Cowboy Up, Cupcake

It’s the heat. And I’ll carry on blaming that for my lack of activity, despite being largely unemployed and marking time until Uni in Sept. I am half British and have lived here three quarters of my life so have a pretty keenly developed sense of “blame it on the aberrant weather”. It’s that horrible feeling of having an evening shower, going to bed under a light sheet and just sitting there leaking. Most unpleasant.

Just to warn you and give you the opportunity to disengage now, this is likely to be a stuck on transmit post (well it is me writing at you, can hardly be otherwise) and a random collection of some of the things that have happened in the last month or so. This post is driven out of the never shut WordPress tab eyeing me from the top of Chrome relentlessly reminding me that I have been ever so idle as of late.

Lately I decided that being a cyclist and having a v. nice bike and beautifully shaved guns (contain yourself , ladies) I really ought to formalise my riding into some sort of focused activity. So I joined the Cowley Road Condors as they are a nice bunch of peeps. It had nothing to do with the fetching pink and black kit. Oh no.  The other Tues (for that is the anointed Day of Pain) the rides were arranging themselves into fast and slow when instead of firmly announcing that I will ride in the slow group the speed junkies looked me up and down and saw that I am clearly a wannabe (I used to be) with the Ti bike and shaved guns (again ladies, I urge calm) as per Rule #33 with matching lycra, that I should ride with them. I make feeble enquiries as to avg speeds and am assured that it is generally around 19 mph. Ahh, I think, I can manage that so fer why not? In the first 6 miles the avg doesn’t seem to drop below  22 mph. It turns out the 19 mph figure is not an “on the flat” speed but an overall ride with all the bastard hills included. Idiot. I just about manage on the flat but when there is any significant upturn then the group I am with, to a man and a woman, all fly past me and seem to dispatch the hill in question at the same blistering pace as the flat warrants. To add insult to injury when I do make it to the top the entire cohort is patiently waiting for me. They have all rested and I am absolutely hanging at this point, sweating like a condemned man, sucking in apparently useless lungfuls or air(note to self: hobby smoking Ryan’s roll-ups probably isn’t helping) and generally looking redder in the face than is healthy for a 44y old MAMIL, when the ride leader announces with a cheery exhortation that we are all closed up and can set off again. Whilst I am the least fit and the weakest one – the fellow that would have been picked off by bandits in days of yore and quickly dispatched – I am now forced to maintain the breakneck speed of the group with no rest. I must reflect more on Rule #5 and Rule #10. It is a social at the pub tonight and hopefully less intense. I have wangled it to be my local so intend to peel off, swerve the serious drinkers and sneak home.

And now for a complete change of pace: Trousers/Trews. It turns out that, according to The Sun so it must be true, red trousers are reviled by c. 50% of the population. I happen to like them and have a pair that are fading and wearing in v. nicely. As this country (the UK) is just striated with various class divisions then red trousers are apparently upper middle or aspirant thereof dress. I don’t care and like the look. Having a twinge to my accent (the other half is Canadian) I can’t immediately be pigeon-holed into a class category so this often confounds folks when you are wearing said red. The best thing about them I have decided is this website. I like the pic of one subject described as looking “insane, but not the stabby type “. Hilarious. It gets better though as Picture #2 on aforementioned site reminds me of an Army ball I attended last week where the theme was tartan. Having spent a day traipsing around Oxford for tartan socks and coming up empty-handed I idly remarked to an ex-army mate. He ordered me to wait-one as he disappeared. He then promptly reappeared brandishing the most awesome regimental tartan trews.

Check ’em out…

Dom trews

Whilst on the army theme I stayed at the house of a couple of other army bods. In the downstairs loo there was a framed stores chitty and it made no sense. When I enquired it turns out that regimental tradition for the chap dictated that his signaller signed him over to his new handler, the intended. Nice touch.

I finally got a reading list for my pending Uni course. One glance makes me think that I am going to be brainwashed into becoming a right little Trot at the end of my three years. Revolution, comrades. Revolution. The word revolution just makes my mind hark to cycling so I think they’ll have their work cut out.

To ensure I form solid comradely bonds with my fellow classmates I will appear in my red trousers and I’ll tell ’em I thought red was the approved colour of the left.

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Blovember #18 – Cycling With Kids

I need to get in the car at 0930, so I do. It is cold (quite), dry and the sun is out, there are gaggles of cyclists everywhere. An idea starts to form… Daughter has a £400 Islabike – a shiny red Luath  24 – sitting a bit idle in the garage. Riding is good. Fresh air is good. Being outside is good.

Alternatively; “awwww, do I have to? It’s cold. I’m tired. I don’t want to”. All delivered in a whine that only a ten-year old girl can manage.  “Yes darling,  you do, we’ll have fun, you have the right gear and your Mother also thinks it is a good idea”. As only parents in their mid-forties can manage. Case closed. Much faffing and we finally get on the road.

Instantly there is a whine that has a recurring theme of ” I want to go back” that intersperses the “you’re mean” and variations thereof style. I try to distract, divert, engage but she is too damn clever. “You’re trying to distract me Daddy, I want to turn back” is what all attempts are met with. The odd “you’re the meanest Daddy ever blah blah” is thrown in for good measure.

Meanwhile, as I am enduring her slings and arrows the miles are slowly ticking away to the destination. It is also a v. gentle uphill most of the way so I know it’ll be great on the way back. At about 1/3 of the way I nearly crack under the whining and retort with a, “we’re halfway now, turn back if you want. We are closer to warmth etc if we carry on” which is met with sullen acquiescence. My lie is then exposed at 2/3 distance by a road sign. A few quick mental calculation tells H that I was lying. Oh gawd and woe betide me. That’s torn it.

Restart the whinge machine with a general theme of “you’re a liar Daddy”. I can’t disagree. I produce my last ace and offer to let her call her mother from the half way point to see if she’ll collect her. I know this is a fat chance as Mother has subscribed to the general Go Ride Your Bike philosophy.

Ring Ring – “Mummy, Daddy is a liar, mean etc and I’m tired. Please can you collect me from the Hilton’s house?”. “Of course dear, I’ll be passing there in 45 minutes and will bring you a change of clothes.”

Parental solidarity from the hard as nails Mother that cycled the 2009 Etape du Tour? Pah.

Of Free Healthcare and Exercise (benefits of)

On 27th May 2012 I crashed my bicycle all by myself resulting in a snapped femur, a rather badly broken collarbone and numerous scrapes etc. I was rapidly scooped off the road by an ambulance crew (there were 3 ambos in total, but that is a story for another day) and delivered to the John Radcliffe A+E which, rather fortuitously it happens, is a designated trauma Centre for SE England. I then had a 6 hour operation performed by the President of  the British Trauma Society no less. Isn’t the NHS a great thing? Nye Bevin, you rocked. Net result; one shiny new Dynamic Hip Screw and a chunk of temporary metal in the shoulder. Only down side is that DHS isn’t titanium. Still, it was ALL FREE. Even the morphine. Now there is a drug I could happily develop an addiction too. Gosh, it didn’t hurt and I remember very little. Government supplied pharmaceutical grade heroin. What’s not to like about that? Overall I am a pretty happy customer.

Oh yeah, I was a shocking state when I left the hospital. I had a four-footed cane, had lost 3/4 stone, couldn’t even lift my leg up from the floor and could barely do anything for myself and was forced to be waited on hand and foot. Sounds cool but like international business travel it wears thin pretty quickly. I like to do things for myself. It’s a control thing. In the interests of completeness I also have pretty mild MS – doesn’t really bug me so I don’t count it. Nor should you.

Soooo, much physio (thank you BUPA – the NHS is not so hot on follow-up) etc and I am getting better. I still walk with a roll though it is getting slowly better. I am terrible at doing the exact exercises instead preferring to “do stuff” that works the muscles in question.

Yesterday was my best expression of that yet. I cycled an entire and very hilly 65 mile sportive w. no stopping, walking or any other form of wimping out. The words of a pretty hardcore friend kept running through my head. To whit: “Dry your eyes, Princess”. The last third was pretty heavy going as the most exercise I had done in the preceding time was a couple of short (12 mile) rides into Oxford from home. Zappi’s Gran (Medio in my case) Fondo was the event I took part in. Not only are the benefits physical but the mental rush upon completion and even now is pretty powerful. I want more. Gimme more. Indeed, it’s hands down better than morphine.

I reckon that more people would have better lives if they got up off their backsides and indulged in a little activity that pushed them. They’d be pleasantly surprise. How much taxpayers money is wasted on our wonderful NHS because some people don’t, in the words of my mate, “Dry your eyes, Princess” and push themselves just a tiny bit, once even?

Decisions Decisions

I ride a Fixie (Kona Paddy Wagon) and it is my only bike. Not sure why I started – I blame Warren Edwards mostly – but the more I ride it the more I love it. I guess it’s the simplicity. I also have a supremely comfortable Brooks saddle on it that looks pretty retro mixed in with a sprinkling of carbon on a modern frame

Nonetheless, I can’t decide if I have left it too late – training wise – to enter the London to Brussels 24h ride with David Newton. A triathlete that i swim with told me that as long as I can endure 8h in the saddle then the rest is mental. It’s not a race win but a finish that I am after.

I think the mere act of writing this post is a sort of displacement activity as if I say yes then some pretty serious training needs to be undertaken in the next 145 days. I will also need new cycle clothing (was 4st heavier the last time I bought stuff so it hangs from me now in a comical way), a proper bike fit to stop from being too easily crippled, 700c x 28 tires and some more bits of carbon (seatpost, stem and possibly bars) as it damps road vibes beautifully. Actually, looking on the bright side I get way more bike bling!

Any thoughts?

Henri Desgrange on a bicycle
Henri Desgrange on a bicycle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five.
Isn’t it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer?
We are getting soft…As for me, give me a fixed gear!

Henri DesgrangeL’Équipe article of 1902