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?
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.
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.
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 -