What's all this then?

...the best you can is good enough...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Is it too late to start?

I am 47 years old (for at least the next few weeks) and there is something I have never done, yet that fills so much of my time that it is often seen as my obsession.  I've never taken part in a bike race.

I say never, but that's not quite true. "Back in the day" I donned my lycra shorts, grey cotton t-shirt and bucket helmet and entered an MTB XC race on the top of Mendip. I recently discovered some photos of that day, taken by my long suffering wife. It must have been one of the first occasions I rode on suspension forks. Elastomer sprung and twangy though they were, I am sure they were not the reason it was a one time event for me.

That had much more to do with the plain and simple hell of the experience. My recall is poor on this event, but I am sure I was lapped before I'd event completed my first circuit, and I doubt I finished the required number of rotations of the muddy field before the event organisers put an end to my abject display.

After that I did take part in Navigation Races, quite enthusiastically in fact, switching the event to one where my speed deficit could by supplemented with a little brain power. Despite taking this quite seriously, I never felt the raw power of other people's velocity as the obstacle I was trying to overcome. The ticking of the clock or the inaccessibility of the top scoring checkpoints was the foe.

I certainly don't consider the "racing against yourself" of sportives, both on and off road to have the same sharp sting as that one and only MTB race day. So I find myself asking myself why I have been avoiding that mano-a-mano speed contest thing for over half my life.  I am not adverse to playing sprinting games with @uzerp and @mendiprouleur when out on group rides, so why not take it the next step and race against someone I don't know.

So should I enter a road race?  I can be certain that at my age and weight and strength, I won't be competing for the podium of even the most minor age group event.  But why not take on the challenge and sprint for 88th in a race with 89 finishers?

Answers on a postcard.  PLEASE!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tax doesn't have to be taxing....


Log into Gov Gateway and Register for self assessment

Wait for a letter to confirm your Unique Tax Payers reference no.

Log into the Government Gateway and use the UTP ref to get allocated a User ID.

Use the User ID to get registered for self assessment on-line.

Wait for a letter to provide you with an online activation code.

Log into Gov Gateway and use activation code.

Wait up to 72 hours for your account to become active.

It's like waiting in line to get a permit to stand in the queue to buy a ticket for an Indian railway journey 20 years ago, only a lot less hot, transacted by IT(!) and a lot more expensive.

I wonder how many £100 fines they will collect v how many £100 they spent on this Kafka-esque entertainment?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Battleship corduroy

lemontine dream chrome allusion purpleen. Diggin your scene. Money maker money maker draggin me in. Livin free and holdin out, formaline sin. Takes one to know one and no one can tell; hydrazine purpleen under your spell.

Lactic Threshold Heart Rate Test

today i rode my turbo trainer .i put myself through a 30 minutes time trial ,my average heart rate was 155 .now i know my training zones ,luckily facebook exists .

Sunday, December 8, 2013

When I have nothing to say...

I can't seem to face up to the facts
I'm tense and nervous and I
Can't relax

When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.
Say something once, why say it again?

Ce que j'ai fait, ce soir la
Ce qu'elle à dit, ce soir la
Réalisant mon espoir
Je me lance, vers la gloire ... OK

We are vain and we are blind
I hate people when they're not polite

Psycho Killer
Qu'est-ce que c'est
fa fa fa fa better run run  away

Friday, November 22, 2013

Digger and Walshy and me - a simple tale with no morals.

Digger is suspicious of cyclists. Not because he fears they jump red lights and throw themselves under heavy goods vehicles just to give their drivers nightmares. Digger wouldn't believe something as stupid as that.

No, Digger is suspicious because he had a hero and he turned out to be a fraud, racing against other frauds and beating them.

When Digger sees cyclists going faster than those frauds, his suspicion is aroused. Digger is a logical guy.

I asked Digger what would make him believe that the new fast guy wasn't a fraud.  He didn't really know. He understands that you cannot prove a negative, only a positive.

Digger reminds people that you have to be suspicious as you can't prove a negative.

All this would be fine if Digger didn't call people nasty names just because they choose to believe, and he wasn't so SHOUTY.

Walshy is suspicious of cyclists. He makes money from cyclists.  The kind like Digger, who are suspicious too. The kind that like to read about cyclists.

Walshy is a polite man, I know because I saw him fall out with one of his long time friends on You Tube. They did it so politely it was untrue. I was suspicious!

Walshy wrote some books about the old fraud. He surely made Digger happy.  

Walshy wrote a book about the new fast guy. He made Digger sad.  Worse still, her wrote about Digger and the nasty names he calls people and his shouting.

Walshy makes money from cyclists either way around. Guy's gotta eat right? What does Digger eat?

Walshy once wrote a secret about a new little guy who was fast, then got ill and was slow.  He said "See I am not a puppet". I liked the new little guy.  I was cross.  I ended up being SHOUTY  and calling people nasty names just like Digger.

Walshy told people things that were meant to be secret until they were understood.  Then he left the little guy and said nothing more.  That made me suspicious.

I would have thought Digger would be happy, but he didn't seem to care. Now I feel like being SHOUTY and calling Digger names, because I'm frustrated.

Oh, maybe that's what Digger eats...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Veldrijden or Field Riding....

From our field reporter, Martyn "Shineymart" Shiner

Having banged on about doing some Cyclocross for ages here I am, standing with my retro steel CX bike near the back of a group of about 100 riders on the start line of round 7 of the Western League Cyclocross championship at the Odd Down Cycle Centre, Bath. I'm also wondering what the hell I'm doing. What was I thinking of getting involved in this?

The morning had dawned grey and misty. I'd not had the best prep as Saturday night involved a curry, some beer and a night in Burnham watching my mate Steve and his band Kyotie play in the Pier Tavern until the early hours. Gosh it was loud! No matter, it wasn't an early start as the 'event' wasn't due to commence until 11:45 so I had plenty of time. But something isn't right.

Anyway. Faffing! Its what we all do before a cold or wet ride, but this was worse than usual. What gear do I need for CX?..... longs, bib-shorts with warmers, fleece top, base layer - I dunno. So I wore the usual cold weather stuff but packed a range of kit, just in case, and a change of clothes for after... and plenty of food and drinks. The Picnic (my family MPV which the Mayor thinks has a funny name) was backed out of the garage loaded up and the Caygill CX bike (AKA The Yorshireman christened by Steve D) lashed to the rack. I was ready to go. No I wasn't. I suddenly realised I'd packed the wrong bloody shoes and hadn't put any tools or track pump in.

Tools and shoe situation rectified, I said cheerio to Pippa (my wife who thinks I'm weird for cycling anyhow - and now thinks I've completely lost it) and jumped in the car. Oops - no gas - so a quick detour into the petrol station over the road and I'm away.... but now a bit late.

I'd decided on the Bath event as opposed to the one in Chard as I'd emailed both organisers and had an enthusiastic and informative response from Andy of Bath CC as follows

Yep. Great course to start on. It was designed by the current Western league champ with me and includes bits of everything.

Cross is definitely one of the most accessible forms of racing. You can just as well have some great battles with those around you as worry about your place in the overall race. I'll place everyone and there are categories for vets 40+ and 55+

Doug from Bath Uni CC made this excellent video of the summer course (thankfully there's less stinging nettles now!):


I should have said before, we'll be awarding 'spot prizes' too for 'Best Trip over the hurdles' and 'Good Try / Bad Luck' or similar.

I also should have said, please drag along any friends / team mates who fancy giving it a go and the family if they fancy spectating.

Hmmm..... 'Course designed by by the current Western League champ' would suggest a bit of a challenge and 'Best Trip over the hurdles' was a little worrying - I think this might be the cause of that funny feeling (or is it the curry) - especially as I'd watched the video of the course and hadn't practised any dismount technique.

The A38 was quiet as was the A368. I was passing familiar landmarks from ACG road trips and was now wishing I was doing one of those.... especially as there were groups of Roadies coming the other way. What the hell was I doing? Cyclocross... riding in a muddy field! That's what isn't right - I should be road riding with the ACG on a Sunday not driving to Bath for off-road Tomfoolery.

I felt like bailing, going home and jumping on the Kona for some hills as penance. But Lee had lent his considerable skills to help build up an old steel CX frame into a top drawer mud-plugger, I'd bored everybody rigid with my plans, watched some videos of people falling over on youtube, cruised the local CX clubs websites and, well, some things just have to be done.

Arriving at the circuit, the Under 12 race was well under way - lots of parents and supporters shouting 'Allez, Allez' and ringing cowbells in true Belgian (or is it Swiss) fashion. A great atmosphere which the children seemed to be really enjoying. There were also quite a few serious looking dudes warming up on turbos and getting their bikes (yes plural some people did have spare wheels and bikes!!) ready.

Registration was a snap and I was issued rider #23... 'to be pinned on your jersey at the back so the marshals can keep tabs on you'. I grabbed a coffee and got talking to the guy parked next to me, Tom, who turned out to be a rookie like me but a bit of an MTBer. We asked a marshal about doing a test lap and he said we'd have to wait until after the junior race. So we elected to walk the course - this was where some of my fears were realised. There was some tarmac (good) followed by lots of grass and mud (bad), then a section over the BMX track (weird), a wooded single track/MTB section with a steep bank after (very, very bad), more grass and mud, and a final section with some hurdles (potentially embarrassing).

We returned to our cars and got the bikes for the test lap. I pootled to the start on the tarmac and The Yorkshireman felt great. The session with Trev at Long Ashton had allowed me to make some adjustments and get a feel for handling off road. Tyre pressures at just under 40psi seemed about right. Off I went with three other guys in front... whizzing along the tarmac section, the tyres making that strange buzzing noise that knobblies do on tarmac. Then we turned in for the first grass section and.... BOOM!.... a guy on an MTB in front of me totally lost his front wheel in the mud and landed in a heap near the hedge. I avoided a major prang and squirmed and squelched through the next section a bit chastened. A crash on the practice lap....Shit!!! I thought CX was supposed to be fun. Having negotiated the rest of the lap safely I was now seriously concerned. The course was slippy, muddy and really rocky in the woods. There was a big portage section up the steep and muddy bank and those darned planks were in front of the main spectator/pit area... where falling off would really make you look like an arse. Especially as all the little kids had managed them earlier.

A quick return to the car for a change of under-helmet headgear, a drink and a fig roll, and the 10 minute warning was called.

On the start line. Waiting. Banter all around me but I'm billy no-mates and probably look as white as a sheet. Look up and see Tom who gives a nod - he's got a game face on. There's a lass on my left from the 'Costwold Veldrijden' club who looks pretty quick... why is she back here? A real mix of people and bikes and team wear but all mad as fish as far as I can tell.

There's a rider briefing of sorts ('the first lap involves the whole of the tarmac bike track, listen to the marshals' etc etc) and then 3-2-1, drop the Union flag and we're off. 'Allez, Allez, Allez'!

The guys at the front blast off at such a pace that we're all strung out on the track. But as we turn into the grass it all bunches up. A small coming together on my left allows me to squeeze past about a dozen riders on the run up to the BMX track. Up and over several humps and a skid around on the gravel section and back into ..... SERIOUS MUD!!!... on the off camber section before the wood. Jeez where did that come from? Bump over the tree root and freewheel down to the bottom unclipped. Pick up and shoulder The Yorkshireman and puff my way up to the top where there is a group of spectators and a marshal who are shouting encouragement, 'Allez, Allez' and ringing a cow bell. Jump back on and, after a potentially serious altercation with a hedge through which we have to squeeze, I'm back on the grass in the main arena.

Uh Oh - here come the barriers - unclip early on both feet and dismount (in some style I might add), run over the barriers carrying the bike and jump back on. I'm pedalling furiously while unclipped and hitting the Retroshift lever with my right hand to get a bigger gear and I'm back on tarmac. 'Allez, Allez' and more cowbells from the pit area. Lap 1 done!

There are several 'mechanicals' and fallers and the course is really cutting up. The bloody BMX section is a PITA (literally) but I'm having a blast. Lap 2 done, now on 3 and I decide that running the wooded section is better - quicker AND safer - but carrying The Yorkshireman back up is tough and my shoes are completely clogged. Then... oh no, I get in some tramlines on the grass and the front wheel goes. I narrowly avoid the fence but I'm down and the guy behind just misses my head. Up I get, remount and trundle on. Guys are all around the track having little battles but I'm suddenly alone. I keep going and on lap 4 I start to get lapped by the quickies. 'How the hell are they able to get so much traction' I think to myself and then the next thought 'they know what they are doing' and 'I'm about 30 years older than most of them'. So I keep plugging on getting muddier and muddier. At one point I stop at the top of the hill to clear some mud from my brakes, chainset and bottom bracket. And then my chain comes off. Should've left the mud there!

At last I get the bell and head off down the tarmac for my final lap - not sure how many I've done at this point. There's a guy in front I recognise from the start - OMG I'm going to lap someone! And then.... crash. I'm on my backside in the mud. That'll teach me for getting cocky. I get up and plug on and then pass the guy I was chasing only to go down again on the last grassy hairpin. The course is so muddy most of the rookies are having real trouble staying upright. At least he didn't re-take me on the run in as I finally get some traction..... over the barriers one last time and finally I'm home.

Where did I finish? Was I last? I dunno. How may laps did I do? No idea.... but I did finish and The Yorkshireman performed like a champ.

Am I completely knackered? Yes!

I returned my rider number and grabbed the free cereal bar on offer. Andy, the main man was standing there so I introduced myself and thanked him - he seemed chuffed, saying that this was the biggest field they'd had and that there were lots of rookies and kids. There was a presentation for the winners and then I headed back to the car to pack up for home.

Fast, furious, accessible, friendly, challenging and.... fun? Veldrijden, Cyclocross, CX or whatever you want to call it is all of these things - its also complete and utter madness. And I'm going again next week to Round 8 in Warmley near Bristol.

Anyone else up for it?