I’ve fallen out of love…

A few thoughts from the addled brain of some guy that sweats uphill a lot….

Those of you that know my cycling heritage will know that I had firm foundations in the world of mountain biking. I thought nothing of spending far too much money to “bling” my bike. I was a slave to Hope technologies and Shimano’s latest innovations, the click click of the Hope freewheel was a sound that brought a warm sensation to the cockles of my heart. My ability to take eons climbing up trails was closely matched by my ability to prove Newton’s law and to unleash massive amounts of kinetic energy in flying headlong downhill. Often thanking those guys at Hope for creating brakes good enough to stop this substantial juggernaut of a cyclist from slamming into the undergrowth (not always succesfuly).

But, there’s been a new love in my life over the last few months. I’ve fallen into the arms of the darkside, the closest I’ve come to offroad has been the odd blast in the woods on the cross bike. What happened to my offroad mojo? The passion that got me back on the bike all those years ago? I’ve found myself yearning for aero road frames, ultegra electric group sets, deep section carbon wheels,,, yes.. I’ve become a roadie.

So I woke last Saturday morning, all set to munch my alpen, don the lycra and head to the Peak for my usual Saturday run with Stirling Bike Club (a more friendly bunch you couldn’t ask for by the way). As I peered out the window at the rain lashing down and the wind bending the trees I decided that it was time to reacquaint myself with the pleasures of playing dirty in the woods. So I missed the alpen, gulped some coffee, had some jam and bread (Mountain bikers DO NOT carb load before a ride), made sure I had the essentials – tubes, multitool, pump, split links, camelback, hipflask,,, and I headed off to my local trail centre for what I expected to be a couple of hours rediscovering my love off the offroad, the jumps, the berms, the puddles.

I started the first climb, loved the feeling of the super smooth XTR shifting down the cassette, the clunk clunk of the Hope freehub, all was well with the world. I made it to the top of the first decent descent, let the Reverb post down a little, and headed down.

Something wasn’t right. The mojo was still there, I still flew the jumps, I still took the challenging line, I still railed the berms (as much as I ever did) but it just wasn’t fun. I wasn’t enjoying it. Something was missing, my passion for riding offroad has gone. I’ve fallen out of love with being rad. How could I be such a poor companion to my faithful friend? That mountain bike has been with me through some great times, riding with friends at trail centres, solo adventures, nightriding alone and it’s never let me down. But I’ve let her down, I’ve forgotten her, I’ve not spent the time that I ought to keep our relationship fresh. I’ve found something else to give my cycling love to. I’m a shit partner to that bike, I’ve left her for something more chic and speedy.

Do I need relationship counselling? Do I need to get out on the trails more often and hope that the pleasure comes back, or is it time to accept that my offroad days are numbered and I’m enjoying riding long distances with other people in ill fitting lycra more?

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I’ve been watching the Giro coverage with great interest. Brad talking himself up as being a potential winner of the Giro & Le Tour in the same year (a feat very few have achieved), Chris Froome pouting and telling his mum that Brad isn’t playing nice and having to rely on David Brailsford making a statement confirming that Chris is “the man” for team Sky at the Tour. To be honest I’m not sure if Brad is trying to convince himself or everyone else that he has the ability to win two of the toughest events in cycling in a year where, in my opinion, he’s not looked convincing at all.

As it stands today, after stage ten of the Giro, Brad is over two minutes down on Nibali. He failed to make substantial time gains in the individual TT where he usually excels, apparently lobbing your bike into a hedge helps you push out great numbers, but it doesn’t make you substantially faster than a non TT specialist like Nibali. Yesterday in the mountains Brad was gapped on the steepest climbs, his usual style of setting a pace and grinding it out isn’t going to win him the Giro and I think that realisation is hitting home. There are already rumours of him bailing out of the Giro and concentrating on the Tour.

Could we have a repeat of the 1986 tour? Two cycling animals going at it head to head in the same team? I doubt very much that team Sky would ever let it happen, but I have no doubt that the winner of this years Tour will come from team Sky.

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Finally, a quick kit update. I’ve been very clear on my feelings about cyclists that ride triples,, unless you’re touring, or old, or a girl you do not need a triple. You need a hearty set of MTFU tablets. So I was very interested to see that SRAM have introduced a new groupset that gives you the gear range of a triple, but retains the double rings at the front. A triple by stealth you could say.

I fitted the new rear mech, cassette and chain to the bike prior to the Buchaille Sportive and to be completely honest I don’t think I would have completed the ride without it. 86.5 miles, 4600 feet of climbing and a flipping headwind for the first half of the ride made it pretty tough in places. Knowing that I had the option of a 32 sprocket at the back was very reassuring, and when it came to the last few climbs of the day I was very happy to be able to click down and spin. Yes, progress isn’t fast when you’re spinning a 32, but it does mean that a chunker like me can complete the ride to the applause of strangers and shouts of “go on big man” from some skinny fit bloke that clearly finished the ride hours before me.

In conclusion, if you ride SRAM, and don’t want to look like a girl, get yourself the WiFli climbers kit. As recommended by a dodgy Spaniard called Contador, and a fat bloke who can still eat steak and not worry about whats in it.

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If you’ve made it to this stage and are still reading then thank you! You must be a dedicated friend. 

The last thing that I will mention here, and will no doubt become a complete bore about over the coming weeks is my latest half assed idea. Some years ago I took part in a 24hour mountain bike race, the experience was great in some ways, and a bit crap in others. It was so long ago though that I’ve forgotten the bad bits, and only the rosy glow of finishing remains.

That rosy glow is still so strong that I’ve signed up to do another 24 hour race, but this one is different. It’s on a race track, riding a road bike,, solo. Yes,,, SOLO,, for 24 hours,, on a bike.

I’m realistic enough to expect that I’ll not be winning the Solo category, but I am aiming to do 200 miles in the 24 hours.

I’m doing this in support of ENABLE, a Scottish mental health charity. Please think of me going through several torments of hell on a bike, in return for a few of your quid.

You can support me here -

http://www.justgiving.com/Graeme-Matheson

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so the end is near,,,,

Well it’s been quite a few months since my last update, so please excuse the lengthy ramblings.

Where do I start? So much has happened in the last few months, not all of it great news unfortunately.

First of all lets pick up on the Lance debacle,, he’s been stripped of his TdF wins, several of his team mates have been given short bans for “coming clean” (oh the irony of that phrase in this context) and the weight of evidence seems overwhelming. He’s being sued by ex sponsors and now by the Sunday Times. The pity of all this is that his personal fortune is such that having to hand back the odd $1m here or there  means little to him. His continued arrogance displayed in his now very rare facebook and twitter updates suggest that he’s trying to brave it out as business as usual. I wonder what motivation he has left, cheater or not he was an athlete used to competing and winning. Now he can’t compete, and he can’t win.

Lance was a hero to so many, for so many reasons. In my mind the greatest tragedy of his downfall is not that he was found to be a doper, it’s that he has still not apologised to all the cancer sufferers that he lied to for all those years. He was not the true poster boy of cancer recovery, he was a cancer survivor who took drugs to enhance his performance and swell his own ego. He will always be a low life doper in my eyes, until he mans up and does the honest thing. Apologise to all those victims that had put him on a pedestal, while he laughed all the way to the bank.

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So what of my own journey and LEJOG plan for 2014? Well I am still plugging in the miles when I can, it’s been a horrific summer though and I’m ashamed to say that I’ve not done anything like the mileage I’d planned. I did manage a few nice rides, the run from Crieff to home was a lovely way to clear my head, and did a great ride down to Glentress with Alan D on one of the few cracking days (someone buy that man some gears). For now it’s head down and plug in the miles in the dark, and the cold, and the wet. Hopefully some new overshoes courtesy of Santa will keep the frostbite at bay and I can continue to pound in the miles whenever the opportunity arises. It can be pretty grim riding in the dark alone so I have to thank the BBC for producing a great range of podcasts that make a pleasant distraction from the noise of tyre on tarmac and my own wheezing up hills.

I’ve been spending more and more time on the cross bike in these wet nights, a blast along the trails seems like great fun, but it’s no substitute for the hard miles and long hours that I’ll need for LEJOG. So I’ll be investing in some tail lights as bright as the headlight and getting out to scare some drivers.

In 2013 I’m planning on a couple of multi day rides, including a coast to coast in the late spring. I’ll also hopefully manage to stick in a couple of sportives and I’m planning on a couple of “out and back” 100 mile weekends which may well be nice, or nasty depending on the weather. At least I’m guaranteed a tail wind on one of the days!

I’m still planning on using my Boardman Carbon for the LEJOG and I think that I’ve got the position as comfortable as I can. The only thing likely to change is a new cassette and chain as I wholly expect to wear the existing ones out over the winter. I’ve been looking at the SRAM wifli groupsets, all the advantages of a wide range (equivalent to a triple) but without the mince inducing three rings up front. I’m just too much of a man to make that step.

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The next section of my blog is kind of personal, it’s a bit of a vent and I don’t apologise if it appears overly sentimental. My aim is not to upset anyone, but it is to go someway to explain my motivation for the adventures to come.

The last few months of the year have been a real emotional roller coaster, Amelia has had her second birthday (she’s no longer a baby), and I’ve re established contact with my parents after some years of no contact. As it transpires this contact came none too soon, with my mothers long illness meaning she had spend the last couple of years in residential care. Earlier this summer my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer and was facing the prospect of a double mastectomy and follow up treatment. This was the second cancer diagnosis that she had had in her life, she was diagnosed and treated for a non malignant brain tumour in 1989. After 23 years the cancer had returned and this time it wasn’t letting her go. All of this on top of the MS that had been increasingly debilitating over the last few years.

I’m sorry to say that mum lost her battle with the cancer on December 13th, the day before Amelia’s second birthday. She was 72, and in the last 23 years had suffered hardships greater than anyone ought to.

Amelia got to meet her granny Matheson, and they laughed together over the last few months. I’m so glad that mum had the chance to see Amelia and boast about her beautiful granddaughter to all that would listen.

Ours was never a perfect nuclear family, but it was our family in its own kind of screwed up way. There is no point in looking back and asking what if, but the whole experience has made me even more determined to do what I can to raise awareness and funds for cancer research so that other Amelia’s don’t lose their grannys so early.

And so, I wish all of you a happy Christmas and New Year, I look forward to seeing some of you on the roads in the coming months. Remember, for every inch of uphill pain, there’s a fun downhill bit to enjoy.

Cheers for now

G

So it’s been a while.,,,,

So the promised radio silence has ensued in the jockonabike household as a result of some bike race in France ( Allez wiggo!)

The good news is that I’ve managed to shed a little poundage over the last few weeks, the poor news is that I’ve not managed to spend a quarter of the time out on the bike that I need to if this this going to be a success. I have managed to get a few rides out on the road, but it quickly gets very dull feeling cold water run down your back after ten of your planned seventy miles. Makes for a very long day in the saddle. I’m ashamed to admit that even I the king of rule 9 have given up on a few rides and headed home earlier than planned.

If the weather does pick up then I’ll certainly be motivated to get out and pound in the miles, it’s getting to the stage where i’m looking forward to the burning legs as I struggle up the Tak!

The mountain bike has seen a lot more action than it usually would at this time of year, which is always fun but not good for building endurance. Those bloody midges don’t believe in making it easy ether, Avon skin so soft seems to make some difference but nothing really repels the little bastards.

In other news,,, the Lance Armstrong debacle rumbles on with him protesting his innocence, and the USADA convinced that he’s committed a federal offence while riding doped for US Postal. I think that one will run on even longer than the Rangers problem. Very sad to hear that a Cofidis rider was arrested during the tour for a historic doping offence that dates back to the start of the year. Great timing by the local magistrate in issuing the warrant mid July.

I’ve been spending a fair bit of time reading blogs and creating route plans for the LEJOG even though it’s 20months away, anything to keep the motivation levels up. The technology requirements are a bit of a great excuse to buy even more toys. The iPad has arrived and the Garmin GPS is on order. I wholly expect to become a slave to heart rate and cadence in the coming weeks.

Next update will hopefully contain details of hundreds of miles ridden, and pounds shed. If I’m not wearing out the drivetrain on my bike through overuse then I’ll be mightily disappointed.

G

Week two in the jockonabike house

So it’s week two of the grand plan, and how is it going?

Well on a cycling front I’ve managed to get a couple of decent rides in on the road and the mountain bike. Unfortunately the weather has been mixed to say the best so the 3/4 bibs have still not been stored away until the Autumn. I use Endura FS bibs and find them pretty good in all but the warmest of weathers, with my dodgy old knees I’m pretty paranoid of letting them get cold as I suffer pretty badly with knee pain in the cold. They also offer a bit more protection from the fearsome midges (Wish I’d had them on today when I was out with Calum and Rob, more of that to follow).

Unfortunately work got in the way of much riding this week, I’m away again this coming week and looks like my bike time will be restricted to static bikes in hotel gym. Hopefully I can get out on Thursday night, maybe an evening ride to test out the new TACX Lumos lights on the road bike, they look really smart. Hopefully function will be as good as form. Review to follow!

The sight today of lots of roadies out today for the Trossachs Ton reminded me I need to start pounding in the miles for the Parkinson’s charity ride in August and the Pedal for Scotland in September. If the weather keeps going like it is I’ll need to get a turbo, who would have thought that I’d need one of them in June?

I’ve started to research potential routes for my LEJOG, looks like there are as many ways to do it as there are miles to cover! Everyone seems to agree that the first couple of days are very tough, with some easier riding up towards the lakes, Penrith sounds like an epic, and then easy again until the Highlands of Scotland. I plan to make sure my route brings me past home so that I can get home comforts for one night! Still lots more planning and organising to do, I think we all know the ideal person in this household to be in charge of the GANT chart!

In other news,, not sure if I was dissappointed or surprised to hear the news this week that Lance Armstrong has been charged by USADA in connection with drugs tests from a number of years ago. Interesting to note that two characters with previous for drugs related issues (Johan Bruyneel & Dr Ferrari) have both been charged at the same time. Bearing in mind the number of tours he won against riders who have subsequently gone on to admit they were doping when they were riding it would be an incredible achievement if he had beaten them without any chemical enhancement. Be a very sad day for the sport if he is found guilty, but if he’s a doper he needs to be named and shamed. Dopers never win…

It’s a sad day today in some ways as it was the last ride for Rob on our local trails. Calum and I had a great spin out with Rob today, the hipflask certainly made us a bit looser on the descents. Rob, his wife Ruth and baby Beth are moving back South. We first met Rob & Ruth at baby classes when we were all a bit nervous about the upcoming arrival. The mummy mafia is losing a key member, and no one can break a shoulder quite as easily as Rob. Take it easy on those canal towpaths and bridleway you two. They can be proper gnarly from what I hear.

 

The trails & hills will miss you Rob. I’ll post you some midges..

Welcome to my first blog!

I hope you enjoy my ramblings and tales of my adventures over the coming months and years. I’m fairly new to this so any helpful hints are always welcome!

So,, what’s the point of my blog? Well I guess I have a few aims..

  • To document my progress on my weight loss plan, I am a proper chunker and have a lot to lose!
  • To save for posterity my achievements as a keen, and not very fit, cyclist. Including my planned LEJOG
  • To keep a record over the coming years of life in the Jockonabike household to share with my daughter so that she doesn’t miss out on any of the gory (and possibly embarrassing) details.

A little more about me,,

I’m an overweight 43 year old middle manager in a large corporate business. I spend a fair amount of time travelling with work, and really enjoy riding bikes when I can, more on my cycling history to follow in subsequent posts.

I’ve always been someone who needs a goal, a target, a mountain to climb or I get bored. When I get bored I lose motivation and fall into poor habits of overeating, drinking too much and generally being a bit of a fatty loser. My goals have included a relatively short Glasgow to Edinburgh in 2009, London to Paris in 2011, a 24 hour bike MTB race and Ten under the Ben. All of these were great and painful in their own way, and I felt great when I completed them but the first question I always asked at the end was,,, “What am I going to do next?”

So what am I going to do next? Well the answer is I’m going to cycle,, lots,, then cycle some more,, then cycle up some hills, and then some more hills, I’m going to “embrace the pain” and just get out and ride my bike. I’m going to kick off a strict diet routine and plan to lose a lot of weight and gain fitness in the coming twelve months.

Then, when I look like a pro cyclist, and I don’t test the strength of lycra when I pull on my bib shorts I’m going to get out and train, like I’ve not done in years because I plan to ride 970 miles in ten days. I plan to ride from Lands End to John O’Groats, the entire length of the UK.

I’ll be doing a few rides over the next couple of years to train and raise money for two charities that are close to my heart, Parkinson’s UK and MS Society Scotland. People close to my heart suffer daily from these conditions and I think it’s my duty as someone that can to raise funds for these charities. Feel free to give any support that you can, it’s very much appreciated.

Finally, I need to say a very big thank you to someone that has been extremely supportive in the creation of this “mad half assed plan” and that is my wife Lynsey. I love you dear, and without you none of this would be possible. I apologise in advance for whining like a girl that my legs hurt, my back hurts, my arms ache and for helping me when I get that leg cramp in the night that feels like it’ll kill you. Love you L.

For now that’s it folks.. Update to follow soon with progress I hope

Jockonabike..