Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Saturday solo....

I'd planned to meet up with Gary for a ride, we haven't done too many things together this year and the Friday pub session with the usual omnipresent bike-talk made me feel like making the effort . But Gary had to work Saturday morning so we decided to do our own thing. My plan started out as a simple 90 minute meander along my usual route. I have a hankering these days for slowness. I like to look around without the concentration needed when travelling at speed, for then the need to be aware of the road surface along with all that might threaten safe passage is paramount. A man grows older, and my 'new' bike, although a lovely machine, is beginning to feel like a young Valkyrie who wears me out with her prodigious appetite.

I headed out on my bike of choice of late - my trusty Trek 7.5FX. here is an old girl that, if the need arises, can turn a head of speed, but is happy and content to drift along at a more sedate and regal pace. And the added bonus is that there is absolutely no need to snipe at any stray cyclists that enter my no-ride zone. I don't feel the need to chase distance figures or, better still, feel no frustration when attacked from behind by some nifty noughties racer dressed in black on a matt black steed more akin to a stealth fighter plane than a bicycle. Leave them to it I say, let me go slow and watch the butterflies, or stop to admire a beautiful tree. Let me gaze at the immense enveloping green vista stretching out beyond the hedgerows; let me dream of mystery, romance and unfulfilled adventure.

The day is warm and welcoming as the golden glow of another beautiful dawn fades to blue. There's the blended song of blackbird and mistle thrush for the soundtrack and all is well. I feel happy and content and decide I don't want to stop. Instead of turning up the hill and the route home I carry on, still holding the gentle rhythm that seems perfectly natural and rewarding. I mooch around the lanes, stopping occasionally to peer through a gap between trees or to look at the patterns on the bark of a tree. It feels like it should feel. Unhurried and with no pressure of time. I pass a pub and decide to stop, rolling onto the car-park and up to the garden area at the rear. There are people gathered at picnic tables, eating, drinking and enjoying the sunshine. Some children are gathering tufts of grass and leaves to feed the pub chickens housed in a shady corner of the garden. I buy a pint and settle at a table with my bike perched at the end. Then I notice a group of cyclists arriving. Ordinarily this would be an expected, almost typical sight on a sunny Saturday afternoon - but this collection of five are all riding Brompton bikes. What would be the collective noun?..... a clot perhaps? The sight from a distance somehow conjours up a vision of Reliant Robin's and Thermos flasks of Tupperware boxes and cheese sandwiches. As it happens they set up at the next table to me and inevitably a conversation strikes up. The leader of the group is over eager to demonstrate the Brompton offering - that it folds away quickly and neatly and can be easily carried around. He's something of zealot, folding and unfolding the machine with dextrous speed and efficiency, discoursing at length on its lightness and portability as well as the quality of its ride. I was sold - had he have been carrying a spare I may have purchased it there and then. As it was one of his Brompton buddies was indeed carrying another Brompton, neatly stashed in a special bag - this was properly nerdish - a bit of bike-on-bike action - maybe that's what the foldaway perverts really go for! Truth is though there really is a lot going for the Brompton brand. And I have to admit to an element of desire. Come the lottery win there'll definitely be a Brompton somewhere - and it wouldn't take up much space in my dream bike shed. Think of the opportunities - get on a train with the Brommie folded, pop off at some far flung destination, pedal around a bit, get a bus, a ferry, even in a car, pedal some more - and no need to worry about leaving it around to get stolen, this baby goes everywhere you do.

I only stayed for the one beer - I felt the need to cycle along the canal towpath back towards Ashby - at least I think it was towards Ashby? - it was definitely the Ashby Canal. After a mile of so of unhindered bliss I emerged back onto the road and made my way back towards home. But even then I felt the need to carry on - back at the foot of the hill that would take me home I ignored the turning yet again - this time happy to simply repeat the first 10 miles of my journey instead. And every mile was just as enjoyable as the first time round. To be honest I can't remember a ride I've enjoyed more. The conditions were just perfect; beautifully calm and warm but not oppressive. I approached the hill turn for the third time. This time I stopped at the foot and wondered whether to carry on - 45 miles covered and I felt I could easily cover the same again. But by now it was 2.00pm - I'd been out since early morning and reality was beginning to influence my judgement. Too much of a good thing and all that. So I set off for home, but with a smile on my face.

Monday, 15 August 2016

As the Olympics moves on, I'm still stuck at the Tour de France...

Everyone's favourite Brit cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins added an eighth Olympic medal to his impressive collection - well done Brad. Apparently he'll now ride the Tour of Britain in September followed by a London Six-Day and the Ghent Six Day - and that'll be it - Bradley will retire, as the most successful and well liked British cyclist of all-time. And it's true I think - the breadth of his success is what seals the deal - All those track medals, World Championships, Olympics, World Records - then the switch to the road and winning the Tour de France, The Olympic Time Trial Gold, The Hour record, then back to the track for more medals... its an impressive list. But what about retirement? - there's a rumour that he's going to reform The Jam???

Meanwhile I'm making good progress with the Tour puzzle... another couple days should sort it ....


Monday, 1 August 2016

Ride London 2016

I didn't get a place in this year's Ride London event - as it happens I wouldn't have been able to ride anyway, we had a family christening to attend - with me as the photographer for the day!

Gary, Dave the damp, Baz the bell and newbie, Paul from over the border (as opposed to Paul from over the road, and because he lives in Shropshire - which is almost Wales!) travelled down to take part - for my part I downloaded the 'Ride London App' and managed to load up the guys so I could track their progress during the day via the interactive map of the course - technology is so sweet! - I had four little blue circles on my map, lined up on the start-line, each with the rider's initials displayed.

Now back behind the camera - church, vicar etc etc

I checked progress through the day - technology is sweet... just as long as it works. It seemed to me that the promise of interactive tracking had been something of a hollow promise on behalf of the developers - Despite rigourous checking, closing the app, restarting the app, shutting down and restarting the iphone - my little blue blobs didn't move past the first check point.

Back to the camera - group shots, family, friends etc etc

Later I checked again - this time a few of the circles had moved a short way - but one seemed to be stuck? - Was it the app? - Did I need wifi? - I hooked up to Google and did a quick search for Prudential Ride London - I soon discovered that a couple of serious accidents had halted proceedings out on the road - air ambulances had been involved to lift the injured to hospital and the knock-on effect, with something like 30,000 cyclists on narrow roads, was massive delays. It seemed like the app was giving me good representation after all.

Back to the camera - post christening now - barbecue etc etc...

I kept checking throughout the day - right up to a time I figured they should have completed the course - the little blue blobs were still out there - but gradually creeping along. Later I could see that three had finished together but with Paul from over the border still out - at least that's what the app said. Then I got a text from Gary telling me they'd finished but the delays had been considerable and they'd had to walk for some considerable distance.

It's a shame when this sort of thing happens - and it seems that something happens every year at Ride London. Although this was only the fourth year, there's been representation from this blog at the event for three of those years and each has thrown up reasons for delays or diversions from the course. First time torrential rain caused part of the course to be closed, last year someone sadly died on Leith Hill and this year a couple of serious accidents - I don't think there's anything the organisers could do to alleviate any of these unfortunate incidents - and with so many riders on the road consequential delays are somewhat inevitable. Of the reports I've seen so far riders were patient and typically stoical in their outlook - which is how it should be.

Camera work all done - just the post-shoot editing to tackle - almost 600 photographs to be looked at, edited and stripped down to around 100 maximum. That will keep me busy for a few evenings this week.

Meantime the 'Tour' is making slow progress too.....