Monday, 31 December 2012

Christmas & New Year 2012

I was lucky enough this year to receive some great cycling gifts from my family and fiancee.

That's more than enough to keep me going through the winter months!

I hope that you gave and received some cool Christmas gifts (cycling or not) and more importantly, had a great time whatever you did.

I'd like to thank you if you have taken the time to read this blog over the last few months. I hope that you have enjoyed it and found some of it relevant. If you subscribed via RSS previously, I may have messed up your subscription by re-naming the blog and the URL. Have a check and please share if you don't mind!

I'll be continuing to write as I really enjoy it. It's something I didn't think I'd get into quite as much, but as the new year begins I shall be expanding the blog with more posts.

Thank you once again! I wish you a safe and prosperous New Year!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Cautionary Tale

First, some background.

At the flooded bike shop sale where I picked up my commuter bike, I also managed to get my hands on some Shimano SPD shoes for a bargain £10. They'd been sat in my wardrobe until I got some pedals (as a gift for Christmas). I'd been looking forward to trying these out.

Fast forward to Boxing Day. This is traditionally a day where friends gather to eat, drink and be merry. This Boxing Day was no different.

The next day, 27th, I woke up after a late night. I felt OK, so decided to switch the pedals on my Scott SUB 35 to the SPDs and go for a spin - not too far. By the time I was ready it was 12:50 PM. I'd eaten two clementines and a banana, put another banana in my rear pocket and filled my bottle with isotonic Lucozade. And away I went.

I'm sure by now you're expecting a tale of how I forgot that my feet were clipped in and had some accident. Unfortunately for you, I didn't. I had one stumble but found the whole clipped in experience very good. The feeling and sound of clipping in was secure and reassuring, pedalling was assured.

I'd set off with a view to doing 15-20 miles, or just enough to cover the 10 miles in precipitation challenge in the 12 Days Of Cycling over on Google+.

After a quick stop to take a photo, I took a look at the map on display in the parking bay I'd stopped in. If I carried on a bit from where I originally intended to turn off, I'd be able to make my way to Durham city. This would be great as the day after (28th Dec) I'd arranged our traditional Festive Footy (11-a-side, muddy pitch, great fun). As it had been raining I thought a pitch inspection would be required. The route there took in disused bridleways and would be ideal with no traffic. I was looking forward to getting home, having some tomato soup with buttered bread and tea.

By the time I'd reached the top of Cornsay Colliery bank my legs felt empty. I ate my banana, the sweetest, most tastiest banana I'd ever eaten. I was wishing I'd brought more. On I went through Lanchester and then onto the bridleway to Durham. The pitch was OK; great, let's go home. By now it was getting dark and I'd covered about 27 miles. Soup was calling me.

My light went out. It hadn't been charged in a while. Rear lights were good, I was wearing my reflective jacket so I wasn't to worried. I was very tired. By the time I got to Spennymoor I called home to say I'd be half an hour or so. I carried on. Soup ever closer.

A section of road that is known locally as the "Mad Mile". It's a national speed limit road that I've ridden before. It's wide so I'm not too perturbed by it. Half way up this stretch I had to stop. It's unlit, my light was out. By now, my legs had nothing. My breath was short, vision becoming blurred, cold sweats, shaking uncontrollably. I knelt down on the grass verge, leaning on the bike. I had to resist the very strong urge to lie down. I just wanted to lie down but couldn't out there on that busy road in the dark. I rested, tried to drink from my empty bottle, cursed, then got back on the bike.

A mile or so from where I'd stopped there is a petrol station. I'd get there and be OK I thought. I made it in, staggered up to the pump attendant with my bottle asking for water. I had no money to purchase a snack. I rang my fiancee, there was no answer. I was feeling really desperate at this point. I called my friend Will and asked him to come and meet me with a banana or chocolate. He came with some chocolate and cola. While I was waiting for him, my fiancee Rebecca called. I asked her to come and get me. "Please, I'm cold, shaking, dizzy". I feel bad thinking about it because I'd panicked her. She came with the car and we went home. I was so grateful for Will and Rebecca's help because I'd gone from being a confident and strong cyclist to a desperately isolated gibbering wreck. It was very alarming.

After a hot shower, some pasta and warm tea, I felt much better. Then suddenly I got the most painful cramp in a place I've never had it before - in the back of my thigh. This hurt so much I was nearly in tears.

I know the lessons I learnt this day:

  • ALWAYS eat sufficiently before heading out.
  • ALWAYS take your mobile phone.
  • ALWAYS carry some money.
  • ALWAYS ensure your light is fully charged.
There is one thing I'm not sure about though. The cramps. Did I get get cramps because I'd set my SPD pedals up slightly wrong? Did I get them because I hadn't been fuelling my body correctly, replacing the electrolytes etc as I went? Or is it a combination of the two?

Find the route I took here and the result from my heart rate monitor here.

Last commute of 2012

This is a retrospective post. My last commute was on 19/12/12.

I left work at 11:30 AM, so the commute was in daylight - a rare treat indeed this time of year! I'd noticed that a section of the Auckland Way looked a strange colour in the twilight  of dusk and dawn and under my LED front light. My pedalling also seemed to get a bit more laboured, as if the surface was exceptionally muddy. I could tell that some re-surfacing work had been done as I could see small bulldozer tracks at the periphery of the track. Plus it was a few feet wider.

So travelling home with a bigger smile on my face than usual, I was intrigued to see what had been done. It turns out that a layer of grey shingle had been spread quite widely over the existing track.
New surface works
In places it was very compact, but in others it was soft, like the surface material had been sprinkled over the top. This was the "riding on sand" effect I was feeling.
Soft section of track
It's an improvement, because there was a deep rut in this section, caused by some severe rainfall during the summer. However, I'm left wondering why the council had waited until it was winter and raining pretty much constantly to repair the track? It would make more sense to do it when it was dry so when they compacted it, it would stay compact rather than be torn up by bicycle wheels and walkers when it is wet and loose?
Rut caused by rainfall. Notice how narrow the track is in comparison!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Maybe next time I visit Iceland

This impressive display was on a wall at Reykjavik main bus terminal. There was no chance of any off road biking on this trip due to the season and the fact we were here for Rebecca's birthday.
But in the summer months it would be awesome to be able to ride up and around volcanic craters and across lava fields. I also think it would be a bit dangerous to do that on your own. Maybe I could persuade Sam in a couple of years? Would we bring our own bikes? I don't know, its pretty pricey getting there, but if we did we have our own transportation for the entirety of the stay.
Ideally there'd be a photographer at the top taking a new photo to update the poster and it would be me, still riding to the top and not pushing the bike up absolutely knackered like the man currently is!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Cycling in Reykjavik?

Just a quick post while I'm waiting in the lobby for another excursion.
I'd love to do this but I highly doubt I'd get Rebecca to go along with it!
I've seen quite a few cyclists whilst here, all well wrapped up and some running spiked tyres. Considering there is only 4 hours daylight here, the majority aren't that well illuminated.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Abandoned or stolen?

While out walking our dog Melba along my work commute route, I came across this bike; nobody around. Just lying half in the ditch.

Its a kids bike, not particularly expensive. On a closer look I noticed the front brake lever was snapped, as was the rear derailleur.

That damage might occur in a severe crash, but there was no other evidence of this. Another explanation could be it was stolen and vandalised. You would hope the owner wouldn't be so ungrateful.

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