Sunday, 25 September 2011

It Must Be Time for Cross

I'm not sure what it's like further south, but up here in Scotland, the leaves have well and truly turned and they're starting to lie in nice crisp piles on the trails. The chessies are falling off the trees ready for collecting.

It's just a tad too cold to leave the house in the morning without armwarmers (and a spare base layer just in case). And chat has moved from big rides out in the hills to cross.

So I've had to dust off my cross skills over the last few weeks and remember how to forget that it's a tad scary hurtling down a hill on drops with brakes that just might not stop you in time before you hit that tree. But oh, it' fast and it's fun!

The first race in the SCX series is next Sunday and I'm hoping to see a few new girly faces on the start line this year. I can't guarantee the weather, but I can guarantee it'll be fast and furious, muddy and cold and it'll hurt. There might even be tears, but we'll love it!

See you there?


Sunday, 18 September 2011

Cycling adventures of a small kind.

I'd heard (at length) before my arrival about my goddaughter's new bike. "It's purple, Livvy" (said with great excitement) and so a plan was struck for a bike trip during my next visit. Fortunately her mother had not simply bought the nearest purple bike but had invested in an islabike, which are designed to have gears and levers than small hands can use and, crucially, don't weigh the same as a large truck, unlike lots of kids bikes.

We set off for the playpark, 4 miles away, with mum slightly handicapped by the wriggling weight of 3 year old sister. It transpires that even on a good kid's bike, 4 miles is a long old way for a six year old and there was a certain amount of "I CAN'T" and "MY LEGS HURT" to contend with.
I resisted adopting my mother's stance of bracing reminders to "BUCK UP" and instead we invented mini-races to the next tree / signpost / cow, cheered her along with loud and tuneless renditions of every song we could remember and invested in a bit of good old-fashioned bribery (kids will do almost anything for a mini egg, it seems). I am proud too that I eventually managed to persuade her that going downhill at a good speed is the reward for the uphill and she released the brakes enough to get up to a slightly alarmingly wobbling 12mph.

Once at the playpark I rediscovered the joys of swings, got my bum stuck in unflattering fashion on the slide, and found all this yoga means I can finally do the monkey bars. Go me. (oh yes and the kids had fun too...).

We set off home through heavy showers (cue choruses of all the rain-related songs we know) and then saw the most spectacular rainbow (more songs) and finally we got back for well-earned tea and cake. I didn't let on that this is one of the biggest rides I've done in weeks. Oops. Must Ride More.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Need some inspiration?

I don't know about you, but I've got quite a few cycling heroes. They range from friends who've ridden in amazing places to friends who've overcome things and carried on riding to proper famous people who just really kick bottom on a bike.

Then about a month and a half ago, a new hero appeared on my radar.

I was making plans to head over to Ireland for the Singlespeed World Champs (more of which another day) and a friend of mine dropped me an e-mail to say that Dervla Murphy lived really near where the race was and wouldn't it be great if we could meet her?

Well, I have to fess up, I didn't know who Dervla Murphy was, so I started doing a wee bit of research before I replied to Jacquie. Oh my! Am I glad I started to investigate!

For those of you who don't know, Dervla is an 80-odd year old Irish lady who, in the 60's when she was in her early 30's, decided to cycle from Ireland to India...on her own...on a singlespeed (she took the gears off because of concerns about being able to get replacement parts).

Then she wrote a book about it and the adventures she had along the way called Full Tilt; Ireland to India with a Bicycle. I won't give the story away, but suffice to say, it is an epic tale and is more than just a little bit inspiring!

Dervla has since gone on lots more cycling adventures to all sorts of places like Cuba, South Africa and Russia (in her 70's!) and has written about her trips.

So, feeling duely awestruck, I replied to Jacquie saying, yes, it would be amazing if we were able to meet Dervla whilst we were in Ireland and I volunteered to contact her publishers to find out if it was possible.

I really didn't expect any response at all, but within 24 hours, I got an e-mail back saying that Dervla would be around on the 25th and 26th of August if either of those dates suited.

So on Friday the 26th Jacquie and I took a roadtrip through County Waterford to meet up with Dervla. We were like a pair of giggly little girls as we went to the address we'd been given to find that not only had Dervla agreed to meet us, but she'd invited us to her home!

I'm not quite sure if Dervla knew what had hit her when Jacquie and I turned up (we're about as opposite as two Jac's can be, but somehow it works), but she treated us like two old friends.

Try as I might to act cool and not like an awestruck fan, I was desperate to find out some things about her riding experiences. So I asked whether, at 82, she still manages to get out on her bike....Not really, after a hip replacement, it's a bit difficult to get on the bike, so she's on the lookout for a step-through frame to get going again. She does however swim in the local river every morning...more than I'm brave enough to do at less than half her age!

Hearing Dervla speak so passionately about experiencing and exploring different places by bicycle was truely inspirational and the fact that she does it with a fraction of the fuss I make about a 24 hour race (forget your high tech lycra shorts and jerseys (sorry Debbie!) try a pair of gabardine slacks, a Viyella shirt and woollen undies!) made me appreciate that riding a bike shouldn't be a complicated thing. Dervla was never a racer, she was never a sponsored rider, she didn't do tonnes of training, she was, and still is, a regular girl who just gets out there and rides her bike to see places and things and have fun.

I think Dervla is proof that we girls really can do anything we set our minds to on a bike, whether it's riding the trails in the woods that we've always shied away from or riding across that country we've always fancied, any of us can do it if we really want to. I know I've now got lots of plans to just do those rides I've thought might be too challenging - Thank you Granny Dervla!

Please read her books (Full Tilt is a great place to start) and let me know what challenges she inspires you to have a go at!


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Cycletta Bound

Today the first of the Cycletta sportives takes place. I'm a bit gutted that I can't be there because no matter what theories I read about the usefulness of women-only events, my own experience is that women gain in confidence when they ride together and I'd love to see how it goes. Happily, two Minx girls, Jayne and Amy won places to ride and are going to report back. Catch up with Jayne over at her blog, and read Amy's winning entry and thoughts leading up to today. That's her left, introducing her daughter to the joy of mountain biking.

"I am itching to play on wheels!Mountain biking holidays, daily shop, getting to work – before Baby girl my bicycle was my only mode of transport; even when 6 months pregnant I commuted 20 miles a day in London rush hour, singing Mama Cass to my bump. Baby girl has her own seat on my bike and loves going on adventures, but I don't get the chance to go on adventures of my own in quite the same way. Space and time to myself would be amazing. Other people choose spas and makeovers, but to reconnect with 'me' and make me feel oh-so-very-free I need only one thought in my mind: keep the wheels turning."

"Well, so much for my summer of training! The promise of getting out on my bike sans baby every Monday was swiftly brushed aside by the humdrum of everyday existence. Even getting in the saddle with baby hasn't happened since a jolly to Dulwich Park at the start of summer with daddy and baby in tow."

"Now with less than a week to go, I am feeling under prepared for the 40k ride organised by Cycletta. I am, however, incredibly excited and looking forward to the scenery and the feeling of freedom as I pedal around the circuit. No baby, no work, no mobile phone (well, in my bag, just in case!)’s going to be bliss!"

"Is this it??? It this the end of summer? Trying to get set for a ride today made me feel like winter is upon us. We didn't go far, but just enjoyed being in the saddle. Indigo loves cycling - she throws her arms in the air when we go fast down hills and sometimes puts her hands back so that with each rotation her little puddies hit your knees. This results in no end of giggles."