Saturday, 31 December 2016

Thanks 2016...2017 here we come!

I can't blog about a ride today because I'm a bashed up buffoon who needs a few days rest to mend my sore ribs! So I'm just going to review the year and set some goals for 2017. I also want to look at some other notable cycling achievements.

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Let's kick of with what in my opinion is the biggest achievement of all. Kajsa Tylen's year in the saddle earning herself a Guinness World Record in the process of riding over 50 000kms by the 9th of December and finishing today with a short celebration ride. You can read more on her website here: 

Kajsa Tylen with the bike over her head

With so much great cycling this year it would be easy to forget someone or something. If it was down to me to hand out awards Peter Sagan is simply the best. I also enjoyed the Cavendish road revival followed by the sensational return to the track, especially his partnership with Wiggo. Lizzie Armistead winning the Women's Tour in Kettering was a bit special. The Olympics and then Paralympics was fabulous on the track and frightening on the road. Too many names to mention from Rio but it's good to remember that 2016 was not all celebrity deaths and bizarre politics. It was also good to see friend of C&D Cycles CC, Marianne Vos going well and then making a comeback at my new favourite sport cyclocross. On the mudbashing the battle of the vans (Van der Poel and Van Aert,) was more than a bit special! 

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Then of course there's the controversy with Team SKY and the TUE's. The team that doesn't cheat now appear to define this as getting away with as much as possible! Perhaps the defining image of cycling in 2016...Chris Froome the running man (also cheating but shhhhhhh!)

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For my cycling friends at C&D, KCC and further afield it was another good year. I'd like a bit of reader participation at this point and ask that anyone who reads the blog leaves a comment on their favourite ride of 2016. I'm struggling to pick mine as there's a few to choose from. My favourite cycling thing is easy to's watching the progress of SuperSam. This is also a good place to thank Mark Evans and all the coaches and volunteers at Kettering CC Cyclones. You have created something to be very proud of!

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One of my cycling friends from further afield set some impressive New Years Resolutions for 2015. His plan was to ride more often, drink more beer and stay single. I'm fairly sure Nigel achieved all three and then repeated in 2016 so kudos to him for that.

This brings me to my cycling goals for 2017. This year was relatively light for me as I only managed 2883 miles. For the last few years it's been over 4000 so target 1 will be to get back to that sort of distance. Another goal will be to do some more cycling in Australia. We're having a week in Noosa Heads which has fantastic MTB trails and bike hire available happy days! In the New Year we have three cyclocross races in a row. If it works for SuperSam I'm hoping to do the novice races in all three and then for the 2017/18 season I'm going to move up to my age group. This year I want to do a time trial. I also want to complete a Strava climbing challenge because I haven't managed that yet. It might require some Everesting but if that's what it takes! Finally I'm going to ride as much as possible with my friends. I had a break from C&D Cycles CC this year, I won't make the same mistake  again (except whilst I'm Australia!)

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All that's left to do is to thank everyone for a wonderful year of cycling. Big thanks to all at C&DCCC. You're a great bunch and you make cycling even more awesome. Thanks also to Chris and Andy for keeping us on the road. Thanks to everyone at KCC Cyclones and to any cycling friends not attached to clubs. Finally as massive thanks to Mrs Lindsley, the Queen of Cakes, Not only does she keep us fueled with baked products I'd never be able to do as much without her support.

Image result for eddie murphy merry new year

Friday, 30 December 2016

Pride comes before a fall...Cannock Chase with Fireman Pat

Okay when I suggested that some people were foolish the other day I really should have made sure everyone understood who I believe is the biggest fool of them all. It's me! Today the power of my mind literally chucked me off a raised platform and has left with ribs bruised marginally less than my ego! Let's make sure the message is fully understood, I feel sore and silly! However I need to clarify something else, Cannock is still the most magnificent place for an off road ride.

My ride companion for the day was my good friend and neighbour Gareth who I've nicknamed Fireman Pat due to him being both our Postie and part of the local retained Fire Service. We started out early with the first stop being McDonald's for breakfast and coffee (yes that will be a surprise to some!) It was a bit of a frosty foggy drive but we made it to Cannock Chase bang on 8. The car park ticket machine stole Gareth's money but no matter the ranger sorted us a ticket without quibble. We met up with Gareth;s mates but as most of their group was still a long way away decided to set off on our own. I was grateful for that on two counts; firstly they looked a bit too pro for a Roady like me who was at Cannock for the second time after a good few years break and secondly I was about to embarrass myself in splendid style!

My abiding memories from the last visit involve a positive experience at the shop and a spike of fear as I rode the boards for the first time. Let's do the positive first. I parked my Orange P7 outside the shop last time and then a member of staff scurried in to get the manager. He came out and looked like all his Christmases had come true. "Is that your P7 he said? Oh wow look at the geometry..." I hadn't got a clue, I'd bought if a friend of my wife for £270 and that was possibly the first time I'd used it properly. I've sold that lovely bike now because it was too small and didn't have suspension of any sort, I do miss it though.

Onto the negative. Quite soon into the 'Chase the Dog Trail,' you are thrown onto the boardwalk above a boggy area. I hated it last time and that memory had lingered. Today it was also frosty so I doubly psyched myself out. I'm always telling SuperSam that when you're scared you'll get hurt and this really did prove the point. I nervously tried to trickle over the boards and rather predictably lost balance and toppled off. I landed ribs first on my handlebars and pain shot through my body. My first feeling was stupidity my second was embarrassment and my third was worry. I wasn't worried about me, I was horrified that I may just have ruined Gareth's day if I couldn't continue. I gathered myself and Gareth suggested walking to the boards. I put the bike back on, got up with it and was once again paralysed by fear. I wobbled there for a moment and then began to slide. I jumped off the other side and one of my shoes disappeared into the bog. Thank goodness for seal skin socks! Gareth did exactly what I would have done and exactly what I needed. He laughed! I pushed myself out, gathered myself again and just cracked on with it. I won't lie, my confidence was shot and the next twenty minutes was tentative to say the least!

I've stolen the picture of the boardwalk from another blogger who also admits to the demons this completely rideable feature conjures. The truth is I could have avoided all the pain if I'd just treated it like rollers looked forward and gone for it. I've added the link to this persons blog, I hope that makes it okay with them!

On the boardwalk, we'll be having some fun

I think I started to recover a bit by the time we went down Devil's Staircase. It's a beautifully technical descent and I started to remember stuff like getting my weight over the back wheel. We hit the bottom and got through the V barriers.

From there it was over the road to the Monkey Trail. Lots of hard climbing to come but also massive rewards.

As we progressed around Cannock I found my proper off road feet. I started to really enjoy myself and the technical bits became less threatening. I still didn't like the rock section with Tom, Dick and Harry. I need to go back and beat that because I'm sure I can. Bit by bit though I was getting more into it.

The day was getting better too. We started in frost and fog and then everything began to clear. 

This is the view out over Lower Cliff. The best bit of downhill and well worth the tough climb to get to it. I thought I'd set possibly the slowest ever time down it but then saw on my Strava that it was a PR so I guess at worst it was the second slowest ever descent!

This pic is to show off the stunning bike that is Gareth's Santa Cruz full suspension. My hardtail 29er did okay around the trails but this really is the sort of kit you need!

One last pic as Gareth descends away. I have some videos to show off the rest of his superb day out. I'm home now and the dogs have been walked even though I'm super sore. I got home to discover I' forgotten what day it was and the recycling didn't go out! That's a trip to the tip for me then. But what of our companions back up the trail? Well they finally made it to the car park by 9.10, late even by my standards, then they struggled round the trails arriving back at he car park at 3:30pm! We stopped for a coffee and ate lunch before setting off home and got back by 2pm! I'm glad we didn't wait!!!

I want to thank Gareth for today, You were superb company mate and I truly hope not to fall off on the easy bit next time! I hope the videos do the day justice.

Happy Pedaling

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Clocking up the winter miles...

I'm a lucky man...a really lucky man...because this week I've already been out on my bike with two of my best mates! That's the positive message I'd like everyone to take from this blog, because I'm sorry to say I'm really going to be negative at times today.

My first post Christmas ride made me very happy because it was one I shared with the very special human being that is my youngest son SuperSam. As most parents know, you tend to lose kids a bit at his age. You've gone from being the strongest, cleverest, fix anything ist man in the Universe and suddenly your hero plummets towards zero. Every now and again though you have a day when you're the hero again. Boxing Day was my day!

So we pitched up at Wakerley to what has to be the most quintessentially English behaviour ever. There was lots of family groups doing that bewildered wandering that only the English can achieve and to top everything there was also a group with a barbecue on the go having a game of cricket! We're a most magnificent way!

Sam and I hit the trails. If you haven't been to Wakerley Great Wood it's like a mini Cannock Chase. There's nothing like the downhills of lower cliff but there is still plenty to keep offroaders happy. Sam let me take the lead on each section too, which is great because it means he's confident enough to tackle it on his own. I managed a few Strava PR's as a result!

You can see from the pics that it was a lovely day in the woods. Reports from people who did a road ride on Boxing Day suggest that there was a bitter wind away from the trees! I love this place. It's well built, well maintained and frankly a bargain to use! The only problem is the odd stray walker who doesn't understand the difference between a path and a bike route! Sam had a great ride too. He has set himself the target of working on skills and returning regularly to see if he's getting quicker! You've got to love that kid!

I was hoping to ride on the 27th with C&D Cycles CC but looking out of my window on the morning I saw an abundance of frost. Having fallen twice on ice and broken my bike both times I had no intention of setting out on a road bike. Club mates however took no such precaution and rode their bikes. I'm sorry guys, I know it's your choice but I think you're foolish. How can it ever be worth risking life, limb or expensive bike? I might sound a bit judgmental at this point but I can honestly speak from experience. I was lucky enough a few years back to only lose two 105 rear mech's and hangers in quick succession. Both times my desperation to ride overwhelmed my common sense. I'll say it again...there will always be another day to ride!

So to today. Steve contacted me the night before and suggested we head for the Brampton Valley Way and some off road riding. This seemed like the sensible way to get a cycling fix!

It became quite apparent soon into our ride that the roads were really not safe for road bikes. We set out with the intention of avoiding tarmac as much as possible! Not long into the ride I experienced the first mechanical of the day as my rear mech cable detached itself from the shifter. A quick bit of fiddling and we'd solved the problem...or so it seemed!

Just out of Orton we found a bridlepath we couldn't resist exploring. This was a bit of mistake as he going was so heavy that Steve described it as 'worse than Rocky Hill.' He considered engaging his Granny Ring, I embraced the full spin of my very lowest gear! I say mistake but actually this type of suffering was exactly what we were looking for.

Thankfully we made it onto firmer ground and a more manly gear was engaged. We were playing it by ear though and much as we understood our general direction, frankly we had no clue exactly where we were!

That lack of orientation subsided as we saw the house that was formerly Faxton Church near Lamport. I told Steve the story of the cows chasing me out of the field we were in and then we entered the safety of the woods beyond the reach of livestock.

The next picture alludes to the change of weather we were about to encounter. It had until this stage been a bright and sunny but freezing cold day. We were about to enter the fog!

The next picture really sums it up. The ground was firm but frosty. The air was getting cold and clingy!

Closing on Lamport we found this hillock that grabbed my attention. I have no idea what this structure is and will do some research but it looked like early fortification. I wanted to ride down it but the look of the ditch at the bottom persuaded me that it might not end well.Also Steve pointed out I'd either break my bike or do myself a mischief!

Then we found Frank's Hobbit house!

From there we made our way to the A508 where with lights on we cautiously rode to Hanging Houghton. From the world's poshest village we span down an icy hill to the Brampton Valley Way, BRAIN FREEZE! Going down the hill was the coldest thing I've ever done, every bit of me was frozen and I had a splitting headache. The Brampton Valley Way itself was quite pleasant due to the mud being frozen. Steve then checked his Garmin which said the temperature was -6C!

This next picture proves the point. It's not the fog, my camera lens had frosted over! So it was with some relief that we climbed Merry Tom Lane because uphill warms you up! Unfortunately my gears had stopped working again! When we arrived at Brixworth Country Park I discovered that the cable had now detached at the derailleur end! I managed to fix that but lost my bottom two cogs and was not in the mood for more fiddling to get them back. This bike has been so trouble free that it almost owes me the odd mechanical!  

Steve and I headed into the cafe where the magnificent chap bought me a pot of tea. We also discovered 'Arry the Aphid, Steve's new best mate. He stayed with us for a fair few miles! Because not even tea had warmed us sufficiently we had a look around Pitsford Cycles. Dear Chris and money was spent!

Those cobwebs tell a tale. We set off round Pitsford reservoir with freezing extremities which were not improving anytime soon! We said good morning to as many people as possible and it has to also be said that joggers are far more sensible than cyclists as none were seen! At the causeway car park we'd had enough and just wanted to get home. The ride back to Brixworth was dicey as visibility was low and we were happy to have decent lights. However as we hit the top of the hill the world began to change. Soon after that you would not believe it was the same day as we emerged into bright winter sunshine.

We went to Scaldwell, then Old and up mill lane where the above picture was taken. We looked across those crazy bridle paths that had provided a test earlier and laughed at how silly we are! Then my third problem of the front tyre started losing air. It's been a bit leaky since I went tubeless I was just unsure if the sealant had expired or of it just didn't like the cold!

By Harrington, where we could clearly smell the Warner Edwards gin still in full swing, I decided to put more air in. Its was only a few miles home which was lucky because the top up didn't work! I limped home with a very soft front tyre. Steve headed back to Kettering with his Festive 500 quest still on target! Despite the problems and the cold it was still a great ride in great company. Also being out on big tyres and avoiding roads was clearly the safest approach...maybe some maintenance would have helped!

Back at home I had a really good tinker with gear cables and I got my rear mech absolutely trimmed! I'm quite proud of that because I've always been been pretty useless at fine fettling. The tyre though was having none of it.

With only a couple of days before our trip to Cannock Chase I needed to take action so I hot footed it to C&D Cycles. I purchased some Scwalbe sealant (which is actually Stans,) and I got a camelbak drinks system because I'm fed up of drinking from a crap covered bottle. Amazingly with my club discount my LBS came in cheaper than the big internet providers. Kudos to Andy and Chris for such outstanding service!

I'm really looking forward to my trip to Cannock Chase on Friday. I'll get pics and hopefully some video too!

Happy Pedaling

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Eve Cracker!

It's the most wonderful time of the year...well not really for cycling but hey we soldier on through the winter. Today we got to ride on Christmas Eve and dressing up was compulsory! I decked Clive out with antlers, tinsel and a couple of baubles. I also strapped on some helmet antlers too!

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Someone commented that my bike had testicles and one of our group today actually said "I love your balls Rich!" I won't embarrass her by revealing who said that!!! I'm amazed they didn't fall off or smash because they were swinging around and banging together all ride long.

The route today was the Oundle classic. Not a tough route and one so well ridden that many people know the way without GPS assistance. As I arrived at the shop it was clear that some big efforts had been made. We had santa hats, tinsel, antlers, other headgear etc.

Steve with his tiny balls and strap on Santa

Samta Pendred who got pretty hot!

We set off in one group on damp heavy roads with a tailwind. Steve suffered a puncture but otherwise our spin through to Oundle was uneventful. Whilst waiting in Brigstock a lady banged on her window and wished me Merry Christmas. I was taken aback then remembered I was on a bike with Tinsel, Baubles and Antlers!!! I'd like to say I got used to that but the following was a recurrent thought process...First voice in my head: what they looking at? Second voice: You , yer pillock, you're on a bike that looks like someone sicked Christmas all over it...First voice: Oh yeah...

Dirty Santa

It was lovely to ride with Louis Spence today

The ride through to Aldwinkle from Oundle was much tougher as the wind took effect. I always struggle in the wind as a bigger rider because I'm about as aero as a brick! Also increasing drag was my overall Christmassyness! Antlers create drag and the balls out back were acting like an anchor! Not even jelly babies or my special drink (Big Dave's Blue Product,) could pep me up. Whilst I'm making excuses, anyone who heard my coughing in the shop after the ride will know I wasn't 100%. Also of note in Oundle was the clear winner of the Andy Pendred jogger of the day. She greeted us with enthusiasm then ran off smartly when it became apparent how cheeky we are.

At Aldwinkle, near the non-historic church, despicable Neil took a tumble, whilst stationary. You can just see him getting back up in the background. Serves him right for making no Christmas effort. As you can imagine there was a complete lack of sympathy or any offer to help! So the Mark Baird Cockwomble of the ride award goes to Neil. 

Alison on the other hand did make an effort and I particularly liked her Santa Homer socks! Alison was struggling even more than me today and it is to her credit she kept going. We did adhere to rule #1 even after she begged us to stop waiting for her and an arrangement was made, some of the lads just wouldn't leave her behind.

Sam Pendred was amazing in his Santa suit. Samta was clearly very hot in the onesie. Andy, his almost funny, treacherous Dad, had told him to wear shorts underneath which was clearly reverse psychology to guarantee Sam put on full length bib tights for added toastiness!

Back at the shop the banter continued to flow. Some of it repeatable but I can't remember that bit! Mince pies were provided by Andre's wife. Nat was over enthusiastically hugged by everyone before it was manly handshakes and Merry Christmases all round!

There's lots of riding planned over the Christmas break for those fortunate enough to get the time off. I'm looking forward to getting some quality miles in and hopefully an off road trip to Cannock Chase. If I'm lucky I'll get out for an hour tomorrow too.

Whilst my inexpert training on rollers continue, I enjoyed the GCN Christmas special the decorations people have made from bike parts is truly amazing. So if you want to, check it out here!

Okay that's it. If everything goes to plan the New Years Eve blog will be an absolute smasher. I'll be establishing my New Years Cycling Resolutions as well as all the usual nonsense.

Merry Happy Pedaling Christmas

Sunday, 18 December 2016

More filthy fun in the mud!

So this week I've done a bit more on the rollers but my only ride of note was today's off road mud bashing. Before I could leave Harvey tried to trap me in the house by kidnapping my feet. I managed to get away from my friendly Labrador and the plan was to meet those C&Ders hardy enough for an off road ride at Weekly Woods.

The plan worked a treat and that leads me to the even bigger plan which was to try the route from a few weeks back but in the other, far more sensible direction! Our team today was Andy P, Ken, (Mark,) Sparky, (Mark,) Bairdy and me. A spin through Weekly Woods and the Weekly Hall wood appeared to be going well until our resident womble got a puncture. Much hilarity and taunting ensued. Mark is apparently well practised at puncture repair and you really could hardly tell. His pumping technique was sound though. I pointed at the large bubble on my front wheel where my tubeless tyre was behaving well and sealing itself nicely. 

From there we headed into the Medieval capital of England that is Geddington and onto Geddington Chase with some trepidation. We knew from a few weeks ago it would be pretty boggy. However the most enjoyable bit was pretty firm and we enjoyed the downhill run towards the badger sets. Then as predicted it got boggy and also as predicted Bairdy was the first to come off. He over confidently passed other group members before discovering the source of their caution! It was hard work but definitely passable. I think this might be the last time it's worth riding until it dries again in the Spring. The womble's tumble then set the president for the rest of the ride as waiting for Mark became the norm.

The pic above is Mark finally reaching the end of the Chase. He admitted that this off road lark was harder than he'd thought. Now to be fair to him, Bairdy is one of the most improved riders in our club. He easily keeps pace with the fast group on road rides and it's not all down to his Chinese knock off Bianci/Campagnola products.

This is me showing Bairdy how it's done!

Next off we had some road through Brigstock and then onto the trail that had taken us to Lieveden New Bield last time out. That uphill section was brutal last time out and it was no surprise to find it was easier downhill but actually still work rather than just coasting. I blogged about Lieveden last time so I won't tell you all about this National Trust site again. Needless to say it's not improved by a bunch of dirty MAMILs. Great picture again Andy.

Not far from Lievden we met a bunch of shooters with dogs. They were friendly enough but advised us we shouldn't be on bikes there. So, given they had big guns, we walked for a bit and then as we were sure they were wrong and it was a bridleway, got back on. Well, well, well...the sign below shows we were right. It was indeed a bridleway. Discretion is still the better part of valour though, especially when the people you could argue with have 12 bores!

Riding the other way we'd really struggled on the bridleway from Aldwinkle. This time round it was nicer downhill but a little bit on the slippy slidy hairy side. Andy P expertly led the way. Bairdy took another tumble...

You can see from this picture that we were dealing with tricky conditions. But hey this is what makes these rides so much fun. I really can't imagine enjoying these tracks half as much on a dry sweaty Summer day.

Mark continued with his struggles but then we've had a few weeks practise at this and it is different to road rides so it's no surprise. He did however have no problem catching up with us when sheep were present...

We had a lovely ride by the river with some interesting bridge crossings as we made our way to Thrapston. Andy P found us some great little trails and also a great deal of mud! Mark was struggling more and more and I have to say I think his unusual QR lever positioning really needs a mention! To be fair I was knackered once again. These rides are a real test of strength and stamina.

Finally we popped back onto the road near Woodford. We had some more off road options but decided that was enough for one day and headed back on the roads. Up through Twywell was hard work. Then we headed on a familiar road route back to Warkton, Andy P set the pace and teh rest of us sat on his wheel. He said he wondered why no one else took a turn at the front but in truth we were all doing everything we could just to keep his wheel. I really hope these rides are helping my fitness because they feel like they should! The last bit of the ride home for me was just keeping the pedals turning.

As I arrived home I realised we'd done nearly 40 miles. No mean feat in those conditions. I also realised I had exactly ten minutes to get showered and changed and in the car for our family Christmas lunch! I downed a pint of milk so fast it gave me brain freeze before we went to the Hare at Loddington. It was a lovely meal out and I got a most appropriate secret Santa gift!

Five things I like almost as much as riding my bike. It's good but inaccurate. It should be five things I like as much as riding my BIKES! Also bacon is good but it does not come before cleaning my bike or going to the bike shop! On cleaning my bike. I had to do it in the dark and it was a really big effort!

Final word of the day goes to Mark who is pictured here in all his filth back at our headquarters C&D Cycles. He looks shattered doesn't he? Well we ragged Mark mercilessly on the ride and I've carried on in the blog. However Mark is a man with a good sense of humour and he takes it all as we very well, Good job really it won't stop anytime soon!

Final thoughts today go to congratulating those KCC cyclones who made the trip to Berkhamsted. I was really jealous of their course today with a tricky looking bridge. It was however too far for us with the family lunch to attend. 

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My video recommendation this week comes from the legend that is Guy Martin. Our tea drinking, lorry mechanic, motorbike racer, record breaker has clocked up 11,000 miles cycling this year. He has just aborted a round Britain record attempt because, well you know, he's a bit broken. Nothing more tea won't fix! Anyway if you haven't seen it, check out "Our Guy in China," available on All 4.

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Okay I'm done and just like last week I'm going to sleep very well!!!

Happy Pedaling