Quote of the weekend

“I have no idea what you actually look like, as you’re always wearing sunglasses”

Sadly true.

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How to spend a weekend on a bike without actually doing much riding

imageThis weekend has been quite bike centric, despite the fact that I haven’t actually done very much riding.

On Saturday and Sunday it was the London Open bike polo tournament. I went on the Sunday (just as well, it totally chucked it down on Saturday) and it was lots of fun. I basically became a photographers assistant and helped to take loads of photos of polo players. The photographer kept telling people that he’d set up the lighting to suit hairy polo players, which was a bit disconcerting as he’d used me to set it all up… The photos started off reasonably sedate but by about 1pm there were no photos not involving a beer of some sort.

Polo is loads of fun and I can pretty much guarantee that I would never be able to do it. But it was great to watch, and there were lots of people that I knew milling about, so it was a very fun way to spend a few hours.

Afterward I went down to Herne Hill, to watch the keirin. I didn’t get there until 3 (it started at midday) so I missed quite a lot, but it was still awesome. I really, really want to try track cycling. My brother and I arranged to go ages ago but then it rained every weekend, and it looks like I won’t get to do it at all this year. Still, other people with more commitment were racing. A friend was in the final, he was very impressive. Rollapaluza had some bikes there and I got convinced to have a go. “I’ll let you win,” said my friend. Did he fuck. Here’s me on the rollers:

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It was good to spend time at the velodrome and equally good to see lots of my friends. Afterwards we went to the pub and got some training in for next month’s Guinness ride.

I rounded off the weekend by watching The Cycle Show, which is a bit shit really. There was a feature about someone going to buy a bike through their Cycle to Work scheme and there was lots of stuff about mountain biking that I kind of glossed over. The Cycle to Work scheme bit seemed particularly pointless, surely it’s not that hard to figure out how it works? There was a couple on it, and the woman appeared to choose her bike based on colour (aaargh!) and then implied she was going to spend £500 on “accessories”. Fuck. I have a lot of cycling stuff but I’m not sure I’ve spent £500. I think the most expensive thing I’ve bought that isn’t a bike/component is my d-lock, and even that I regret as the lock mechanism is dodgy, there’s a crack in it and it weighs a ton. I get the impression that she was going to spend all that money on fugly pink waterproof jackets, and then never ride in the winter. But that might just be me being mean as I was feeling a bit confused about life, feeling grumpy about the pins and needles in my hand (which I now get even when I’m not doing anything) and slowly filling with rage due to the massive generator running outside my house.

Need to a) get myself to physiotherapy, b) ride my bike more, and c) find a way of switching off that infernal generator.

Entering the (carpal) tunnel of doom

This week was the biggest week in sport since the Olympics finished last week – my work softball team played in the final of the charity league! Here we are:

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On Saturday I went to Cambridge. It was very hot!! I drank 1.5 litres of water, a cup of tea, a can of fanta, a can of lilt and a bottle of tango but I didn’t need a wee until Sunday morning: worrying. It was a relatively uneventful cycle, and while the route wasn’t totally unpleasant, it wasn’t great – the first 15 miles were the A10, there was a boring A/B road drag up to Stanstead Abbotts and it was reallyfuckinghot. I lay under a tree for a while and a triathlete came over to chat to me and point out that I needed more ventilation in my helmet. I saw some fowl just outside Fowlmere. My right wrist hurt a lot and I kept getting pins and needles.

When I arrived in Cambridge I made some calls but no one was around, so I went home. Or I tried anyway. There was a suicide on the line so the 45 minute journey took over 3 hours. Should’ve ridden back.

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On Sunday, Stu, Bernie and I went to Box Hill, via some other hills. It was nice to have someone lead the way! My wrist pain continued and we kept having to stop as I couldn’t feel my fingers and so therefore couldn’t brake. Scary. Luckily Bernie has done a sports physio course and was able to prod my wrist back into some sort of working order.

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Box Hill is funny because it’s overrun with cyclists but has a few people who’ve driven up there and are massively surprised at all the sweaty lycra-clad cyclists. There is also still lots of writing on the road from the Olympic road race, stuff like “Go Cav!”, “Cav for PM” and “Allez Wiggo!”. While we were there, there was a massive thunderstorm. Luckily this happened while we were drinking tea and eating cake. Good cake at the Box Hill cafe!!

When we got back to London we drank tea and fixed my troublesome front mech, then Stu took Mental Red out for a ride – check out the geometry on that!!

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I’m off to the doctor’s about my wrist…

Ex to Ax, an east Devon A road spectacular

The day started so well. I sipped a coffee, in the sunshine, plotting a scenic route from Exeter to Axminster, via Newton Poppleford and Seaton. It would be great. I’d even eaten! What could go wrong?

Well…

Doing some checks before setting off, I noticed that one of my cleat screws was missing, and another was hanging off. Hmm, this meant I’d done Exmouth Exodus with 1.5/3 screws. After having it pointed out to me that only twats ride with worn cleats, I went to find a bike shop. They found a spare screw for me, but discovered that the plate of my sidis was broken. They suggested I buy new shoes, or ride home barefoot. I bought new shoes.

Finally, I was ready to leave and the sun was still shining. I carried my totally overweight bike down the steps from the shop, carradice now groaning under the weight of wet clothes, broken shoes and unused swimming costumes – and in that moment, it started raining. Big, heavy, horizontal rain. Fuck you, weather.

I set off, I got lost, I sheltered under a tree. It all seemed so familiar. I rode in circles around an industrial estate. Eventually I found my way to the outskirts of Exeter and realised that I’d lost too much time with shoe-fuck-ups and getting lost to do the nice route I’d planned and would instead have to ride up the A30 and A35. Urgh.

The A30 was just as grim as I thought it might be, a dual carriageway packed with lorries driving too close to me and blaring their horns. I got pins and needles in both feet and my right hand and had to stop in every lay-by to shake out my limbs. It was unpleasant, still raining and annoyingly hilly.

When I got to Honiton, google maps told me to take a long route around the town, but I figured that I knew better and turned on to the A35. Big mistake as there’s basically a vertical road of doom leading out of Honiton. The road is also quite narrow with lots of blind corners, which meant that I soon had the following stacked up behind me: 2 lorries, a bus, 4 cars with caravans, 3 vans and several assorted cars. When they passed me they each shouted something encouraging, original and witty, like “get out of the road”, “pay some fucking road tax” or “get a car, you hippy”.

The road went on and on, and mainly up and up. It rained some more. My feet hurt. My ipod ran out of batteries. I’ve never been so happy to see the sign welcoming me to Axminster, the home of fine carpets since 1755.

30 miles but it felt like a lot more. No tears but only because my eyes were continually washed out by the driving rain. I never want to see my bike again.

Exmouth Exodus – 4th August 2012

Overnight bike rides seem to be a bit of a “thing”. The most popular is the Dunwich Dynamo, in June, which I missed as I was in China (gloating much, me?). To make up for this I decided I’d do the Exmouth Exodus. On paper it sounded quite fun, 103 miles overnight from Bristol to Exmouth. I cheerfully ignored a) the fact that the west country is substantially hillier than the fens, b) I’d never ridden 103 miles before, and c) the last time I did an overnight ride I ended up with a very dodgy stomach. I focused on the idea of riding down Cheddar Gorge, and visiting some of my favourite places in Devon from my childhood.

The ride took place on Saturday. Instead of eating properly during the day and getting some extra sleep, I dressed up as a clown and rode around all the circuses in London with some friends. This resulted in a mad dash to Paddington station in the evening and I nearly missed my train. I was in such a rush that I forgot my helmet and didn’t have time to pump up my tires or get a sandwich at the station. I was catching the train with ChainBreaker and Cupcakes, both of whom also nearly missed the train – but amazingly we all got onto the train, with bikes and most of the things we’d wanted to take with us, and promptly disgusted everyone with our fondness for lycra, particularly CB who introduced more people to his bib shorts than was really necessary. 2 other riders were on the same train, sitting a civilised distance away from us.

The train to Bristol always takes less time than I think it will, and there was a lovely sunset across the hills as we hurtled west. What a lovely night, I thought to myself. Cupcakes tried to offload some quiche on our fellow passengers, to no avail. Soon we arrived.

We realised that we had no idea where we were going on arrival in Bristol. This was something I was meant to look up, but had forgotten. We had 2 garmins between the five of us, so we assumed we’d be fine. After a bit of faffing getting the garmins to work, we set off, to loud cheers from a couple of old brizzle geezers, who asked why none of us were wearing the yellow jerseys, and then shouted “pendletoooooooooon” at me.

And then, just less than 2 minutes after leaving Bristol Temple Meads station, it started raining. Massive, heavy rain. I dived under a tree with Rod Munch, one of the other riders, while the others disappeared ahead into the watery abyss. The tree didn’t really provide adequate protection and we ended up standing in a phone box, staring at the road, which by now was doing a passable impression of a river. This did not bode well. After about 20 minutes, the rain had died down a little and I figured we should set out. We rode off – and it turns out, rode straight past the others – and promptly got very lost riding around Bristol. The rain, predictably, started up again. At one point we rode up a waterfall. Damn garmin, damn rain.

After what seemed like forever and Rod and I felt like old friends, we arrived at a pub in Clifton, where the ride was due to begin. I called CB and he told me that they were STILL underneath a tree by the station and were thinking of going home. Cross words were exchanged. I stood around feeling wet, miserable, and worst of all, hungry. You don’t want to start a 100 mile ride already hungry. The others turned up and we witnessed a very angry, very stoned man call the organisers racist for not selling him a map. We tried to keep quiet and away from him. I felt a bit anxious, and also very cold. Cupcakes lent me his woolly hat.

We reached a pivotal moment: it was time to leave. We had quite a nice group by now: ChainBreaker, Cupcakes, Rod Munch, Hairnetnic, Dropout, Liz, Dumps and me. I made CB promise not to leave me behind, and with a final buckling up of my overly massive saddlebag, we set off. We swooshed through wet Bristolian streets and out towards the Clifton Suspension Bridge. I think in my head I had mixed up the Clifton Suspension Bridge with the Severn Bridge, as it was TINY!! Like a toy bridge! But with great views back towards Bristol. We were on our way.

Heading west from Bristol, the first 10 miles took us towards Clevedon. I was really hungry and CB fed me a lot of malt loaf. Mmm, malt loaf. The route was gently rolling, though I was enjoying the downs slightly more than the ups. One of the garmins stopped working. The next 10 miles were flatter, and headed southeast towards Blagdon. The tunes came out somewhere along the way – trance music in the Somerset countryside, get in.

We turned onto a side road (Cupcakes needed his 4th toilet stop of the ride) and someone pointed out the hill rising up in front of us. Uh oh. I’d looked at the elevation profile for the ride in advance and noted 3 hills, 2 of them what I would classify as “monster”. Burrington Combe was the first. I trundled up. Really, really slowly. I began to wish that I’d taken my bike for a service to get the front mech looked at, as the poor bike didn’t want to shift into the small ring. And this was not a big ring hill. I stopped and threw a tantrum. Yes. It was not cool. CB sorted my bike out and encouraged me up the whole way, despite me being incredibly stroppy and repeatedly insisting that I couldn’t do it. If he hadn’t been there, I would have crawled under a rock at the side of the road – but thanks to the most amazing saffer in the world, I made it to the top! Phew. Cupcakes wanted his hat back and all I could do was apologise for sweating all over it. He put it on over his cap, ghetto style.

From here, we began one of the more awesome parts of the trip – down into Cheddar Gorge. It’s about a 10% descent into one of the country’s finest natural wonders. We were all a bit speechless at the sight of the moonlit rock rising up on either side of us, and stopped at the bottom to gawk at it a little. Truly magical. From here it was a short spin to the first tea stop. Again, a truly magical experience as we had hot tea, biscuits and toilets! I put more socks on and CB put lots of ibuprofen gel on. We picked up another member for our group. We were about a third of the way in.

The next twenty miles were essentially flat, and we all got to chat quite a lot. I felt infinitely better for the cup of tea, and we rolled along at around 15mph. We passed near Glastonbury and stopped at a village called North Curry, where the 2nd stop was. Here we were served soup, although some of the gang assumed it was curry, due to the village name. There were some appalling puns at this stop, very amusing but not worth repeating. Cupcakes really is pretty good at puns. Or bad, depending on how you see these things.

We set off and this time I remembered to remove my cleat covers before clipping in (as at the first stop…). I set off at the front of the peleton of fun, which was actually surprisingly lonely. There were a few cars around, and I nearly got taken out by one trying to overtake us despite there being a car coming in the opposite direction. I didn’t realise quite how close it was until Cupcakes dashed past me to try to chase down the driver, and then came back to see if I was okay. He said that it had looked like either I, or the other car, would get hit and that it had all seemed a bit slow motion and scary. We rode along together and chatted at the route wound its way southwest and towards the outskirts of Taunton.

And then up. This bit of the route was labelled “the only way is up”, and it wasn’t a lie. I knew that a big hill lurked in wait for us, and in a way I was quite relieved when I realised we were on the hill as it meant that at some point this infernal torture might be over. I stopped twice, once because I was lazy and once because hairpin bends covered in leaves are not for me. CB was slightly less patient with me, but this is entirely unsurprising as it was about 6am and A MASSIVE HILL.

But we survived, and the next tea stop was only another 8 miles. At one point the group got split up, but Cupcakes rode at a million miles an hour to bring us all back together, only to realise his lights weren’t working so had to spend ages standing around adjusting his lights, waving at all the people he’d passed. The tea stop was very welcome. There’s a video of it where you can see the excitement I felt at finding a snail sleeping on my wheel. Luckily there is no footage of me eating loads of Doritos and jaffa cakes, but I can assure you that I did.

Only 26 miles to go… We set off again and almost immediately Dropout’s cardboard framebag disintegrated, spewing belongings all over the road. It started raining. While I was glad it hadn’t rained for the rest of the trip, that didn’t make it better as I knew we still had approx 2 hours – now in the rain – to go. Gah. We headed towards Ottery St Mary and Newton Poppleford. I was cheered by recognising the names of places but worried that we still faced Woodbury Common. We rode down a lot of small lanes, slippery due to the rain. My wheel slipped on some mud and I had to pull the most ALMIGHTY skid to stay upright. Thankfully CB was behind me to see and be impressed, but not so thankfully, I pulled a muscle across the top of my back.

We ended up approaching the Common from the east and cutting across the south of it, so I wasn’t able to point out the place where I fell in a moat as a child, leaving me with a ghetto eyebrow scar. Woodbury Common was almost comically horrible. When you’re used to going to the common in a car, even a car as rubbish as my parents’ car, pedalling tired legs up to the top just seems wrong. But I kept seeing cheering signs, like “Exmouth, 4 miles” which propelled me along.

And suddenly – a sign: “Welcome to Exmouth”. We stopped to pose for pictures, me and CB, me and Hairnetnic, Hairnet and CB. Happy, happy days. From there it was simples, straight down to the seafront, past the swimming pool we went to as kids, along the seafront and to the cafe! CB disappeared to the loo for a scarily long amount of time, I ate a huge veggie fry up, and I felt completely overwhelmed with the magnificent team of 8 and our valiant efforts. It was still raining.

Afterwards, we spent some time hanging about in Exmouth station (I slept), took the train to Exeter (I slept) and then I rode to my grandparents house, just outside Exeter. It was raining worse than ever and they didn’t initially believe that I had ridden from Bristol. When they did eventually believe me, they asked if I’d come down the M5. I showered, raided my massive carradice for clean, dry clothes (amazing!) and drank tea, watching the Olympics. And then… sleep.

103.5 miles, 12.8 mph average speed.
8 great riding mates.
3 big hills (from a girl who HATES hills).
1 night of memories.