Sunday, 11 February 2018

Winter miles = Summer Smiles...we hope!!!


Riding at this time of year is both encouraging and frustrating in equal measure. Off road riding at this time of year is both bonkers and a lot of fun! Mother nature is teasing us with Spring. The snowdrops are out, lambs are in the fields and the light is improving. However bitter winds, snow flurries and intense mud are also a strong feature.

Today, Marcus, Andy P and I met for just one of those rides. Incredibly kindly Andy planned a route which lent itself to my personal schedule of needing to be back for lunch at 12.30. More on that later. That route was one of Andy Brown's creations and that may well have been our first error. Sorry, no, THAT was our first error. Mr Brown is not at fault here. Not even one jot at fault. The culprit is in fact Garmin, with our lack of local knowledge playing a major supporting role.

Very early into this ride we were lost! We left Kettering and tried to pick our route around the so far undeveloped Cransley Park and frankly it was a shambles. Andy P was doing a sterling job trying to make sense of his Garmin and Marcus and I were clueless in our ability to help! We traversed down a bank onto what felt like the route. Then from a perfectly good trail we liked the look of a gate in front of what most certainly was a disused railway line. We soldiered on through that impassable trail to a bridge that only a complete fool would cross before common sense got the better of us and we dropped back down the embankment to inadvertently rediscover the route! In the process we invented the new sport of bike-a-teering.

Now if you think that was bad take a look at the magnificent picture at the top of the page. We did not ride for very long across this field. In fact the mud clogged us up so much we couldn't even walk our bikes. We had to carry them! The field directly followed the bridge.

This is the dodgy bridge. The bridleway goes under it. Traversing down the side of the bridge is optional!

Why is Marcus pushing his bike?? Well it's because the mud on some of the bridleways is just flipping impossible! To get here was at times really nice. We made our way from Cransley, over to Mawsley, and then via Mill Lane to the abandoned village of Faxton (history here, Marcus you were right, it was a plague village!)

That looks rideable doesn't it? Nope, nope it wasn't. Andy P had the most joy but this was a boggy surface which chucked up cloggy mud into our wheels. At times we questioned our sanity and then decided we knew what we were getting into. Despite the suffering we all considered the mud bashing to be fun!

We crossed more muddy fields into that bitter head wind before finally popping out onto road at Lamport. It was some relief. After an hour of riding we had covered 7 miles! In this company I have easily travelled three times as far in the same time. From there we made our way down to the Brampton Valley Way. I have never been so pleased to see that familiar old track with it's hard packed surface. A couple of miles down the track we could see the black rubber of our tyres again as the mud flew off in all directions

As we approached the Kelmarsh Tunnel I decided it would be wise to peel off and head up to Harrington via the bridleway that goes over the tunnel. It wasn't wise. It was in fact quite foolish. On a day when I thought it couldn't get more muddy...IT GOT MORE MUDDY!!! I wish I had stayed with Andy and Marcus, both for the company and the better riding surface!

Once back on tarmac I made my way to Harrington via as many road puddles as possible in a futile attempt to clear the mud. The village was quite beautiful with snowdrops, views across the valley and picture postcard features.

I arrived home with 40 minutes to spare before our family lunch date. Lee took her traditional Sunday picture of filth. She thought the mud on my legs camouflaged me against the paving slabs. This is the third week running I have arrived home in this state and frankly it points to a failure to learn! I'm also convinced that given the chance I will jump at the chance to do it again next Sunday!

First order of the day was to hose the bike down and I did my shoes and legs at the same time. I prefer to ride in shorts but at this time of the year I may review that option. The scratches on my legs are the result of trying to ride on the last dry bits of bridleway as close to the hedge as possible!

My reward for all this effort was lunch at the best restaurant I know, the Thai Garden in Rothwell. We were spending the money we were given by Lee's cousin for looking after their dog for four weeks. So not only was it a great meal we also felt like we were dining for free! The diet may have been wrecked today but who cares? Back to clean eating tomorrow!!!

So that's today...what else has gone on this week? Well SuperSam and I continue to train before work/school as many mornings as possible. I'm really proud of his efforts. He drags himself out of bed and struggles to get going and then he really really goes for it. 

Work has got in the way of some of my training this week. On Wednesday I had a workshop  attend in Reading. On Friday I was interviewed live on Radio Northampton about Children's Mental Health as part of Northamptonshire Mental Health Day. It was a very worthy day with the main campaign coming from the Talk Out Loud project

I'm lucky enough to have the half term week off. For now it's time to relax in front of the fire! I suspect there will be many more cycling adventures over the next few days!

Happy Pedalling

Sunday, 4 February 2018

More mud, less cramp, another great ride!

I need to bang this blog out quick, Italy v England in the 6 nations is on, I need to do the ironing and my good friend Malcolm is pestering me by text about all things rugby!

So four of us met up at C&D Cycles this morning for another off road mud fest. Our happy band was Andy Brown and his son Josh, Chris B and me! I'm not sure why numbers were down this week. Perhaps people were still shattered from the week before. I know my legs were questioning 'why are we doing this again?' as I made my ride into Kettering.

This Chris B out sprinting Josh on a least that's what this picture shows...

In his promotion of this ride Andy had stated that the mud wouldn't be as bad this week. Well at this stage Andy I was struggling to tell the difference. However it was a lot more fun to ride down the hill from Warkton Lane than it had been the week before with my legs cramping and the wheel coming off!

Slightly more made up than clumsiness persists?

Andy took the picture

Only saddos take pictures of their bike

Erm...except MTB, pics of your MTB are cool...

The difference this week is that not long after these pictures were taken we were on the trails around Stanwick Lakes. It was nice to be on a firmer surface and we made good time dodging the dog walkers and the joggers. We popped out of those trails in the 'hell on earth,' that is Rushden Lakes. I think it's great that Northants has a decent shopping resource given that our towns are diabolical and Milton Keynes was getting all our money Titanic and the X-Factor I plan to never see the thing properly!

Rushden Lakes Bridge, Like Sydney Harbour or The Golden Gate except it's in Rushden and a bit pants!

Boys will be boys

bumpity bumpity bump

Good skills

No Josh's were harmed during this ride

The bridge was a lot of fun. I avoided the step challenge on the grounds that I didn't want to explain a mishap to Mrs Lindsley. I'm months away from that sort of grace...further injuries may result in my bikes being melted down.

It was back to the roads for a bit after this. I thought we might go to Finedon but in fact we headed into Wellingborough and then across fields to Burton Latimer. It was all new to me so thanks to Andy for the route.

The mud wasn't done though as we headed back towards Cranford and then down a lane which took us back to my nemesis from last week. I was still the slowest by far but this week I made it back up that muddy hill and into Kettering on Warkton Lane.

After a brief piece of separation where Chris and I failed to follow Andy and Josh we all headed home. I did say to Chris that I would head home by the shortest route but I just couldn't resist the track from Glendon to Rushton. I was rewarded for my efforts with some low flying kites and the Llamas at Rushton.

Okay that's it this week.

Happy Pedalling

Sunday, 28 January 2018

The long road to recovery!

I haven't written a blog since July! It's not the only thing I haven't done since then and today is my first day of putting things right.

2017 really was a mixed bag of incredibly good and incredibly bad things. Frankly I'm glad it's over and I'm hoping that 2018 will be a lot less challenging. Some of the bad things were wrapped up in good things. For example I discovered I really like the Friday Night Summer Series MTB races, however one of those races chucked me off my bike and resulted in a tiny bone fracture an 12 weeks in a cast. 

That's an x-ray of my left wrist. If you look on the right side (left if any doctors are looking!) you will see are black line going through my scaphoid. It's a tiny troublesome bone. I still get a dull ache from it now but it's not stopping me. 

I wish I could say the same for my shoulder though. 12 weeks in a cast have wrecked my flexibility and strength. I'm having physio but it's going to take a few months to correct. For cycling it's not too bad but I struggle to make left turn signals!

Whilst I had my cast on I won some American classics wheels. They finish my road bike nicely. I also got some bonus money which added to money my family gave me for my birthday, meant I could buy that beautiful new MTB. See it's a bit ying and yang and I haven't even started really!

My new MTB has allowed me to give SuperSam (pictured above,) the focus that served me so well. He's very pleased with it. We continue to enjoy riding together and he's even started turbo training whilst I'm on the rollers in the morning.

More good things have happened. Our new black Labrador, Bruce, really is filling his predecessors boots better than we could ever imagined. Ben will always be our first family dog and he is still the best dog I ever met, but Bruce, he's special too! It's hard work though with a new puppy. You get back what you put in so it's worth the effort!  

As a family we have had a lot to deal with. Lots of family members have been very ill. That despicable disease cancer has been very prominent. Then Niamh had a week on a children's ward after her appendix was removed. Secondary school for Niamh and Sam is also not a bundle of laughs! The opposite of that is our oldest son Joe is doing well with his sports coaching apprenticeship.

In the middle of all of that we had our second fantastic month in Australia. We're very lucky to be able to do that. I'm aware it's beyond the budget of many or that their work would never allow the time off. If you're wondering, we really really enjoyed swimming with dolphins!

Work has also been a challenge. Mostly in a good way! My promotion has stepped me up to a level I really enjoy but you really know you've stepped up! I have to be careful with my energy levels and MORE cycling is definitely the answer. Lee and I both did post graduate courses at Reading University. This was more pressure. I enjoyed my course and got a lot out of it. Lee enjoyed the first part but not the second so her experience wasn't as good. In addition she was away from home most weeks for a few days. It was hard!

All that leads us to today! I've been gradually getting back into cycling. As per usual my weight is an issue and I'm back on myfitnesspal with renewed determination. At Christmas I topped 15st again. That's way too heavy. I'm hoping to be at 13st for the kick off of this year's FNSS. I haven't been out much but I have done a lot of work on the rollers. That's good for a lot of things but it doesn't do the whole job. I'd been considering a return to C&D Cycles CC for a few weeks but kept finding excuses. The excuses stopped today!

I arrived at C&D Cycles at 08:30 this morning for an off road adventure on a route created by Andy Pendred. When I arrived Andy was the only one there but we were then joined by Marcus, Mark, Bairdy, Ken, Andy Brown and Graham. A lovely group of great people to ride with. They welcomed me as if I'd never been away and then, in the time honoured fashion of the C&D brothers, the piss taking began!

First order of the day was to question the road pedals on Bairdy's tiny wheeled retro Scott.

Then it was noted that Ken doesn't discriminate, all of his bikes are filthy!

Graham quickly removed his single glove but mate those shorts! Andy I think we captured you mid snigger!!!

Things started well as we headed through Prologis Park and down the track to Rushton. We had some tarmac time over to Newton and then the first hint of things to come. Any time we crossed a field it was really claggy. The mud seemed to double the weight of our wheels and slowed our progress. It was quite a heavy grind.

Llamas or Alpacas, I'm not sure which

Memories of a school field trip in 1986!

For reasons best known to us, we thought Geddington Chase would be a good idea. Up to a point it was! This tree didn't help but it was nothing compared to the boggy bits. Andy Brown had a tubeless fail and had to stop to put a tube in. I really like tubeless but when it fails it is a complete pain!!!

Here's Bairdy who was posing for his picture on #Ihatemountainbikes. He did way better than me today though so I need to keep quiet!!! Mark C took a tumble and proudly announced that his camelbak saved his life! Andy P then demonstrated his extensive lyrical knowledge.

Andy Brown may have had mechanical issues but that face says it all. We were having a good day. From Brigstock we head to a familiar route towards Lieveden New Bield. My legs were destroyed in that section by more claggy soil and a horrible wind! We were heading downhill but you would never have known.

On the way round today we tried some new routes. The trail through Fermyn Woods may have been soggy in places but it was some good riding. That route was punctuated by a pitstop and a slab of malt loaf each from Ken's impressive lunchbox!

Not long after that we swapped sports and took up bog snorkelling. Andy P told us there was some downhill in a minute but it was no respite! On swampy rutted trails there were multiple tumbles. My pedals were clogged with mud and this prevented unclipping and I landed in a big puddle. I was riding through the puddle to try and clear the mud which was now stopping my wheels from turning. It was suggested that if I was going faster the mud would clear itself. Harsh but fair!!!

I really was broken as we emerged back onto the tarmac heading towards Slipton. I was also getting cramp in both legs every few minutes. Just before we headed back into the muddy lanes, Ken and Graham made the totally sensible of continuing home by road. I perhaps should've done the same thing. It was just clag and grind and cramp. The cramp got so bad I kept getting stuck like a turtle on it's back. I couldn't get off the bike and I couldn't peddle. The mud forced my back wheel off. I got off to put it back on and my thigh cramped every time I tried to do it!!! I'm sure it would've been quite funny to watch. I cramped several more times on the way back to the shop.

I'm not convinced that Chris was that pleased to see the mud monsters in his shop. A Mocha Iced Coffee and Snickers were very welcome. Andy Brown insisted on giving me a lift home. His rationale was that I'd suffered enough for one day! I was grateful for this.

filthy beast

Not so filthy

I'd like to thank everyone today for putting up with my unfit self. It's not the first time that rule one "no one gets left behind," has been strictly adhered to in my name. I enjoyed the ride so much despite the suffering. As Eddie Merckx says: "Just Ride!"

The blog is back. Cycling with C&D is back. 

Happy Pedalling!!!!!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Under Pressure...another week of learning on the bike!

If you're anything like me you know have Queen's 'Under Pressure,' as an earworm and if you didn't the power of suggestion probably means you do now. It's a favourite game of mine to plant earworms. On rides I like to put Taylor Swift's 'Shake it Off!' in people's heads. At home I like to plant the Divinyls 'When I Think of You,' in the Queen of Cakes head. It amuses me to think she might absent mindedly sing it to herself at work! Oh the fun...

Anyway back to the cycling. This has been an interesting week! I've only done one outdoor ride, last night's Friday Night Summer Series race at Wadenhoe. Earlier in the week I was restricted to rollers due to time and needing to be at home and today I've turbo trained because I can't put weight through my left wrist!

Some of the things I've learned are: I can ride no handed on the rollers! Tyre pressure is a tricky issue and cows like to watch a bit of Mountain Bike Racing! Then there's stuff I already knew but chose to ignore...this should be the actual Rule #1 of not blindly follow advice on the internet!

As it's the only comment worthy ride of the week this blog will concentrate on the Friday Night Summer Series Round 11 at Wadenhoe. This week it was the turn of Kettering based Mountain Bike Club - Numplumz. This was a fantastic circuit with some challenging features and some clearly marked Strava segments.

As ever I'm grateful to a number of snappers for getting some shots of the race. Pre-race though I met up with Ashley and we got a selfie in. A couple of warm up laps showed this short punchy course was going to be tough on the legs and lungs!

With about 5 minutes to spare a third C&D ride, Chris Barratt appeared in his VW combi. Chris registered quickly and then realised he didn't have his helmet. Luckily this is a very friendly group of riders and a spare was located quickly! His bike was an absolute beauty. He had a retro skinny tubed steel Marin with those now unfashionable 26in wheels. It made me think of my Orange P7 and I do regret selling that bike a bit! There's Chris signing in just before he realised he was missing a helmet!

The star of the night had to be the cow that belongs to the landowners who at this stage I believe is called Peony but I'm waiting for an update on that. This beautiful old beast is a beloved 25 year old pet and was a thoroughly chilled out VIP spectator. Thanks at this stage must be extended to the landowners. Your venue was superb!

The race started and as usual I was near the back but still in touch with many in my age group. It was about half a lap before the best of the grand veterans passed me and then the youngsters flew past a few minutes later. I know I'm way off the pace to be competitive but I don't care, it's great to see the better riders physical ability and ride skills. The other thing that's nice is that all the riders respect each other and accept that occasionally you can't help being in the way.

Due to some comments I'd read I was running my tyres right down at 20psi. I'd tested this out on the trails in Desborough and the improved grip was definitely helping on the short sharp slopes. On the tight grassy corners though my back wheel was misbehaving periodically and I really should have seen what was about to happen! 

I was doing okay. The kid on the fat bike hadn't passed me yet and I hadn't been lapped by too many riders. Then my chain skipped off my granny ring on a slope and just for good measure wedged itself in my crank. I really like the look of these 1x11 systems. It has to help not worrying about your chain rings! This cost me couple of minutes on the lap but I soldiered on. Then I approached the fun little downhill with the tight turn at the bottom...not that technical just fun! My back wheel just slid out underneath me at speed and I went down in a heap! I strongly suspect it was those low tyre pressures.  It must have looked bad because people came running to help. Notably Paul Kelf who I've ridden with many times. I'd broken another rule of falling off and put my hands out. I'm really lucky not to have broken my wrist or collar bone. After that I got back on and dribbled round for two more laps but I couldn't grip fully with my left hand and today I'm bruised and swollen. That'll learn me! I now have an app  for tyre pressure which suggests at my weight, wheels and riding conditions I should be running 30psi front and 35psi rear. To add to my learning it appears I'm confined to the turbo until I can hold handlebars properly again.  I will do my best to be fit for two weeks time in Harrington because I'm flipping loving this FNSS malarkey!

After the race Sam wondered if he could have a go on my bike. It appears with the saddle down low he fits on my focus. Only one thing for it then. Donate Franz to Sam and purchase an XC MTB with that 1x11 drivetrain! 

As I've been blogging Chris Froome has just retaken the yellow jersey in the Tour. How cool is that. It's been a funny TdeF2017. It felt ruined when Sagan and Cavendish had to leave. Then it seemed like a Team Sky procession to Paris. Now it's got interesting again.

Well that's it!
Happy Pedalling


So it turns out I did break my wrist after all. I have a fractured scaphoid. I'm in a cast for at least six weeks and currently unable to drive let alone ride a bike! I need to make the best of this. So it's time for some turbo sessions and maybe test that dodgy calf with some running!