Journey

[Alternatively: The (tow)path to success…. or failure?]

Goals. Its good to have a goal I reckon. After spending time on the bike I thought that I might want to do more than just ride up and down a section of the Thames. I then received a delivery of an online order from someone like Wiggle which contained a leaflet for an organised ride on something called the Lemming Trail. Great name.

(Incidentally, Wiggle will sometimes add a little Brucie bonus to your order like a packet of Haribo – what’s not to like?)

I wasn’t sure I was brave enough to be a lemming so started looking at other rides and there’s loads of them. I’m sure you’ve all seen people bombing around the roads at the weekend but, as I ride off-road, I saw that there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in an organised ride without risking life and limb on the roads. (Just watching the crowds of cyclists clashing with traffic on Box Hill on a Sunday is stressful enough: forget riding….)

And then one September day I left my house and found lots of people whizzing past along the towpath with British Heart Foundation entry numbers attached. A quick google and I found the London to Brighton off road event and the seed of a plan was planted.

Two years on, I’m enrolled and in training. God help me.

To illustrate the challenge I face, its 75miles in one day and I’ve done well to manage 90miles in one week. So the training distances need to step up a tad.

Then there’s the terrain. A quick check of the elevation profile for the ride shows some pretty steep climbs and likewise with the descents.

l2b

London to Brighton elevation

As a comparison, below is the elevation profile of my longest route to date:

richmond

Towpath to Richmond Park with a loop of the path

Quite similar you’d think? Until you realise that my chart is about a third of the distance that I need to achieve and the climbs/descents on the top chart are compressed in distance compared to the lower chart.

One thing is for certain: I have four months and a lot of hard work ahead of me if I’m going to make it to the finish line.

Wish me luck!

 

And now for your reward for getting this far down. A little predictable but hey…..

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Genesis

(After giving it some thought, I’ve decided that my hook will be a music theme to the title of each post. Ambitious? Twee? Pointless? You’ll have to decide! Anyway, see the end of each post for a title-based treat!)

Now whilst the title might not immediately appear to make much sense, I wanted to share how my interest developed since first getting a bike. The first thing to consider is that it’s a machine, toy and gadget it will there for qualify for that bloke trait that says that anything that can be tinkered with, will be tinkered with.

I started with a standard “off the peg” mountain bike (a Giant Talon Zero 2010 model) and only thought that I needed three things: a pump, mudguards and a lock. Simple, you’d think…. Oh no, no, no! And that’s before you consider price! A quick trip to Evans Cycles in Wimbledon sorted me out but at a total cost of £70-odd! The mudguards were fine but I’d only learn later that the pump and lock weren’t really fit for purpose. Probably the sort of error that is commonplace for newbies.

So off I scooted, got a few rides under my belt. All well and good you’d think. Not a bit of it!! There’s immediately a few problems I think I need to address. The first problem is a bit sensitive. Tender, if you will. Yep its the botty! Not something to be sniffed at (sorry for that mental image…)

OK, that’s easily sorted: padded undershorts. Feels a bit weird like wearing a nappy, but the saddle-soreness is a thing of the past. Phew!

Next problem is the my poor little mitts: they got a bit fuzzy and numb after riding for a while. What does one do? Well in time-honoured male fashion you google it and then see what toys are available to solve the issue! That leads to a special pair of handlebar grips to help with the vibration effects. Huzzah!

Remember, this is still at the very beginning of my venture into mountain biking!

Since then there’s been so many other things to address: pedals; saddle; chain; tyres; tubes; seat post; lights. The list goes on. And that doesn’t include tools and maintenance equipment or clothing!

But guess what: IT’S GREAT!!

Us blokes love this sort of thing and, even when its dark out or winter/raining hard, you can still get online and spend hours comparing, contrasting, deciding on your next purchase or seeking advice on forums.

But, remember, none of this is compulsory! Its just what I did and whilst I’ve ended up with some dud purchases, there’s also some great ones! In the end, I suppose, it depends on what you ultimately want to get out of cycling. Want to commute but have to leave your bike somewhere public: you be unwise spend thousands just for it to disappear whilst you’re working! Want to get into pedalling but unsure of whether you’ll like it? There are plenty of budget options. That’s what I’ve done and whilst I’ve upgraded my bike recently (I’ll talk about that in a future post) I still look around to see what I want to get next!!

So that’s my initial experience: its daunting at first but you soon get to grips with terminology and realise there are bags of resources out there. Don’t be afraid to use them and pretty quickly you’ll be talking the talk with the best of them!!

 

Now for the bit you’ve been waiting for: enjoy a 90’s classic!

 

My big idea

I’ll try to keep this brief as I think its best to start this project by trying to explain why I’ve decided to start a blog. Especially as anyone who knows me would be fully aware of my (formerly) deep and abiding hatred of those on two wheels! I grew up in Brighton and have also worked in a driving-centric job in London: these experiences had given me a view of cyclists that was, frankly, less than flattering. What with jumping red lights, weaving recklessly through traffic and riding the wrong way up one-way streets, to riding on pavements and hurling abuse at motorists, I thought I had a pretty reasonable opinion of the lycra-clad masses that you find creating moving hazards along The Embankment every rush hour.

However, a few years ago I decided to join a gym and I had a go at spinning. I found it quite enjoyable so, when I later came into possession of a mountain bike, I thought I’d give cycling a chance.

Revelation!! Cycling is actually enjoyable!!

Now don’t for a second imagine that I’ve had a complete conversion and no longer hold any of the views that I’ve hinted at above: I’m sure at some point I’ll probably cover what my problem is with some cyclists. And, in the interest of balance, I’ll do the same from a two-wheeled perspective of those in warm, dry, four-wheeled cocoons.

Since moving to Walton on Thames three years ago I’ve been regularly cycling along the towpath by the Thames (mainly because a Mini Cooper isn’t really made for transporting bikes!) and whilst that’s all very nice, I’ve got to the stage where I want to venture further afield and test myself on greater challenges. As evidenced below, I tried it last year although I started with what I think is quite a testing route, but at least I survived and I’ve now entered a London to Brighton off-road event in September.

So that’s been my journey so far: from here on I’m intending to record my progress towards the aforementioned challenge; the trials and tribulations I face along the way; and anything else that takes my fancy or gets my goat.

I hope you find it interesting, amusing, enlightening or diverting. And, if so, feel free to comment and tell anyone about the page!

Before my first organised ride in July 2014

Before my first organised ride in July 2014