Change is afoot at La Maison de BikeVCar with Mrs BVC well along the pregnancy path. Tomorrow will be a big day where we should hopefully find out whether she is carrying a girl-cyclist or a boy-cyclist. However, when a mate phoned me up on Monday and said he’d just won a competition for him and a friend to go on an all-expenses paid, five-day cycling training camp to Majorca this weekend with Team Sky. And would I like to come, I quickly realised that flying out on Thursday would mean missing a momentous first family occasion so it was a tough decision. But it was a quick decision and I know I made the right choice.
Just kidding. I turned down the invitation from my friend and will be off to the hospital tomorrow with my wife. However, this is surely an early sign of things to come. Bike v Car v Baby.
Today I rode my last commute to Nailsea which is a small town located on the outskirts of Bristol. My project there is a few days from completion and 14 months of hard work and hard cycle-commuting are about to come to an end. I would estimate that I commuted the 32 mile round trip 200 times covering well over 6000 miles. Despite the fact that I will be moving on to bigger and better things it was still with a touch of sadness that I bid farewell to this familiar ride.
I took my ride in at a leisurely pace, stopping to take a few photos for the blog and trying not to get too wistful about every familiar village, view, pothole and hill that I know like the back of my hand. I’m not a particularly sentimental person, and normally look forward to the future. But it was still a bit of shame to say goodbye to the old faithful commute.
I wonder whether the dog walkers, joggers and other cyclists with whom I share a greeting every morning will notice my absence. It would have felt very strange to have said goodbye to them this morning, but over the last year we’ve share all of the bad weather and early mornings and it seems a bit strange that I wont see them anymore. Ah well, time to move on. Next week I start a new commute. Allez!
A few weeks ago I wrote that riding less and resting more seemed to be improving my cycling ability. I’ve no idea whether this assumption was true. There are so many other factors that could be involved in improved fitness, and my general approach to cycling is so unscientific that I really have no idea. The only certainty is that I will cycle whenever I can, and that my approach to life is to stay active because there’ll be plenty of time to rest when you’re dead.
Over the last week my ride hard & then rest strategy has been long forgotten. I’ve ridden 175 miles in 5 days and plan to cover another 40 miles tomorrow. Mostly this has been commuting to work, although Wednesday was a day of extremes. I rode the 16 miles to work in the morning, 16 miles back home before quickly changing bikes and cycling 5 miles to the start of a local time-trial. I then raced the 10 mile time-trial at a personal best before another 5 quick miles back home to watch the football. Unfortunately, upon arriving home I was too far beyond the point of being hungry and so exhausted that I found myself struggling to breathe properly. After munching a banana I dropped to the floor of the lounge in an ungainly heap, much to my wife’s bemusement.
After a few minutes I stepped back into reality and peeled myself off the floor. Tomorrow is my last day of riding, after which I will take a couple of day’s rest. Long may this haphazard approach to life & cycling continue.
For quite a while I’ve been considering buying a new wheelset for my bike. It all started when I removed the stickers from the old wheels. Partly this was because I have a minor obsession with removing stickers from things (DVD cases, insides of shoes, underneath of crockery, on top of work laptops even when it says ‘Do Not Remove This Sticker’, etc.) and partly this was because they were a budget wheelset and I wanted to conceal their true identity.
The only problem with removing plasticky stickers is they tend to leave a nasty, sticky residue that can be a nightmare to remove. I once tried to remove a sticker from the front of a friend’s refrigerator while I was round for dinner and ended up spending a frustrating hour sat on his kitchen floor, trying every chemical and detergent in his cupboard to remove the residue. On the plus side I discovered that Pledge (other brands of furniture polish are available) removes this mess; on the downside I was never invited round for dinner again.
So I used Pledge on my old wheels and not only did I remove the crappy stickers, I also left them with a fantastic polished finish. However this still didn’t satisfy me, and after further deliberation I finally asked my local bike shop to help in choosing a new wheelset. In the end I chose a set of American Classic Sprint 350′s as they are lightweight for climbing, have smooth hubs, but are not deep section as I would be scared of being blown off in the wind and are aluminium rims rather than carbon as I’d be scared of hitting a pothole with wheels made from a brittle material.
I had been intending to ride the Castle Combe race track after work today, however we are in the midst of a deluge of Biblical proportions so I wimped out and decided to head to the bike shop instead to pick up the new wheels. Over the last year I’ve built a good relationship with the guys at the local bike shop (i.e. I’ve spent lots of money there) and the benefit today was that as my bike was already in the boot (from the aforementioned wimping-out) they said to just bring it inside and they’d transplant my rear cassette, tyres and set up the brakes. In the end I had three mechanics buzzing around my bike for half an hour correctly adjusting all the components (and noticing and correcting my previous bodge jobs like cutting down the steerer tube which had resulted in a bit of movement in the headset) while I sat on a stool drinking a cup of tea and acting as if it was someone other than me who’d made a complete pig’s ear of maintaining this simple machine. It was also agreed that I needed to ‘man-up’ and change the compact 50/34 to a 52/39 crank (probably as I’d falsely claimed to be a strong rider as you can’t have people knowing that you’re a bad mechanic as well as being a bad cyclist) so it looks like my ‘good relationship’ with the bike shop is set to further blossom. And all of this impromptu expert labour and advice was delivered for the recommended retail price of the wheelset – you just can’t get this type of service online.
Driving home from the bike shop I noticed that the rain was actually not ‘Biblical’ and really just ‘persistent drizzle’ so decided to get out there and test out the new wheels. I rode for an hour in the wind and rain, up hills and through giant puddles but to be honest couldn’t really comment on the performance of the wheels in these conditions. I arrived home after an hour, frozen to the bones, soaked through and after tipping the water out of my shoes I was confronted by my wife who ordered me not to come inside the house until I’d removed the massive, hanging piece of bogey from my face. Remembering the comments from my previous post I grabbed my camera and managed to capture the living stalactite for my demanding (and slightly gross) readers!
I’m not sure why Cold + Rain + Exercise = Epic Bogeys, but it’s a mathematical equation that is yet to be proven otherwise. Further research may be required into this interesting field. I’m also not sure whether the new wheels will make me faster but the good news is that the rims have decals and not stickers so there’s no need to grab the furniture polish.
For most of last year I had a clear opportunity to rack up the cycling miles. A fixed place of work within a cyclable commute allowed me to live without a car for 9 months. However, things changed this year and I have to make the most of any opportunity to ride. Rather than churning out daily miles and conserving energy for the next day I now ride hard and rest. This week I had one day to cycle to work so I opted for the special bike and thrashed it like there was no tomorrow. I rode the 16 miles in at an average of 21mph and made the more uphill return at an average of 20mph, arriving into my village with dribble foaming at the corners of the mouth like some rabid dog. The next day my legs felt dead which was fine as I had to drive.
Another enjoyable side-effect of my new regime was dropping a friend a few times on a recent ride. He has always been a stronger rider than me so it felt strange to be slowing down for him, or waiting at the top of climbs. Last year I was convinced that the more I rode the better cyclist I would become. However I seem to be getting better by doing less.
After a stressful Friday at work I arrived home and crashed on the sofa with a soothing beer which became three. As the day’s stresses ebbed away they were quickly replaced by hunger pangs. But with no food in the house, me probably over the limit to drive and Ms BikeVCar up to her elbows in cake mixture I wasn’t sure how to fill my grumbling belly.
It was only while putting out the rubbish that I saw my bike and remembered that it is actually possible to cycle a bicycle without head-to-toe lycra and just use it as a convenient form of transport. With the local curry house only 4 miles away, I chucked on a helmet and set off to collect some takeaway dinner.
I got to the curry house, placed my order and then headed to the pub for a quick pint. Despite carrying a pannier bag and wearing cycling shoes I don’t think I aroused too much suspicion from the locals. I hopped on a bar stool and enjoyed my beer.
After a nice pint I clip-clopped my way back out of the bar and picked up my curry. The waiter had generously added a free saucy dish which he advised to keep upright on my journey home. Unsure whether I’d been rumbled and this was some kind of joke I just thanked him politely and headed on.
The ride home was a breeze and despite crashing through a few potholes there was no significant ‘paneer’ spillage within the panniers.
It’s easy to forget the versatility of the bike and the simplicity of being able to just hop on without all the lycra clothing and accessories. And when the weather is so pleasant it’s also nice to be able to head out for a short ride along the local lanes.
It wasn’t until right at the end of last year that I found out that Castle Combe motor-racing circuit was open to cyclists once a week between April and September. A two mile loop of smooth tarmac with no potholes, cats eyes, cars or traffic lights seemed like an open invitation to have fun and I resolved to get involved this season.
One of my new projects is coincidentally based in Chippenham, a few miles up the road from the race track so I conveniently arranged an afternoon site visit on the same day the track was open. The majority of cyclists using the track were on road bikes, however there was a good number of families out with young children and a few hand bikes.
I rode a couple of steady laps before somebody took my wheel and we rode together, taking turns on the front. The only rules seemed to be that you had to cycle anti-clockwise and that faster riders take the inside line with those slower on the outside. After a handful of hard laps I was contemplating a rest stop when our group suddenly grew to a dozen or so and it seemed a shame to leave. For the next half an hour we were covering laps at an average speed of 25mph which actually felt relatively comfortable in the middle of the bunch and I found I regularly had enough energy to move to the front for a pull. However, at that speed it was sometimes a little unnerving being so close to other wheels and putting your faith in unknown people to not do something stupid which might cause a crash.
After a while I grew a little bored of the monotony and decided to test my ability to break away. I’ve got absolutely no experience of this type of thing so just wheel-sucked for a lap and then on a quieter stretch of track charged my way around the outside at about 28mph on the drops and more than likely exploding in sweat and dribble. I felt a brief moment of freedom which lasted all of about 20 seconds before my speed began tumbling and then the train of cyclists slowly drifted past me. Before I knew it, I had lost everyone and it took a monstrous effort of over half a lap to catch back up again. I drafted on the back for a brief moment, and then decided to call it a day and pulled over to the outside of the track for a slow warm down.
I fully expect to be back again this summer. Castle Combe is a hidden cycling treasure.