Thursday, 31 January 2013

Busy..busy....

CFC Team Kit
 Well things have been pretty busy here at Purple Towers with preparations for our Ten in Ten ride...I got back from a training ride this morning and a parcel had been left by our local postman...
Yes...It was the Team Kit provided for us by Cyclists Fighting Cancer which is the charity that we will be riding for as we make our way through ten countries on our big ride in June... 

With our matching team kit we will all look as if we mean business as we throw our legs over our bikes when we head off on our group training rides over the next few months....
It does make a big difference when you are all in matching kit and hopefully it will help us to feel and look more like a cycling team and not the group of ageing men dressed in lycra that we really are!! 

As well as the Team Kit arriving, Dave (the broom) who amongst everything else is our Team Manager and does almost every other job that doesn't actually involve cycling, has been busy too. He's been beavering away in the background checking out ferry routes for our exit from and entry to the UK. 
Those ferries have now been booked and it is official and confirmed that we will be leaving from the Port of Harwich on a ferry bound for the Netherlands on the second weekend in June. 

Our first day on Saturday the 8th June will include a drive from down here on the South Coast up to Colchester. 
From there we will ride a convoluted route on the bikes between Colchester to Harwich. 
I say convoluted, because it's not that many miles between those two points and we want to stretch out the distance a bit in order to make that first days ride a reasonable distance. 

As I understand it the ferry will be leaving at about 2300hrs and we will be able (hopefully) to get a reasonable nights sleep on board in our cabins before disembarking in the Netherlands for our second day at about 08.00hrs.  
Before that of course we have a lot of hard work in training to complete and I hope to post some images of those sessions over the next few months...
Nothing like good bike maintenance.....and  this is nothing like it..!!
A nifty change of subject now.....
There is nothing that pleases me more than a nicely maintained bike, with nice well lubed drive train and all the nuts and bolts all nice and shiny and clean....so you can imagine what I thought when this bike was shown to me the other day....

There I was cleaning my bike at the end of a ride...re-lubing my drive train....checking nuts and bolts for tension etc and polishing up my bikes frame to make it ready for the next ride when a guy walks up my drive with the above bike and says that he hoped that I didn't mind him asking me, but he had been having problems with his bike as everything seemed really stiff and it didn't seem to ride properly....

He went on trying to butter me up by telling me that he was asking me, because he realized that I was a keen cyclist as he had seen me head out most days on one of my bikes....
He thought that it would be better to ask me than take it along to the local bike shop because he was a bit worried about being charged a lot for something that might be simple and straightforward to put right.....!!!

I won't go in to exactly what I said.....I will just leave that to your imaginations!! 


Sunday, 27 January 2013

Luckier than most...

A CASUAL RIDE ALONG THE PROMENADE 
I think that we were luckier than most over recent days as far as the weather is concerned.... 
Our location here at Bournemouth on the South Coast of England is such that for the most part the worst of the winter weather tends to pass us by. 
Yes we have had some snow and ice but not it seems as badly as some other parts of the UK... 

Although I am only doing about half the cycling distance that I was covering last year, my training for the 'Mission IsPossible 10in10' ride planned for June is well on target....
Take this past week..I managed to complete the equivalent of 120 miles on the static indoor training bike and a further 104 miles outdoors on some real roads. 
The indoor bike is a vital part of my winter training plans and without it this past week would have been nowhere as productive as it proved to be.... 

To be absolutely honest I think that I preferred my indoor miles compared to my actual road miles last week... 
The road miles were dirty and cold and then after getting back home after the rides, more time had to be spent on cleaning up the bike...My kit was pretty filthy too. 

The bad weather seems to have taken it's toll on the roads as well....
Potholes seem to almost appear overnight and with the amount of muck and detritus on the roads it was a miracle that I didn't end up forty miles from home with a puncture and lets face it if you are going to get a blowout, it is more likely to happen when you are cold and wet with a good few miles left to ride.... 

On top of my training miles there was still some time for a casual ride along the promenade for a few miles and on my return along the seafront it appeared that a lot of other cyclists had the same thought judging by the number of bikes I saw..... 

The latest news regarding our Ten Countries ride is that we have another member on the team....
Not satisfied with a team comprising of  three 'old men' and a 'boy' of forty two to tackle the ride, we have another Cyclist member who has joined us...Lorenzo is Italian and is the same age as me at sixty five.... a great bonus of him joining the team is that when we arrive in Italy, any language difficulties that we might have had have now been solved......all the better when we order our pasta..!!

It is hoped that we will be starting our group rides together in March..hopefully by then the worst of the weather will have finished and we can look forward to some good weather...good company...and some good rides...

Monday, 21 January 2013

Retro - Why?

Not a great deal has been going on over the past week on the cycling front here at Purple Towers...or on any other front come to that. 
Due to the bad weather that we have been having, most things in the UK seemed to grind to a halt...airports..rail services...buses.... 
Even quite a large number of schools have been closed much to the enjoyment of the youngsters who have been able to play with sledges in the snow instead of having their daily dose of education.... 

There has also been the usual hand wringing and moaning  regarding the problems that the bad weather seems to cause us all here in the UK compared to other countries, where we are told, everything functions to a perfect clockwork precision in spite of the snow.... 
I tend to think that a lot of it tends to be something to do with the costs involved in investing in extra equipment to keep everything moving in bad weather when it happens relatively infrequently, unlike the countries and places that we tend to be compared with.... 

It's not unlike me really....When we get a coating of snow I often think that I would love to have a 'fat tyre' bike so that I could get out and ride....however...knowing that I would only use it on the rare occasions that we did get some snow I am not prepared to spend the money required to buy one....I would rather spend the money on road bikes and kit and pedal away indoors on the static bike when the weather turns bad....
And that is exactly what I've been doing over the past week....  Pedaling away indoors I have still been managing to get a good two hours a day of  specific zone training completed and currently I am feeling pretty good about my progress.

As I have mentioned in previous posts...spinning those pedals indoors gives me lot's of time for 'thinking'...often a dangerous thing for me to do....
One thing that passed through my mind this morning was... 
'Why is it that Retro is so popular in an age when things are superseded and upgraded almost as soon as they become available?' 

Take photography...Touchscreen controls are all the rage and yet a number of manufacturers are selling very large numbers of cameras described as retro with buttons and dials to control aperture, speed etc rather than having these controls buried within the depths of a digital menu. 

It's similar with bikes, although in the bike world it tends to be more about a retro look mixed with all the benefits of the latest technological advances...
Why is the retro look so popular? 
My Tifosi has a nod to the retro in appearance with it's paint job and colour mixed with modern gears etc... 
For me it is a reminder of what bikes tended to broadly look like when I was a kid and started riding..so it's a bit of nostalgia... 

 Similarly with the cameras...I was brought up with cameras with dials and buttons with which to control the settings...it feels comfortable and things feel in the right place, unlike all the magic of the touchscreen...so again in my case it's all about nostalgia and what feels and looks right based upon when I first started using cameras.  

But why would someone forty years younger than me buy either the camera with the buttons and dials, or the bike with retro paint job and traditional saddle and bar tape etc? 
It can't be nostalgia in their case...after all they haven't got that personal connection with the style or look. 

Help me out here guys...Do you like the retro look?  If so, what is your excuse?

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Advert said - Keen Cyclists Wanted...

When I recalled in my last post how when I was about fourteen, one of my regular rides was to ride from my home to Box Hill for a few ascents of the hill before the return leg, it brought back some other memories of my early cycling days.... 

During the same period as the Box Hill rides I had a couple of schoolboy jobs as a paperboy....I had a morning and an evening delivery round, both out of the same newsagents shop. 
The money earned from the paper rounds, added to the pocket money that my Dad gave me for small tasks done around the house, helped me to fund my various hobbies and interests.... 
In the front window of the newsagents shop there was a board with postcard sized adverts for various things, such as items that people had for sale...local clubs .... jobs...etc.. 

One day whilst I waited for the newsagent to prepare the papers for my evening round I was glancing at the advert board when my attention was taken by one of the adverts. 
It read as follows: 

'Keen Cyclists Wanted. 
Get Paid to ride a bike. 
Saturday Job. 
Ages 13-16.  

Well....I thought, this could be just what I needed. 
Another opportunity to earn some extra money for my upcoming youth hostel cycle touring trips and getting paid to ride a bike at the same time. 
For a young junior club cyclist it sounded like a dream Saturday job, so I took down the details. 

My thoughts ran wild...perhaps they wanted youngsters to train to be professional cyclists....who knows I might end up in the Tour de France that I had seen pictures of in those exotic foreign cycling magazines...
My young imagination ran amok  with all sorts of cyclist based scenarios.....anyway I phoned Mr Robbins the name in the advert, from our local phone box (we didn't have a phone at home) and arranged to go along the following Saturday morning at 9.00am sharp.

When I arrived at the address on the arranged day there were a couple of other lads already waiting outside...
It was a private address and none of us wanted to knock on the door until the 9.00am arranged time. 
While we waited a couple of other lads also turned up. 
The interesting thing is that we all knew each other...we were all members of the same local cycle club and we all had the same wild ideas as to what the job was likely to be.... 

At 9.00am the front door of the house opened and the deep voice of Mr Robbins boomed "good morning lads, come on round to the back of the house." 
We all trooped round to the back of the house where there was a huge shed like building in the rear garden. 
Mr Robbins led us all inside and at that point the reality of the job suddenly all became clear. 

Mr Robbins ran a boot and shoe repair service...
Speedy Boot & Shoe Repairs was what he called it.
The 'speedy' bit was to be us lads on bikes. "The bikes are all supplied lads" he proudly announced as he pointed to about a dozen very heavy looking delivery bikes all neatly lined up at the rear of the building. 
The bikes were black with a rack on the front with a large bag attached. Hanging from the crossbar was a sign panel  on which it announced in a very bright red and yellow script  'Speedy Boot & Shoe Repairs - We collect & deliver'. 

We must have all looked a pretty dejected bunch as the reality became clear and our Tour de France dreams faded to nothing.... 
No wonder he wanted keen cyclists...you would need to be pretty keen as well as fit to pedal these delivery bikes along... they were build like tanks!!  

He then went on to tell us that we would be required to wear the 'Speedy' uniform at all times during our Saturday working day. This uniform consisted of a matching jacket & trousers made from some kind of imitation leather material with the 'Speedy' message that was on the bike, painted on the back of the jacket. This uniform seemed to be as heavy as the bike (well almost). Even though we were all disappointed that this job wasn't the job we had dream't of, each of us decided to do it....

I did the job for about a year...but let me tell you it was bl**dy tough!! 
Riding those really heavy bikes wasn't easy...and it wasn't made any easier by having to dress up in what looked like a 'Hell's Angels' outfit. 
The material did not breath at all...it was just like trying to cycle uphill dressed in a giant plastic bag. As each hour of the working day at 'Speedy Boot & Shoe Repairs' went on, you would just get hotter and hotter as well as wetter and wetter. 
It was like being a 'boil in the bag' cyclist and believe me during the summer period you would end up well and truly cooked!! 

That year I think the times for all of us lads improved whenever we rode up Box Hill and the Speedy Saturday job taught us a lot about dealing with discomfort and pain and how to develop the tenacity required to just keep on going even though your body is telling you to stop.....
Over all the years that I have been riding since then I don't think that I have found a hill or any other area of cycling, that has given me as much pain and discomfort as I experienced whilst riding for Mr Robbins and his Speedy Boot & Shoe Repairs...........

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Onwards and Upwards...More Challenges....


A few weeks before Christmas Anne asked me what I would be doing during 2013 now that I had achieved my years mileage target... I thought about it for a few seconds and came straight back with the answer...HILLS!........  I want to improve on hills! 

Now I have always really enjoyed riding up hills... but don't misunderstand me I can feel the pain of riding up a hill just the same as anyone else, but I have always looked on it as a bit of a challenge and funnily enough I like a bit of a challenge..
I have always believed that the only way to get better at something is to keep on practising at it... 

Anyway low and behold what should I find with the various gifts that Santa left me when he slid down our chimney, but some books regarding cycling up hills..... 
There were the two books on 'Road Cycling up Britain's Hills' by Simon Warren that I have been on about getting for some time- '100 Greatest Cycling Climbs' and 'Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs' and a book that was actually from my son-in-law's mother, 'Mountain High' a book about Europe's Greatest Cycle Climbs..Thanks Val....



In the pages of the book on the European cycle climbs what should I find but a chapter on the climb of the Ghisallo which our little team will be riding once we have arrived in Italy on our Ten Countries in Ten Day's ride in June... Needless to say that chapter had a fair bit of my attention on Christmas morning....

I have always been fascinated by the way a lot of cyclists actually go out of their way to avoid climbing a hill.... As I said I feel the pain the same as anyone else but I have always been prepared to have a go and lucky for me most of the other guys that I ride with are of the same mind... In fact  in the years that JD and I have been riding long distance routes together I can only recall a couple of times where we have been forced to dismount, that was only after we had already put in about a hundred miles of horrendous ascents and descents. We were also cycling with temperatures way higher than what would be required to fry an egg, let alone two blokes on bikes...

No matter how fit I have ever been I have found that climbing hills doesn't really get any easier...but with practise you can go up them a bit quicker. That having been said, the pain of it all still stays with you...it is always hard...you will always experience pain. Hill climbing practise will help you to control the pain....once you take on board the fact that it will hurt, you can then work on your technique for getting up them.

In the two books by Simon Warren he actually gives a rating for each climb based on Height...Length...Steepness..etc and at the back of each book is a section where you can tick off the date that you ride each hill and how long that it took you to complete the ascent...similar to the way that a hill climber/mountaineer might tick off Munros in a book as he completes them. 
Now let me say right now I have no intention of driving all over Britain with my bike on board to search out all the hills in these books....but...I will be doing some of those that are a bit closer to home.

When I was a youngster about fourteen years of age I would often cycle from where we lived at that time near Heathrow airport, down to Box Hill in Surrey and do the ascent of the hill three or four times, stopping for a piece of cake and a soft drink at a cafe before heading back home....Although the hill was a bit of a challenge, it never proved a problem for us fit lads and it was good to see it used in the Olympic road race last year. It is one of the hills featured in Simon Warren's first book and he gives it a 3/10  rating.... 
He also lists Zig Zag Hill near Shaftesbury here in Dorset in his second book and lists that as a 4/10. 
When I last did Zig Zag Hill back in October I must admit that I went up it pretty easily...but hey...rating sytems always tend to be a bit subjective.

Over the 20+ weeks we have left to go before setting off on our 10in10 ride you can lay money on me ticking off a few more of the hills in these books.....

Friday, 4 January 2013

Continue to come along for the ride.........

Over these past few days I have started to get back into a cycling routine following the recent holiday break....22 weeks from now we will be setting off on our 10 Countries in 10 Days ride so I have 22 weeks to prepare for it...22 weeks to train and that is what I have now started doing this week. 

I also plan on doing some sportives again this year and just before Christmas a few of us signed up for the Jurassic Beast Sportive which is ridden in May. 
In actual fact the Beast takes place just  four weeks before we all head off on the 10in10 so it should be a good checkout on how well our training has worked out. 

This is a bit of a special year in a couple of ways...
First of all I will officially be an Old Age Pensioner in 15 days time...I hit that magic age of 65 years on the 19th of this month and will be starting what must be something like my 60th year on a bike of some kind.... 

Another major birthday coming up in May is the 5th birthday of this blog which must make it almost an OAP in blogging terms. 
When I started this blog back in May 2008 I had intended that it would just be a blog of my lightweight backpacking activities, but blogs seem to take on their own momentum and direction and before I knew it I found that most of my blog posts were concerning cycling....... 
I suppose that it makes sense really....I mean cycling is what I spend most of my time involved in, so that's what I am most likely to write about....

When I retired in 2009 I thought that I would be spending a lot more of my time backpacking, but cycling is the activity that I enjoy the most and that in turn is what I want to share with others via this blog......
I am not a cycling advocate... I am no longer a cycling commuter....I am not a racer...I am just someone who loves cycling and sharing the experience with others. Along the way I have also written about other things connected with my cycling, such as camping and other outdoors activities as well as travelling in general...... but mostly it's cycling.....

 I have always tried to avoid  telling others 'how to do it'! 
There are so many ways to achieve anything in life, so I  have just shared my own experiences and left it up to you the reader to either use it or dismiss it... 

This brings me on to my final point....I really value the comments made on my blog and one thing I always try to do wherever possible is to answer or at least acknowledge each comment made. After all if someone has taken time out to read this stuff and has felt prompted to leave a comment then the least I can do is to acknowledge their communication.
It would be arrogant of me to expect people to visit and read my blog without reading others experiences of cycling etc so I try and follow as many blogs out there that I possibly can and I like to feel that over the years of this blog I have made some valuable 'internet friends'.

Over this coming year I look forward to reading all your blogs and comments and I hope that you will all continue to come along for the ride with me here at the 'Purpletraveller'.

A step closer to what is normal........

Over this past week our campsite has taken a step closer to what we think of as normality...  The sign that was put out at the entrance to ...