Sunday, 27 November 2016

Another splendid weekend of cycling!

There's no doubt about it, my life is truly enriched by cycling. This weekend I had two very different rides and some excellent service from my LBS C&D Cycles.

Hair? Some of us get more aero as we get older!

Before I talk about this weekend's rides I need to tell you about the rollers above. I purchased these with my birthday money because I've always wanted rollers. Having tried them I can already understand how they're a better indoor workout than a turbo. I'm also pleased we have a narrow corridor to practise in! Because I like to support my LBS as much as possible I asked Andy at C&D Cycles what his best price was given that I'd seen these on offer from an internet retailer. Well Andy pulled out all the stops and got me a matched price. It's a no brainer then isn't it. LBS gets my cash. At the same time I had both my Giant Propel and Sam's CX bike serviced. Very good service indeed! 

On Saturday I opted for the C&D Cycles CC banter ride. I was a bit slow to start having had another challenging week and was thankful that the ride was coming past my house, giving me another half an hour and an extra cup of tea! The route is a beauty. We've done it a few times so I don't even need to look to know where we're going. As far as road rides go this has everything Northamptonshire is good at with a lot of up and down's, beautiful rolling countryside, quiet roads (well mostly, more to come on that,) history and picture postcard villages.

The wide verges on most of our country roads are for very good historic and economic reasons. Whilst the principle industry of Northants was shoe making, there was a great need to get livestock to their final destination. Today they go by lorry but in the past they were 'driven,' along these drovers lanes. These days it just makes it a bit more comfortable for all forms of traffic.

The weather was dry on the day but at this time of year the roads are always damp. For that reason I've put my 'best' bike away (well relegated it to indoor use.) It was good to be on my trusty Forme again. 'Clive,' may lack the stiffness, lightness and all round elegance of my Propel but he's still a good bike and a trusted bit of kit.

Those are the typical views you get on this route. Also at this point we were really shifting down the hill away from Naesby. Did I mention history? Well I've blogged about Naesby before but hey it's as simple as this. The parliamentary system we have today is directly influenced  by the decisive battle that happened on our doorstep hundreds of years ago! I'm not sure what Cromwell would make of our current situation but as he banned Christmas and Dancing you have to wonder if politicians have always been a bit "special!"

Another strong feature of this route is the climb into Brixworth which has featured on the Women's Tour. There's no massive climbs around here, just regular slopes that take your breath away! The other thing that leaves me breathless is the high quality banter during our rides.

As we neared the end of the ride two things happened. Firstly the normally quiet Mawsley Road was absolutely rammed with cars due to the closure of the A43 and then we had an incident with a dog. The hapless pooch ran around in the road and was narrowly missed by several cars. Luckily we located the owner and they were able to get the canine character home safely. That was enough for me though. I headed home at Loddington rather than getting stuck in more cars. I'm not sure what was so important, shopping I guess, probably for Christmas...maybe Cromwell wasn't so bad!

This Sunday we opted for a ride with a difference and went off road. Six intrepid riders on a mix of CX and MTB's headed out on Steve and Andy's mystery tour whcih took us places I've never been. The ride was another ten miles on yesterday but the hard work through the mud made it feel like another 50! I can honestly say I've been less tired finishing an Epic Sportive than I was today.

We had a first little bit of trail rather than road past the superb skate park in Kettering. Ken wanted to break in and have a spin around, luckily its a good lock!

You might think we're being irresponsible by riding three abreast but this isn't a road with cars on. It's a farm track which may or may not be a right of way. We were not chased 'orf my land,' by a shot gun toting farmer so I'm guessing ti was okay.

The track emerged near the Roundhouse at Finedon built to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo. A bit of road before we found  another nice bit of track.

After Little Addington we had to jump a gate before another of Steve's factual gems. We were near a former prisoner of war camp Hill Farm Estate, Irthlingborough Road, Little Addington.  Apparently this camp was for Italians!

Then we arrived at Stanwick Lakes where Chris and I couldn't resist a play on the death slide! Soon after that we found ourselves in the middle of a charity Santa run, As it's still November I refused to take pictures, oh really really now I agree with Cromwell!

We found a hobbit house at Stanwick but Frank was not at home. Chris wondered if he could ride in, round the centre post and back out again. The answer was yes. Yes he could! From there it was a good track through to Islip.

Upto that point the tracks had been fairly dry. It was however about to get more challenging. The field past the trout fishery at Aldwinkle was a challenge. It was nothing compared to the track out of Aldwinkle as we headed to lyveden new bield

This is the last picture my Garmin Virb managed before it ran out of charge. It was a lovely piece of off road. Steve and Andy had put together a very good route. As we arrived at Lyvden we pressed an unsuspecting couple into taking our picture. I'm still bemused as to why they used their own camera first! They took one on my mobile which is pants because unbeknown to me at the time, I'd smashed my lens cover!

Rubbish isn't it. Anyway the place has a great history that is not remotely enhanced by a gang of lycra louts descending on the place. Some great skills from Graham though as he traversed the dry moat! From there we had brief respite on the road before a grueling trek along a bridleway towards Brigstock.

Then to Brigstock. The track from Brigstock to Geddington, through the chase is frankly the best bit of downhill in Northants when it's dry. Well it wasn't dry and we were going uphill not down! Great fun though. Quite a few tumbles in the tricky ruts and fall of the day goes to Rob. Somehow, mostly rising slowly, I managed to stay upright through the boggy bits but my legs were gone. The others made it to Geddington way before me. When I got there, Rob had a puncture to add to his Mr Tumble woes.

A swift inner tube swap was followed by a woefully inadequate pump. Chris lent him something more powerful and there was some impressive handling of the longer shaft. As you can imagine that really was the tamest thing we said about the situation! I was done and said goodbye to the lads and headed home through Weekly Woods. It was tough turning the peddles but the thought of the last apple cake of the year kept me going!

I arrived home absolutely filthy and incredibly tired but really quite pleased with myself. I didn't feel like riding today but forced myself. It was well worth it. Pure cycling therapy with fantastic company. Cheers to Andy, Steve, Ken, Graham, Rob and Chris.The Queen of Cakes apple cake did indeed aid recovery but I'll still sleep well tonight!

Okay that's enough for now.
Happy Pedaling

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Central Cyclocross League Round 9: Kettering. My first ever cycle race!

On Saturday 19th November, two days from my 46th birthday I finally ticked off another part of my cycling to do list. I entered a race. I've only had a distant interest in CX until recently so it's almost a surprise I found my self in the Central Cyclocross League Round 9 Novice Race. It took place just a few miles from my front door so really this was the ideal start point. 

So how did this all happen? Well, having taken SuperSam to a few of these events this year I'd started to take interest in the novice race and the seed of a thought had planted:"I could do that!" Then some chat started. First Andy Brown (fellow C&Der and KCC Cyclones Dad,) mentioned we should enter, then some other Dad's and some other C&D Cycles CC members joined in and before we knew it we were signed up. If I'd had time I think I should have purchased a KCC jersey and then worn it with my C&D shorts to show my links to both clubs.

CXL R9 Kettering -joining-instructions-2016 Week 9, Race 9 with the action moving to the north with Mark Evans and the team from Kettering CC hosting. PLEASE NOTE this week and […]
Race Organiser and Cyclones Coach - Mark Evans

The bulk of the work in organising the race was done by Mark Evans. It's a thankless task dealing with all the rigmarole involved so I'm going to take this opportunity to thank Mark for such a great event. 

The course was at Prologis Park near Kettering and hosted at the Kettering Football Club, known as the Red Kites because we're knee deep in those magnificent raptors around here! It was pretty close to the perfect location.


Before my race there was of course the more important matter of Sam and the other cyclones. The under 8's and 10's race was a joy to watch! The kids put in heaps of effort. Then in the U12 race Sam again showed a lot of grit and improved technique. At the front of the race the MK kids continue to set a furious pace but the KCC Cyclones never give up. Kudos to: Jake, Oliver, Harrison, Kyan, Coen, Tasmin, Ruben, Corben, Aimee, Jack, Dominic, Amelia, Hannah, Sam, Eddie, Josh, Bethany, Charlie, Fin and Jonny.

Screengrab of the Route

My first mistake of the day was not setting Strava at the start of the race. I logged my ride getting to the event and then turned it off to get a pure log of the race! I guess the excitement got to me. We lined up on the grid and the banter started. Everyone was trying to claim the position of most likely to come last. The commisaire then warned us about the course hazards, including his great dislike of the wooden fence, which we all then threatened to push Ashley into. So really it was just like any other Saturday ride. Then the whistle went and stopped being like any other Saturday ride!

In a world of pain!

We shot off from the line and after about 30 seconds I was knackered. Normal service resumed as I found myself behind my C&D teammates. Then Ashley took a tumble and it was 'see you later kid!' He overtook me a lap later. I think the disadvantage of 20 years plus a few extra stone in weight doesn't help me keep up with the whippets! The course was great. Some good ups and downs and a couple of technical bits but thankfully not the drop the experienced racers would face. 

Our race was just 30 minutes and the bell for the last lap did come as a bit of a relief. I'm not sure how but I started catching people on that last lap and set my fastest time. I had a lovely tustle with Jonny and Fin from the cyclones under 14/16's who did the right thing and outsprinted the old man for the line! I'm not going to pretend I went easy on them, I tried to go faster and my legs politely reminded me I'm not Wout van Aert! On the line I was 13th out of 20 Novice men. That's fine for me, I never expected to win, I just didn't really want to be last. I was gaining fast on Chris at the end but I think he'd have just outsprinted me if I'd caught him. Also he could hear me coming as all of Kettering must have thought my huffing and puffing was an oncoming buffalo stampede!

There was some controversy at the finish as the leaderboard showed Andy Brown in first place! The mix up became apparent when he wasn't even invited to the podium. Later on it was all sorted as Andy and Josh had swapped race chips apparently by accident. Our very own mountain goat is secretly a very competitive man though. He's obviously practised cx by entering an event the week before and leading a course reccie under the pretense it was a practise session for the kids! He lulled us into a false sense of security with his ridiculous mudguard and then tore off leaving us all in his wake! Andy, as you'll see was 6th in the end and all joking aside it was well deserved. In my eyes he has the honour of being the current C&DCycles CC CX champion. Some black and blue stripes seem in order!

Screengrab of the race results!

You can ride a cx race on any offroad bike. My 29r was a pretty good bit of kit for this challenge and as Andy did the best of any of us on an MTB I'd say a proper cx bike is not necessary. However I'll also say that there were some serious bits of kit on display and a fair bit of bike envy kicked in. The picture below is quite apt with the British Cycling 'Go-Ride Racing' banner. My advice for anyone considering having a go is: GO-RIDE!

Too fast for the camera!

After my race I thought I was heading home. I decided to hang around for a bit and Lee took Sam for a well earned McDonald's (Author's note: I do not approve of Ronald flipping McDonald either for the pathetic products he purveys or the general ethos of his despicable company!) It was a good job I didn't rush off because I'd completely forgotten I'd volunteered for marshaling duty. Quite an error as it turns out because lovely as the day was, as soon as you stood still it was freezing! Mark lent me his fleece and off I set to prevent dog walkers inadvertently wandering onto the course. The racing was good to watch but I was struggling with the cold. A quick look at my race programme showed another couple of hours to go! Thankfully Mark is not only a good organsiser but he also looks after people. Another coat and a nice cuppa, which he brought to me one handed on his MTB, sorted me out.

My marshaling station

It was good to watch the more experienced riders mastering the course. My highlight of the day was seeing, Stuart Walters, another C&D/KCC member on the course. Stuart, 78, has featured a few times in my blogs because he's a phenomenal rider who inspires us all. I'd love to think I will still be riding in 30 years time. Stuart proves it can be done. There was also some very competent lady riders on the course. It was also very friendly with many riders shouting 'thanks marshall,' as they rode past. Then the last race of the day, the senior men. Wow they were quick!

Lee's Performance Enhancing KCC Cupcakes

My final comment on the day is a big shout out to everyone who gave their time. So, to all volunteers, in whatever capacity, you really are wonderful people. I'm glad I did my bit. Also the Queen of Cakes did us proud again with her KCC cupcakes. A really great day!

Apparently you should always wash your bike in a Santa onesie!

I was so tired last night I fell asleep on the sofa at 8pm watching the England rugby highlights. I'm glad I did because I watched them again on the iplayer this morning and unearthed an absolute gem as a result. Richard Parks Extreme Wales: Episode 1 Extreme Cycling This programme feels like it was invented for me. An ex rugby player cycling through Wales, creating a cracking four day route, talking about his love of cycling with other lovely cyclists and he even does a feature on Red Kites! Check it out for yourself, really really great cycling telly!

Image result for Richard Parks snowdon ride

Another thing I've unearthed is a Cycling Weekly article 20 things for cyclists to do in 2017. This is great and number 20 is my all time favourite quote from cycling legend Eddy Merckx: 

“Ride, lots. It doesn’t matter about the bike, take any bike, but ride.” 

Happy Pedaling!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Remembrance Ride 2016

Over the last two years our club remembrance ride has been the highlight of our Sunday club rides. We cycle to sites of significance, particularly the airfields of Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire where so much brave endeavor took place on our behalf. It's important to remember and I feel this ride is a fitting tribute to the fallen.

I nearly didn't ride at all today due to a very emotional and stressful week. In hindsight, perhaps I shouldn't have ridden at all. You can never tell when riding 'emotional.' Sometimes you are inspired to a great ride and other times your legs are just dead with nervous exhaustion. Today my legs were dead. I was cramping on hills after just 30 miles and after 50 miles I gave up and called for help. The magnificent Mrs Lindsley came and rescued me at Thrapston!

So what has been so bad? Well for starters we lost Ben our Black Labrador on Monday. He's been with us for 13 years and the kids don't know a life without him. We had no warning really other than his advancing years. The picture above was taken on Saturday, two days later we said goodbye. As Dad I'm trying to hold it all together but it's not easy. We loved that dog! There will be dog lovers who understand and others who wonder what the fuss is. All I will say is the hurt we feel today is nothing compared to the joy he brought us for all those years.

Okay let's get back to the ride. One of the gems I found this week was that another cycling blogger has blogged about visiting the places we went to today! Check out the link below:

On arrival at C&D Cycles there was the largest group I'd seen gathered since...well probably since the last remembrance ride. Steve was our leader but others had downloaded the route that I had prepared from Steve's interesting instructions! Notable in her absence was Nat, who overslept apparently!

Riding conditions were excellent. We had a dry bright day. The roads were still damp from the day before but in light winds we could not have asked for better.

First stop was at the lovely old tree in Mears Ashby. Commemorated here was the crash of two American bombers. If being shot at wasn't bad enough, it appears that accidents also happened. Miraculously some of the airmen involved walked away uninjured. The rest however were not so lucky and lost their lives.

The commemorative board

Ooh I say!


Banter is compulsory even on a serious day like today. Little did the cockwomble know that naughty plans were afoot. 

Steve was having a mare and this is the repair to his first broken spoke. Heather had usefully packed a cable tie for this on road bodge. At this point the naughty plans started as a novelty chocolate condom slipped undetected into Steve's back pocket. He discovered it at the next stop and the cheeky game passed to Mark. It's unknown if he's found it yet but Mark, if it gets you into trouble, please use this blog to prove your innocence. In any case its a standard size so it would never fit!

The next stop was at Poddington or 'Santa Pod.' Some of these wartime airfields have been turned into places for other activities. Santa Pod is now one of Europe's most famous drag racing strips. In a similar way, Grand Prix circuit, Silverstone, was also a wartime airfield. Here's some additional info on RAF Poddington

From Poddington we rode to Chelveston. The war memorial here is, I think, the best that we've visited. Even better still we discovered that the poppy and C&D Cycles keyring we left last year was still there! Steve decided to call it a day here because with two broken spokes his rear wheel was seriously misbehaving.

Another new visit for this year's ride was RAF Molesworth

After that stop I was shattered and massively holding the group up. They kindly suggested my bike was letting me down due to a rear brake that kept sticking but that was just the straw that broke the camel's back. I'll have much better rides. My bike does need some TLC so, before I put her away fro the winter, is definitely time to go and see Andy at C&D.

Parked up waiting for the queen of cakes

The sock excitement continues. This week no one knew I was wearing these bobby dazzlers!

I won't be riding with the club next weekend but I will be riding for it and for my other club KCC. We have the KCC cyclocross at Glendon on Saturday. SuperSam will be riding and some of us older chaps will be entering the novice race. I'm really looking forward to this both in terms of participating and also to support a fantastic event. I know the KCC coaches have put together a great course, so...roll on next weekend!

No videos this week but I have found some every interesting articles. Firstly there's a company aiming to build carbon frames in the UK. That has to be good for us all! Then there's the amazing Detroit custom cycles show. Those bikes have to be seen!