Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Cycling Show - NEC, Birmingham....

According to the advertising blurb, this year's Cycle Show at the NEC was the biggest yet - it has expanded into a new hall and every inch of the floor plan is full. That may well be - but I have to admit we didn't notice - I've just read that since getting back home!  However we did notice how many bike companies there seem to be all of a sudden - take out the established brands, Specialised, Giant, Cannondale etc - who for some reason weren't displaying and there seems a plethora of 'new brands' - Rocky Mountain, Electra, Beacon, Marin, Mondraker, Marzochi, Greenover, Haibike, KTM,  Reece, Silverfish, Storch, Valke, Aguesport, Dassi, Kinesis, Reid, Starley, Yellow - and probably more.... Good to see that the industry is thriving and new companies are springing up.

Bradley Wiggins's Time Trial Bike
We went through the usual ritual - a bucket list based on an imaginary lottery win. £25,000 was the figure we had to spend - and with Bradley Wiggins World Championship Time trial bike available from Pinnarello for £14,000 it was clear we needed to adjust the figures - £35,000 would be reasonable - even then there would have to be some difficult compromises!

All in all its an enjoyable way to spend a few hours accumulating a bag full of leaflets, magazines and brochures to pad out the recycling bin sometime next week. But it was good to spot Jens Voight doing his bit on the Trek stand and no doubt basking in the deserved glory of the new world record holder for 'the hour'.

See you all next year.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Suffolk .... on the old bike

The blonde and I spent a few days away. Starting with a visit to Cambridge and a pleasant walk around the city centre culminating in an excellent refreshment break at "The Pint Shop'. The hotel we stayed at was, sadly, disgraceful - we left early the following morning deciding that breakfast was too risky.

Our ultimate destination was the Suffolk coast around Southwold - a place that warrants repeated visits. We had booked a couple of nights at The Bell in Walberswick - a proper old pub with good rooms and reasonable food and beer. I'd decided to bring along my old bike - I mean my really old bike - I haven't ridden it for a couple of years probably and I had to spend half an hour working to free the front brake which had rusted up. That done, some air in the tyres and we were good to go - The blonde was riding her old sit-up-and-beg Raleigh - ideal for Suffolk with a basket on the front to carry wine from the Adnams shop!

Once again the mild weather was a delight - and made for easy spinning through the village up towards the church and then following the bridle path down to the river, across the bridge to the harbour and up the road past the golf course and the water tower and into Southwold. My old bike felt really good, comfortable and totally all that was needed. I had a back pannier on the rack so that I could carry any purchases and spending the day under our own steam was rewarding.

On the morning of our last day I popped out for a ride before breakfast - the same route through to the seaside at Southwold but a little quicker than the pooling we did the day before. I've a feeling to ride my old bike more - I've really enjoyed it - even though its heavy and cumbersome, it feels smooth an comfortable - the gears are mountain bike ratios - so uphills are relatively easy even though progress is slow. I wonder as I ride back for breakfast - maybe I should think more about a touring set up - an old steel bike with panniers, not so much speed orientated - more about pleasure, comfort and distance - perhaps not going the whole-hog with tents and cooking equipment - but certainly a week touring round utilising b&bs and pubs would seem like a reasonable challenge?

Mmmmm - maybe I'll look into that a bit more - more details to follow!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Congrats to Bradley Wiggins - World Champion.....

Sir Bradley Wiggins has produced one of the best performances of his career to claim the World Time Trial Gold medal at the world cycling championships in Spain earlier this week.
Wiggins' performance, which saw him beat his great rival, the triple world champion Tony Martin, by 26sec over a 47.1km course, means the 2012 Tour de France winner becomes the first man to win the Tour as well as Olympic and world titles on both track and road.
Bradley is only the second Briton ever to claim a world time trial gold, Chris Boardman was the first back in 1994. He went into the event as second favourite behind Tony Martin who was looking for a fourth consecutive world title and had previously beaten Bradley into second place in 2011 and 2013.
Bradley was well pleased with the result especially as this season hasn't been a good one by his standards. He is now looking forward to an attempt at victory in Paris-Roubaix next year, as well as a crack at the Hour record whilst building up for his career swansong on the track at the 2016 olympics.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Tour de Leicestershire....

So, our last big ride of the year, Gary was at my house by 7.00am and after a few final checks we set off to ride to the start point at Desford - around 5 miles, just right to get warmed up. The weather was mild and the forecast for the day indicated perfect conditions - not too hot and no rain to hinder us.

This is the inaugural 'Tour de Leicestershire' ride - organised to raise funds for the 'Open Hands' charity. It's a 100km circular route around Leicestershire avoiding main roads and ending back in Desford with a celebratory cream tea.

We arrived at the start point by about 7.30am - we were due to set off at 8.00am so plenty of time to register and pick up the route map and our official badges to tie onto our bikes. There were already plenty of riders around, rows of parked cars with bikes leaning against them and people in various stages of undress as they prepared themselves for the off. Gary and I were riding with two others from the London to Paris ride we did last year - Dave and Mike - they both arrived in good time and soon we were ready and itching to set off. There's always a slight apprehension with these events, a nervousness that manifests itself in an urgent need for toilet facilities - the wooded area next to the car park offered a suitable solution.

We set off amongst the first group and contented ourselves with following everyone else, alleviating the need to pay much attention to the route map. Pretty soon though we were in the front, our pace being slightly higher than the rest meant that attention to the lampost direction indicators needed to be a little more focussed.

The first 10 miles or so were comfortable riding, mostly flat, smooth roads through quiet lanes with fields of stubble and a few pheasants along the woodsides. The trees are thinning slightly and the light is coming through; there is a casual soundless spinning down of the first leaves as we make our way through villages I've never seen or heard of: Croft, Cosby, Willoughby, Peatling Magna, Arnesby, Saddington, Smeeton Westerby - each beautiful, welcoming and shocking in the sense that, for me at least, their existence has until now been unknown. I decide there and then to make a trip out and investigate further, visit some of the inviting hostelries and wander around the empty lanes and churchyards.

We are moving at a decent pace and, for the time being at least, have left everyone else behind. Our first scheduled stop is Kibworth Church, we stop for a free flapjack and the chance to top up our bottles. Pretty soon other riders start to arrive - some stop but only briefly, others continue on with just a hand wave. We're in no particular rush, we take our time before setting off again at a gentle pace heading now for Tur Langton and on to Stonton Wyville, Cranoe and Hallaton. I'm amazed further by these village outposts, somehow timeless and unspoilt - thatched cottages, village greens, small pubs and post offices - awaking from a coma I would suspect I had been dropped into the heart of the Cotswolds.

Through Allexton, Belton in Rutland, Loddington and then our lunch stop at Launde Abbey - a National Trust like setting with gazebos erected and sandwiches and cakes for the riders. It's a welcome stop - the last few miles have been decidedly lumpy - some severe but  thankfully short inclines have tested us. Dave decides he's not feeling too good and struggling a little with the hills - he tells us to carry on and he'll see us at the end. Off we go again - about 35 miles left to ride - but the hardest climbs are all to come. More quintessential villages come and pass; Owston, Somerby, Pickwell, Little Dalby, Great Dalby, Frisby, Hoby, Thrussington, Cossington.... each a blissful and elegant collection of picture-postcard rural cottages, surrounded by a vale of gentle farmland.

We make a final stop at Rothley - more town than village. We gather at the church for more flapjacks and a rest from our saddles. There is a wedding taking place, and a collection of 1960s scooters seems to make up a vague guard of honour for the bride and groom who, we assume, have some sort of 'mod' connection. There is a gimpy collection of characters hanging round dressed in shiny suits and italian loafers, the wedding car is a 60s Jag - take off the white bunting from the bonnet and it would have been ready for an episode of The Sweeney.

The last few miles are the toughest - some long, steep climbs around Bradgate Park and through Markfield - we're tired now but manage to stay on the bikes and claw our way round - there are quite a few walkers by now, but also plenty who are overtaking us. As we roll across the finish line we are greeted with a round of applause from others who have finished ahead. We join the crowd to greet those finishing behind us - Dave arrives after about 20 minutes - he looks shattered but he's made it.

It was a great route - tough in parts - but made memorable by the gentle weather, the varied scenery and outstanding organisation. He's hoping we can do it again next year!.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Great performance from Matt Botrill....

Matt Bottrill is a cyclist known mainly to local riders up here in Leicestershire as the 'cycling postman' - he lives in a village not far from me. He actually delivers the post by bike and you might think he gets in plenty of miles doing that - not so. He actually covers about 8 -10 miles per day. On top of that he can only find time to train for about 10 hours a week. Whatever he's doing though has certainly paid off for him this year.

He has won the National 10,25 and 50 mile time trials and now he has broken the competition record for riding 25 miles - he clocked 45minutes 43seconds at Port Talbot to set the new official record. He was quickest by over a minute beating former champion Michael Hutchinson into second place.

That's some achievement - anyone who cycles regularly knows how unbelievable this effort appears. That's an average speed over 25 miles of 32.18mph - Its questionable whether I could do that in my car? Top speed during the ride was 53mph. This tops off an amazing season for Matt - National champion over 10, 25 and 50 miles - and having already broken the record for 50 miles as well!

Top Class.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Summer comes to an end - death is everywhere....

I heard it on the radio. Summer is officially over. As I look around I know what they mean - there is change; the light is different, more fragile and softer. Leaves are turning, shifting hues, there is an autumnal whiff in the air.
Despite this the weather remains good, no real rain to report and a late, warm blast has encouraged many mamils to delay hibernation. I've been out for a number of longish rides since my last distant post, the furthest being 75 miles. Gary and I have one last 'organised' event to ride next week - the inaugural 'Tour de Leicestershire' - 100km along quiet leafy lanes and field roads. The field roads bit could be anything - and we remain sceptical.
Yesterday we rode 50+ miles around quiet leafy lanes - no field roads - and we managed to get lost in the back streets of Desford. Other than that it was a pleasant Sunday morning jaunt, lots of cyclists around and the warm sun keeping us company all the way.
A week or so ago I rode a big loop to incorporate a visit to my mum. As I rode through Measham heading along the road towards Oakthorpe I couldn't help notice the roadkill - It was a case of more or less constant adjustment to avoid the bodies strewn along the gutter. Lots of rats, a fair few squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, a badger or two, even a cat. Any wildlife looking to relocate should avoid this postcode - definitely a danger of death.
My bikes need attention and I've been planning a course of action that will see my best bike cleaned, polished, serviced and mothballed for the winter. My older machine needs quite a bit of work - including (I think) new headset bearings - this is a job never tackled before so I may take it to my local bike shop for some expert attention. As the nights grow shorter and the temperature drops riding will inevitably fall away too - but we've had a decent year - already we've been discussing ideas for 2015 - no firm decisions yet, but I'll let you know!