Thursday, 31 January 2008


found on an acf post titled sometimes i want to give up:

I find it useful to call upon the Giant Rabbit of Righteousness. He weighs 63 tonnes and if you call to him he'll happily land atop and flatten any number of cabs before bouncing off to right other wrongs.

For something so large and furry, he has a keen sense of justice.

greatly amusing, from this viewpoint at least :o)


Monday, 28 January 2008

take more care.


I have been somewhat stressed of late. Simple things (like, er, eating - sorry Mum!) tend to take a back seat when I'm stressed. With the current mileage this means instant and dramatic weight loss (2kgs in a week? ffs) and - hey presto - a cold.

Actually, it's Girl Flu and I am dying.

Or not.

Whatever it is, it's kept me in bed and off the bike for two whole days whilst spring begins. I saw crocuses flowering in the sunshine on Saturday afternoon and reports from the hill say the trails are nearly dry.



Singlespeed psych.

Following on from my previous post about being so rubbish riding uphill and the strange paradox as to whether I'll be better without gears I'll be giving it a go offroad! I have a suitable frame that I've been using for short commute duties with slick 26" tyres. Yesterday was spent spannering, it's now fitted with nobbly tyres, a 32 tooth chainring at the front and a 16 tooth ring at the back, on a freewheel I hasten to add. (If you're looking for tales of fixed offroading then read Cellarrats blog). Took it for a test pedal yesterday through the puddles on the very flat disused railway line near my house just to check none of the bits dropped off. Need to psych myself up to trying it on a hill now!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Confessions of a lazy climber.

I'm rubbish at riding up hills, there I've said it, out in the open for all the world to know. I am your classic click, click, click, down granny ring, horrifically slow climber. I rode Llandegla at the weekend with girls from the shecycles forum and was requested to pedal faster going up a climb because quite frankly I was in the way. This inability to stomp up hills is why I bought a fixed gear bike, if anything will turn me into a pedalling demon thought I it's a bike where you can't not pedal. So, now for the second confession of this blog entry, I've not been out properly from my house on the fixie because everywhere is uphill, and I've been scared to try it. Until today.

Bullet bitten, off I set. Things I noticed on my ride, I'm better at riding uphill fixed than with gears, seriously, I just pedalled really steadily and sort of glided uphill, I even liked it! I am seriously considering that I might be better on a single speed for off road riding too (or is that just too insane). Fixed gear riding is hot, two layers of everything was not necessary. I do need to wear a belt with my Swrve capris, trying to pull your trousers up while riding is not a good strategy. People who drive Mercedes cars are not good at sharing the road. Very small dogs and old ladies are a hazard. And finally, track stands not only look quite cool, they will prove useful at traffic lights I must learn how to do them.


Tuesday, 22 January 2008

puffered out

Damnit that was good. And very much a race of two halves. Not chronologically, but simultaneous opposing events, thoughts and feelings...

Arrive in Inverness (yay!) to discover bike not there (no!). Frantic phonecalls to three different ParcelFarce offices finally yield a bike not in Perth but on a lorry on its way to Inverness (yay!). Meanwhile Jac and the campervan are lost somewhere snowy (no!). Long wait in which we get to be excitedly annoying to everyone else at the airport before Jac turns up, we find the PF depot and the bike and drive to Strathpeffer (yay!).

Lots of long faces at Strathpeffer - event may be cancelled due to the wind blowing away the campsite, the timing system and marquees and the rain rendering the campsite a flooded and unusable mess during the day (no!). Find alternative parking arrangements for camper vans, meet up with TSPC and JRA, and sup on pot noodles and red wine and listen mostly to other people talking comfortable nonsense before a short but happy sleep (yay!).

Wake and discover race is on (yay!). Drive to race site and realise we will be towed onto the field by tractor (a very big and scary no! for Jac who is driving, an excited yay! for me and anyone else who likes watching tractors hooning around muddy fields). Set up, build bike, race time (yay!). Forget to eat breakfast, as usual (no!).

Girls have good first laps (yay!), despite returning to report a course covered liberally with "boiler plate ice" (new one on me too - imagine two inches of highly polished glass on every surface of the trail and you're there). By contrast my first lap is utter crap, I can't ride the tech stuff and am mincing around like, well, a girl, full of demons and loathing for slabby rocks that might bite me, and of course at the top of the first climb I slip on the ice (having cleaned the whole climb) and land kneecap-first on the only pointy rock visible above the ice, resulting in being unable to push on the pedals for a bit. When I peel back the shorts afterwards to inspect the damage I have to remove a bit of torn lycra from the neat puncture wound... substantial and resounding no.

Eat a bit, more laps, head down with Jac to wait for Emily, by this point it's dark but we wait and wait and then wait some more... Every voice in head is making quiet but insistent negative noises, overruled by hope which says it's a puncture, it's light failure, it's just a bit muddy, it's a puncture... Then Emily's bike comes down the hill accompanied by someone who is clearly not Emily. **** no! A few garbled attempts at communication with a marshall later and we find our team-mate in the first aid van (yay!) with the first aiders trying gamely to remove her stuck Specialized shoe ratchets. We can't free them either and the scissors come out, the shoes come off and eventually after some prodding and head-scratching we lose our girl to A&E (no!)

The race must go on, Jac hands over to me and I head out for a double. And finally it is FANTASTIC. Absobloodylutely amazing. The rocks click, the bike clicks, I manage a clear run through nearly all the technical sections on both laps and I have a real, rare, bike-and-girl-as-one moment that goes on and on and on and on. YAY.

Then I have to try and stifle the giggling because I remember about Emily and feel bad for having so much fun (no!). Turns out she's back from A&E, where it's been established that her knee is congenitally freakish but not seriously damaged, and is quite happy for me to gibber excitedly at her about how good the laps were (yay!).

It is dark and cold, the trails remain icy and treachorous and a double lap takes its toll on Jac, who returns and vanishes vanwards declaring that she's tired and going to bed and will only come out again for her last lap (no!). Due to the tow-in, our camp is scattered and the temporary loss of another team member requires time juggling which hurts my tired head immensely - so to make it simpler I decide that I'll just do Jac's missing laps for her, which means I'm out for a triple, which strangely enough doesn't bother me in the slightest (yay!). Everyone is tired and emotional and there is a hint of friction in the air, I just want to get out and ride because this is the bit that I hate about racing as a team, when the interactions between people get skewed because of external factors, when everybody's tired and scratchy...

Waiting for my turn to ride I pop to the timing tent and find Phil standing dead still just staring at his bike. After a quick poke about with a torch it transpires that he's somehow snapped the pin off the centre of his disc brake piston, the pads keep falling out and he's done four laps without knowing why he only had a front brake (no!). I send him out for another lap (if he's done four then he'll manage another without incident) and dash off to get my gear together for a lap and find a donor brake for Phil.

The race mechanic has no spares so it's back to the van to beg/borrow/steal - except the van is now full of sleeping bags and snoring as the TSPC gave up to the lure of beer and sleep some time ago (no!). I am about to start removing my own brake when I spy someone lurking round the back of the van - it's Dave, having a moment's peace in the moonlight and in his quiet, matter-of-fact way says yes, of course you can have the brake from my Rig, it's already had bits pilfered from it and I'll bring it round in a sec. Big, happy, friends-are-ace hugs and warm feelings (yay!).

So, back to see Bec go through on the first of her two laps, then wait for Phil. And wait... and wait... Eventually he arrives, looking grey and wobbly (no!), I sit him down in front of the heater and set about speed-fitting the donor brake whilst he shovels jelly babies down his neck and continues his conversation with Paddington Bear. Concentrating hard I do the job quickly and well and I realise that I'm proud of being able to do this, fix my mate's bike competently when he's in need (yay!). And I only get a couple of blood blisters from struggling to use the pilfered pair of tuff-cuts to get the zip ties off with cold fingers (no! and ouch!). Send him out with a working bike and a tired grin on his face, and then I'm out for my triple, which turns out not the be the panacea I'd hoped for because in all the rush to fix Phil's bike I forgot to feed myself so bonk horribly halfway round the second lap (no!).

Shovelling gels down my neck has no effect whatsoever, and I'm struggling to hold onto the bars, so between laps two and three I head back to the tent (where Phil is now asleep in front of the heater, tights gently smoking) and mainline custard, crisps, G&B and more gels, a sugar injection that gets me to the top of the first climb before the joy of the moonlight and the first hint of dawn takes over (yay!). I'm still riding well, the few marshalls on course are still cheery and vocal despite the fact that they must be absolutely frozen and the mountains are still looking gorgeous. On reflection, it's all okay really. Back to the campsite, hand over to Bec and then go back to the van to find a rested and much happier Jac (yay!) preparing for her last lap.

I have one more to do, it is the last but there are few of those 'last lap' feelings (no!), perhaps as result of the more-difficult-than-usual logistics, or not doing all the riding, just not much of the glow. Instead I concentrate on chasing the riders in front and riding well, I get clear runs at nearly all the tech sections, including one of the bridges that's scared me off the bike each lap to the amusement of the marshalls (confession: I am allergic to planks), clear the worst climbs too and catch, pass and definitively drop a rider from the team in front for good measure (yay!).

Back and done, I hand over to Jac who heads up the hill like a girl possessed, and wander off to get clean and warm. The weather is stunning, all blue skies and speeding clouds over the hill, and we're pleased to have survived what could have been a disastrous mess, relatively unscathed. Showers, pig rolls, prize giving (we get lovely second-place china cups that are just the right size for a good coffee, and Phil's mum is sweetly far more excited by the wee bit of paper proclaiming him first singlespeeder than by the gorgeous Boone ti cog that is his prize), and hanging around in the sun all follow (yay!). Goodbyes are said (no!) and the van is swiftly and unceremoniously towed off the quagmire by the same grinning tractor driver leaving us to retire to the town for supper and a well-earned sleep...(yay!).

Hanging around the bike shop next morning we concur that though northern Scotland is a long way to go for a race, Strathpuffer is one we'll return to. The vibe, the location and the brilliant course all combined to make it really something special, despite the frankly barmy conditions. The biggest yay! should of course go to the organisers who worked through the night to make the event work after the disasters of the week; sometimes all you can do is accomodate Mother Nature, work around her and hope that she offers up just a little cooperation. There is talk of no race next year; I for one hope it goes ahead because I would (ahem) quite like to solo, with a little less of the emotional rollercoaster to weather. And yes, I'll be buying some ice tyres...


Friday, 18 January 2008

40 days and 40 nights.

We've had a lot of rain here. Conditions more suited to an ark than a bike didn't stop me and Amy from getting out there and riding this morning. A lot of washed out, rutted bits of track, a lot of mud, a lot of very big puddles. And, I'll admit I didn't know it was possible for my shoes to become so saturated (I could feel the water slooshing up towards my toes on the final down hill of the morning). But, it was fun!


puffer prep

finishing off the last of the packing for strathpuffer. bike and large bulky items (down jacket, sleeping bag, pot noodles) should already be there. socks paired, buffs collected. lights and batteries begged borrowed and stole.

not quite sure what gatwick security will make of this lot but with talk of sheet ice on the course up there and planes falling out of the sky down here frankly it will be a small miracle if i just get to the airport without any emotional hiccups. sigh.


Tuesday, 15 January 2008

another day, another dollar...

Funny how perspective alters perception. What was a long ride to work, now often seems like a quick, painless hop on a Monday morning after an epic weekend. (And at yet others is still the longest ride in the world.) Like popping to the corner shop for milk, 25 miles pass in the blink of an eye.

One person's much-vaunted 'New Year Ride' makes my seventh consecutive January day on the bike and would bring the mileage up to 300 for the week. Part timers.

Riding, riding, riding.

And in the meantime the rest of my life is crumbling at the seams. It's a juggling act in which I completely fail to keep any of the balls in the air and instead just hold tightly onto the easy one whilst the rest roll aimlessly around my feet.

Clean socks are a thing of the past and I have resorted to pairing up the odd ones. Anything that takes longer than overnight to dry stays in the washing basket whilst the same quick-dry, easy-access kit is on heavy rotation. Heaven forbid I should have to go out...

All the bikes are dirty. All the time. Not mud-dirty, not the stuff that falls on the kitchen floor and so must be removed mostly in good time and before they come into the house, but drive-dirty. That black, sticky, tenacious muck that takes a concerted effort to remove from the chain and sprockets and is easier to just, well, clean around...

Pleasure in food is a once-weekly festival where I cook a supper big enough that the leftovers do for the rest of the week, and bake bread and flapjacks to keep me going in between times, when I get home too late for supper and need something 'real' to satiate the curious hollow/full feeling of Rego. The punching and kneading of the dough being good and different thinking time, making up for the focus that riding's become.

And pleasure in riding is reserved for a moment sitting on top of the hill just looking, thinking, soaking up memories both present and past for the future; and for the glow of the last hill of a 130 mile day. Few are greater. Except maybe good, strong, hot sweet tea.


The work doesn't get done.

The planning remains loose.

And I have worn out a saddle through sheer mileage, not old age, for the first time in my life.

At some point in the very near future I am going to have to back off on the miles a bit (okay, a lot), both to focus on some speed and power (more singlespeed, yay), and to claw back some semblance of reality (more real world, boo). But before that, Cyclogs tells me that I'm up to 505 miles already this month, in my conservatively straight-lined, haphazard, Google-mapped mileage count.

That means that 1,000 for January is achievable.

Cover me, I'm going in...


Monday, 14 January 2008

Weird girl on a bike in the rain.

Allegedly I'm working at home today! But, I needed to collect something I'd ordered from a local branch of Comet (electrical retailer for those that don't live in the UK and read this blog). 9 miles roundtrip, no car today so had to pedal. I managed to pick the only wet 45 minutes of the day so far to make the journey, but it didn't matter I'd dressed for the occasion, waterproof jacket, wool cap under my helmet, buff to keep my face warm, Lefty-Lucy knickers over wool socks, messenger bag to be sure to keep electrical goods dry for the return cycle. I felt I looked pretty good, maybe a bit bike messenger wannabe, but I didn't feel like a freak. Until, that is, I walked into Comet and the assistant curled his lip back into one of those "What the hell do you look like?" faces. I took a photo of myself outside the shop, got back on my bike and started pedaling my freaky, rain soaked, self home again as I did so I started thinking that it was the middle of the day and I wasn't stuck in a job I hate, I was getting exercise, fresh air and doing one of the things I love, who's the freak? 

Saturday, 12 January 2008


Today I went to buy a bike with Kate. It's always good to help someone else spend money on a bike, but this was special because by rights, after a truly horrible accident Kate shouldn't even have been walking into the shop unaided, let alone contemplating riding again. Still, as she admits, being pig headed can be an advantage- so here we were... We went to John's Bikes in Bath because I knew the guys wouldn't suck their teeth and shake their heads when we asked the inevitable girly questions (knowing your way around clothing performance is no indicator of expertise with a slack angle- or something), and well, it's a nice place to hang out while someone else tries bikes. So thank you Will for your patience and advice, Sean for the eye swivellingly strong coffee- and everyone else for being so damn lovely. The moment when Kate decided which one felt right (her first proper bike ride in almost two years), was both humbling and fantastic. Regular readers will know that Minx is prone to the odd tear at such moments- but you've gotta give me this one. I KNOW I should have taken a camera to capture the moment - but on reflection I don't think I have a lens wide enough to fit Kate's grin in...


Friday, 11 January 2008

Robins and resolutions.

Probably like a lot of people reading this one of my New Years resolutions was to ride more. Clearly, I've been a bit slow implementing this as today was only my 2nd ride of the year. 16 miles off road on local trails, probably not enough to justify the bacon and egg sandwich and cake I had on the cafe stop, so that'll be the healthy eating resolution also getting off to a shaky start. Another thing I want to do this year is take more photos, this spherical chap helped out on this one by posing for a snap. 


Saturday, 5 January 2008

Good intentions

The first step towards fulfilling one (of a constantly shifting three) new year's resolution came with the adapting of the singlespeed into a country shopper - so that trips to the farm shop for veg and way expensive beetroot crisps can always be made by bike. Of course a rear mounted basket sounded more sensible than the front-loading wicker version I'd pictured (think kittens), but I hadn't reckoned with the 'fixes in seconds' rack that was needed to support it. "When was the last time you put a rack on a bike?" Mr Minx enquired as I headed out clutching much hardware. I waved airily and muttered something about 1986 under my breath. I might even have said, "How hard can it be?" At one point it was looking like another twenty-odd years might be needed to attach this one at all the necessary anchor points (without resorting to my usual practice of just leaving off anything that doesn't quite fit) but it all came right in the end, and the inaugural journey was made. During which I became acutely aware of exactly why anyone might choose to ride a bike with a step-through frame. Forgive me please - I've always been a bit sniffy about them, but try swinging your leg over a fully laden rear basket in a manner that doesn't inflict grave injury and suddenly it all becomes clear. Still, it's an incentive to keep up the yoga. Picture to follow if it all stays together long enough to be photographed. That would be the bike, not me.