Wednesday, 17 March 2010

My bikes

Miles cycled this year: 1109
In 69 Hours burning 40200 Kcal climbing 37000ft
Most miles in a week (so far) : 160

I have four bikes, and probably parts to make getting on for another one.

The oldest is a Dawes Fox. I bought it myself when I was 17 and a year later rode it Land’s End to John O’Groats in 13 days, complete with tent, sleeping bag, stove and all. The bike was no lightweight at 29lbs and all the kit weighed another 40lbs. As I had two part time jobs along with going to 6th Form, I could afford to adapt the bike and had put a triple chainset on it. The lowest gear was at a ratio of 1 to 1, and I could climb anything with that, it is a matter of pride that I have not got off and walked up a hill since I bought that triple chainset.

I rode it for years, tens of thousands of miles. It got me though college, where I would cycle round Bournemouth on it and to visit college friends around the country in the summer by way of a holiday. I even took to cycling to and from home and college on it. I could do the 52 miles in 4hours and it would take three Mars Bars, one every 13 miles on the route through Dorset via Blandford, to Yeovil and onto Long Load where my mother was living. It took about the same time as the train and only cost the Mars Bars.

I courted my wife on that bike. I lived in Weston-super-Mare, was a recent graduate, and unemployed. I meet Denise on a National Trust Walk (where I was volunteering for the NT) and as she lived in Berrow some 10miles or so away and I had little money, I had to cycle to see her. She had a very nice car, but you have to show willing don’t you. Anyway, I made a groove in the road, riding back and forth, on my way back in the dark, sometimes fighting the gales from the sea. I couldn’t afford batteries for the lights, so I left the back light on as the batteries lasted quite some time in that light, but would turn the front one off, except when there was a car. It is possible for us to ride quite fast by moonlight and streetlight reflected back from the clouds.

One night on my way home, it was raining hard, there was a car in an entrance to a model racing circuit. Front light on, well you don’t want to scare the courting couples do you? It flashed blue lights at me, and the yellow clad policeman walked out in the road. I stopped and he asked me why I was out so late. I told him I was going home from my girlfriends‘. I was going to Worle from Berrow. A few more questions and he said I could go on my way as I was getting wet. I cheerily pointed out that he was getting wet, I was already wet. He did see the funny side. It would seem the caravan parks were being broken into in the Winter, and they were stopping traffic to check them over. A wet cyclist and one pannier was not a likely suspect it seems.

The Dawes Fox is in the attic now, as when I decided to get back into cycling in 1995, it was in effect cheaper to buy a new bike than update all the gearing & other kit which I had worn out or was out of date. Even then it was difficult to get the imperial 27” tyres which had been replaced by the 700C (slightly larger) European standard.

I then had a Dawes Galaxy, a bike that was far too expensive for me 12 years before. I even had the new STI levers where you could brake and change gear with the brake levers and even do both at the same time. I did 4700 miles on the Galaxy, including riding the sustrans route from Padstow to Bristol.

Denise and I bought new bikes. I had a Peugeot Competition 3000. A yellow and blue steel racing bike. I was faster on it without trying harder. A revelation. Mind you much of it was on the flat, and I would still be past by some ‘racer’ going what seemed twice as fast, chatting to his mate, whilst my lungs were fit to burst.

In 1998 I was ill and my road to recovery included exercise. As part of this I went to a gym., and out of the window on an early Saturday morning I could see a group of cyclists ride into Bridgwater. I wanted to be part of it, but they were so fast.

I bought a new bike, a titanium Litespeed, and sold the Galaxy. It was a bottom of the range Litespeed Natchez, but was quick and comfortable, and still thought of maybe riding with that group. I went to another clubs evening meeting, I wasn’t brave enough to actually try riding with them. But it didn’t go well, I didn’t feel welcomed, something all too common in racing cycle clubs it seems. It is much better to meet them on a bike on the road.

In 2000 I was riding up a hill in the Quantocks when I was caught by another man. He rode easily beside me, chatting about cycling, I was in my lowest gear about to expire, he was turning a larger gear with little effort it seemed. The hill steepened and I said goodbye, he was waiting for me at the top. Andy, as he turned out to be named, was one of those Saturday riders and he encouraged me to ride try a Saturday club run.

A few weeks later I bravely rode out to meet them, and to my amazement kept up with them to the cafĂ©. Thing is, well it is flat round here, and it is easy to follow on the flat when those at the front aren’t really trying. The A38 south out of Bridgwater rises, gently. As we started the climb I started going backward in the group. I couldn’t keep up, I looked down, 25mph with an heart rate of 195bpm. Ah, no wonder I was going backward. I went home. Every week I rode out and got dropped (left behind) at some point on the way to Taunton. It wasn’t personal, I just wasn’t quick enough. My friends (I had some including Andy) came back to Bridgwater over the Quantocks, so I started cutting through and meeting them on the way back.

I bought another bike, another Litespeed, a Siena. A compact frame, and the most expensive bike I owned at that time. Lovely bike to ride, comfortable, more capable and faster than I will ever be.

Progress was slow, but one day I managed to get to Taunton, a sufficiently short time after my friends for them to wait for me, and it has continued since then without break. Well there was that break that coincided with me breaking my collar bone, but that’s another story.

Dunkery Dash on Siena

Oh and for my fortieth birthday I bought my Cervelo R 2.5. It was lovely, carbon fibre, quick to react, no wasted energy, pressing hard on the pedals converts without fuss to forward motion. It was recalled after a year due to some possible fault and they gave me an R3. An R3 won the Paris Roubaix that year, a 250km hard race with 50km over cobbles, so I shouldn’t be able to brake it then. It is a pure racing machine, designed for racing and climbing. It is not just a sports car, it is an F1 car of a bike. I am, however, no Jenson Button.

So that’s the four then, bikes that have got progressily more expensive, lighter and faster. The Peugeot is reduced to turbo duty in the garage having done 10800miles and the Dawes is in the roof. The Litespeed, 19000miles, gets out all year, with the Cervelo, 4000miles, reserved for dry weather only. The Litespeed is the choice for LEJOG, as it is the most comfortable for day after day.

A few days rest finishes Saturday with another block of increasing distance on Saturday and Sunday and shorter rides Tues & Thurs.

PS Pic from Dunkery Dash at I’m the one with the orange body, and yes the white arms took some cleaning.

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