old hand but it was down to me to lead the way and show off my local trails, a dirt paradise compared to what she has easy access to from the big city. The weather did its best to confirm that it is indeed grim up North but we're not the sort of girls who scare easily so we pedalled our way through the wind and ignored the rain that thought about falling. We climbed a few bumpy miles and whizzed back down an even bumpier few, some bits brought smiles and laughter and some frowns with handlebars gripped too tight with fear. Home to tea and snacks and the knowledge that the mountain biking bug had well and truly bitten my friend, new bikes and future rides discussed.


Sunday, 11 November 2007

Minx boyz

I've just been browsing, nostalgically, at my photos of the 2007 Trans Rockies. I found a few classic pics and thought I'd share. Hope you don't mind...Our first podium - hadn't quit mastered the whole 'hand in the air' thing at this point (but we got used to it!)
Gav Atkins, Meg Bichard and myself going for a bit of post-Rockies road action. Gav squeezed into that jersey and had us in hysterics!

Meg at the end of the final stage. We were chasing the girls in 2nd place and would have had a good chance at overtaking if Meg hadn't decided that 6 inches was enough room to squeeze between 2 guys. It wasn't and she took all of them down, covering herself in blood and coal dust in the process! 3rd by 15 seconds on the final day. What an end to the race!



At 3am this morning my mind resembled an abandoned birds nest. Not one of those lovely neat round ones with a warm fluff lining. No, more like a rook's nest that didn't quite pass the scrutiny of the Chief Rook and her scrutiny committee and was cast from the tree with disgust, to lie unnoticed in piles of autumn twigs and leaves, mistaken for more autumnal detritus.

But 60 miles of pure clean sunlight, gentle climbing, rolling descents and lots of breathing has knitted together my destructive thoughts and (although still under inspection from Chief Rook), my brain is certainly developing a warm fluff lining and a functional, circular shape.

OK maybe I overdid the birdsnest analogy, but you get the point. Dwelling and crying into cups of hot chocolate: BAD. Riding and thinking and smiling at sheep: GOOD.

Here endeth the lesson.


Saturday, 10 November 2007

don’t think too hard about it, but:
everything that we do and see is through somebody else’s eyes
there is precious little to be found that is untarnished
the trails have all been ridden before
the views have all been seen.

rely on chance for miracles.


Thursday, 8 November 2007

all in the timing

Rides have been limited for the past few days. Frustrating as it is to be confined to the house when the indian summer (albiet a somewhat chilly one) we'd hoped for finally arrives, the excursions into the outside world have been brief, mildly energetic and beautiful. The leaf colour is stunning, we seem to have had more localised frost than most visitors and so the paths and lanes are lined with every shade of golden, from transparent lemon to waxy ginger, and in places deep red and luminous crimson too, immigrant species but welcome punctuation to the spectrum.

The peace and quiet of a drifting autumn has passed now, though. I nipped out for a quick half hour on the cross bike this evening - having spent a lovely but lazy day not doing a lot apart from talk and eat - and the challenge being to get back before the half-drunk mug of tea on the desk got cold. It was past dusk and raining when I opened the door, fine, jacket on, go anyway, don't be lazy. By the time I got to the Anchor and turned south to cross the flood plain, the wind was howling down from the hill and blowing the rain across the beam of light in shards. A mile of steering into the squall, right ear filling up with water, tights resembling shining black seal fleece, squinting hard to keep the lenses in my eyes and the spray out, more like sailing than riding, and then as suddenly as it came the rain ceased and left with the wind alone, whipping through the trees and sending sheets of leaf fall spinning to the ground. Black tarmac swathed in orange and umber, occasional tyre tracks, floods and puddles papered flat with colour.

It's dark now, and late, and in the morning the view out of the window will be less rainbow and more monotone, the wood a wet and shining black against a silver sky, the red brick houses diminished and small. With the wind and Rachmaninoff alternately gusting against the window from either side, I have a hat on and yet more tea beside me and the balance has tipped suddenly and without doubt towards winter. I can't say I am looking forward to it...


Tuesday, 6 November 2007


A free morning when the weather is good leaves a girl only one option, a bike ride! Plan was to meet a mate at 9a.m so left the house at 8.30, all wrapped up against the slight chill of the morning but feeling great, heading for the trails. But, less than 10 minutes of tarmac from home and I thought the front of the bike was feeling a bit swampy, stopped, poked tyre, flat! No worries my bag has tyre levers, pump, and a spare tube. Wheel off, quick mobile phone call to let friend know I might be a minute or two late, I set to sorting out my puncture. Tyre loosened, tube out, air pissing hole easily spotted, spare tube dug out of bag. I carefully inspected inside of tyre wall for offending pointy bits, nothing obvious. New tube stuffed into place, tyre refitted I start to pump. I can hear air, and not in a good tyre filling way, inflation not happening. Tyre off again, tube out. Two air pissing holes spotted this time! Puncture repair kit dragged out of bottom of bag, patch time. Tyre checked even more carefully, no spikey bits obvious, no spokes anywhere they shouldn't be. Patched tube now in place, tyre on, more pumping, this time success, a functioning wheel is refitted.

3 hours of lovely, incident free riding followed. Such a great day for being out in the Lancashire hills. Sunshine and smiles all round.


Monday, 5 November 2007

Mellow fruitfulness

I had a miserable weekend getting my legs ripped off by a melange of over-keen weekend racers who have nothing better to do that prove they have more testosterone than me. They do. They win.

I chose to sweep up the remant thoughts of this anger and scrape them into the emotional rubbish bin along with the slightly furry skin off last night's smoked mackarel.

But I keep back one memory from the weekend which makes the girl in me smile coyly, tilt my head to one side and go 'ah'.

Picture this. 3 hours of mentally technical and hard riding, too ridiculous to be anything other than unnecessarily exhausting. Crawling back to the car on the final bridleway, sweat beginning to cool down and the sun beginning to run out of power. The boy and I slow down and stop, tip toes on the ground to steady ourselves, tired bikes and tired faces pointing towards the view.

In the valley below there were layers of smokey green hills, fog clinging to the bottoms of each dip, hiding the light polution and turning all sharp lines into soft sketches: The perfect soft ambient painting of a Somerset scene. Exmoor in the distance was blanketed in mist and the sun was that beautiful autumnal pinky-orange.

And he held my hand and what was left of my steely resolve melted completely.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Killer loop

Yesterday I rode with the Groovy Chicks. I was a bit nervous before setting off as the plan for the day was one of the MBR killer loops. I think the source of my anxiety was the term "killer" this not necessarily being a word one wants to consider when heading out onto the Yorkshire moors. As we set off riding from East Marton (bit west of Skipton) the unseasonably sunny and warm day lulled me into thinking maybe it wouldn't be so bad. It was a ride with a lot of thick mud and long grassy climbs, the first 9 miles seemed more like 15 and I was glad of a sandwich stop. By 15 miles I was experiencing a deadness in the legs and feeling like I was going to puke, I wanted to know if there was a short cut down off the tops to the car, the killer loop was indeed killing me. Another sandwich stop, a big drink and a huge handful of jelly beans saw some energy restored to my broken spirit. A corking section of rocky downhill had me grinning again and even feeling like the first 15 miles had been worth it. The final 10 or so miles were quite fast, just nicely undulating, and there is something about knowing you're in the final push towards to the post ride cafe that keeps you going. By the time the bacon buttie, chocolate rice-crispie cake and 2 mugs of tea were gone all the bad bits of the 32 miles of very muddy Yorkshire were long forgotten and all I knew was that I'd had a great day out riding with friends.


Friday, 2 November 2007


Having a bad day? Go to Cycling News and read the coverage of the 2007 Crocodile Trophy, then feel better.

It's a mountain bike stage race that covers some of the wildest, most inhospitable parts of northern Australia. To finish is an achievement that only the toughest riders attain - but this year, Marc Herremans, a paraplegic Ironman triathlete, has finished all 1400km on a handcycle alongside all the other able bodied riders, who formed a guard of honour at the finish to recognise his incredible determination.

Have a read.


Thursday, 1 November 2007

Fire, hallucination and dancing

When you're in something you're in it and you can't see it for what it is. Last night - with the clarity of retrospect and a good night's sleep - was essentially a group of primitive tribe-members following their tribal leaders into a wood to follow rule-bound ritual; including fires, hallucination (though excessive alcohol ingestion and adrenaline production) and hyperactivity.

To translate - Last night was annual the Bristol halloween ride. A group of 50 witches and devils (with the odd crow and ghost) rode around Ashton Court and Leigh Woods and came to a halt by a camp fire ("I don't don't know they got persmission for that" - sweet!) where we split into teams and between swigs of wine chased around a tricky singletrack loop in relay. When you look at it like that its seems almost normal but think about what it looks like for people not 'in it' - it is actually quite bizarre.

So I have absolute sympathy for people who raise one eyebrow when they see the scarred legs and muscled thighs which set me apart from 'normal' girls and who, when they discover my weekend shenanigans think I'm a bit, well, tribal. I am, I follow the mountainbiking tribe. I worship the leaders. I adhere to traditions and hold certain days, rules, events or artefacts as ritually sacred. I'm comfortable with that because my identity is entwined with and reliant on that way of life. Bikes are my social prop and riding my form of cultural capital which I cash in for friendship and respect within my group where this kind of capital has some currency.

We take it for granted, this sense of bike-oriented belonging, but it is special and we should be proud.