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Curiosity cured the cyclist
I love people watching, I find folk fascinating non-more so than cyclists – what makes us tick? What makes someone want to ride for miles when cycling is just as convenient for the shop, the school run or the pub? The big kid in us wanting to race up and down forest trails or to ride for a good cause, simply just to get fitter no matter what your age, ability or bike type to improve your health and help the environment?
For those on a mission what happens when you achieve your goal…what next?
I have set myself goals and have a growing list of things I want to try, one of them is to look further into becoming a volunteer guide rider on tandem for an eyesight charity, another is to try Cyclocross. The CX leagues have begun but I haven’t yet had the chance to give it a go as I have been enjoying getting out on my road bike and clocking up the miles and trying to improve my average in my attempt to reach my cycling goal of 3000 miles by the end of the year, with just over 400 miles remaining I’m confident I can reach it (although don’t hold me to it) but how much of the remaining ride time will be spent chasing segments, striving to improve my average and fitness levels and how much will be spent paring back and just simply going for a ride? I love to push myself and my limits but one ride challenged all that and this is where my September blog came to be”.
Bear with me as I begin with the August bank holiday, these are meant to be wet and miserable weekends but surprisingly this particular weekend wasn’t, it was hot, the sun was out and not one cloud in the sky. I was itching to get out and clear the cobwebs whatever they were and savour silence, ahhh this golden, no need to be sociable today. Rummaging through my kit draw, I dug out my most colourful Rain-Boa Jersey, and hopped on the bike on to one of my regular loops and ta-dah, instant happiness, I am so easily pleased. As I headed out onto the back roads I was getting up to a good speed with the help of a tail wind. I had it in my mind to try and push myself for a minimum of 25 miles to attempt an end-average of as close to 18mph as I could and trying not to drop below 17.5 if I could help it. I always become aware of myself riding with a smile on my face, but I have learned it the hard way; to do so with my mouth shut, therefore no fat fly may gain entry ever again. As I was settling into my pace (smiling, teeth together) I happened to noticed a man stopped on the crossroads on his fold-up bicycle reading a full-sized road map!! I hollered a hello and received a wave back and carried on for about another mile thinking about what I had just seen, laughing to myself, not because I thought he was daft but because he was sitting outside the box, pared back, and completely analogue and it was PURE GENIUS. It was at this moment the light bulb in my head went on and I stopped my bike, got off it and just stood and looked around me. I was looking at miles upon miles of flatland fields, listening to crickets in the grass, tractors in the fields and it was such a nice feeling to soak it all up. I have this countryside all around me and yet every time I ride, solo or with my ride buddies in the club I have never really stopped to take it all in, it felt holistic.
I switched off my Garmin and got back on the bike and just rode for goodness knows how long enjoying the freedom and adventure of being outside and pared back. I rode alongside the river bank and stopped to check out the pumpkins growing in the field next to it, noticed a heron eyeballing its lunch. The convoy of vintage tractors, bumbled along waving to me as they approached, with me making out I was taking a photo of the view and not a selfie. That ride was just what I needed. Like medicine - It was soup for the soul.
Now talking of cyclists like the guy with the map, my eyes must be zoned in on random findings. On one of my afternoon rides to a pop up Café run by one of my fellow club buddies, I witnessed a young girl carrying her bedding and belongings in a shopping trolley adapted on to her cycle and a few minutes later an elderly gent towing a wheelie bin over the flyover to the Services. More recently while out on an afternoon 40-mile solo I saw what I first thought was a bamboo leaf blowing in the wind but it turns out this was a snake slithering its way along the road narrowly escaping the chop-chop of my wheels. Like waiting for a bus, I came across another grass snake a few miles further up the road just hanging out “playing” with a butterfly. I stopped and watched it from a short distance, fascinated by what I was seeing, I would never have seen this in the car but then neither did the car that rolled over it as I left.
In UCI cycling, early September marked the ending of La Vuelta and the start of the Tour of Britain and I was looking forward to going to Newmarket and being at the start line for Stage 6. Myself and Matt made it an early one and cycled the 70-mile round trip to the start line, which was a good warm up ride for Bills 100 two days later. Leaving at 6 am felt like the middle of the night (to night-owls like me) and having pulled out every item in the drawer and pairing them up I decided on my black onyx bib shorts teamed with my polka jersey, electric shock arm warmers and Electric Shock socks. My Onyx wind jacket has become a staple in my ride attire for keeping me warm and dry. Arriving in Newmarket there were rows of police on motorbikes, marshals and team officials wondering up and down the High Street and scores of local junior school kids lining up along the barriers watching all the hustle and bustle, a few staring and clapping as we clip clopped by in our cleats pushing the bikes with one boy pointing to me and telling his friends that I might be one of the many riders taking part in the (mens) Tour of Britain ha! Securing the bikes in a relations garage we headed over to the team area watching team busses arrive, riders preparing for interviews, doing autographs and cycling back and forth for pre-race signing on. Being able to hang out with the riders, coaches and the TV crew was unlike any other Tour and a real privilege, chatting to them about cycling, milkshakes, Primal (what else) and being able to strike a pose with Mark Cavendish, Bernie Eisel and Alex Dowsett to name a few. Once the race countdown had begun and the riders had set off for Aldeburgh it began to pelt it down with rain. I wasn’t bothered about getting wet and muddy, it was 35 miles of heavy torrential rain and gusts I wasn’t looking forward to as I didn’t have my Onyx Clear Rain Jacket with me and the roads have disappeared under the surface water, but as we say “skin is waterproof” and with 3 miles from home I had my 1st ever puncture and I am as good as a chocolate fire guard when it comes to changing a tyre.
The Century ride was postponed due to strong winds so it was turned into a short social ride for coffee and cake which saw around 20 riders of all abilities taking part and it was a good opportunity to talk logistics with anyone heading to The Cycle Show at the NEC and riding in the Birmingham Velo in which Primal were the Jersey sponsors. Arriving at the NEC on the Saturday in my Primal t-shirt with my ride buddy Gerry, I was excited (and slightly wired by the caffeine overload) to see a very busy Primal team and managed to briefly catch up with James and Judith – I felt exceptionally proud to be their ambassador as I sat sipping on an espresso (thanks James) and checking out the new arrivals. Wandering around the show I was coveting all of the modern takes on classic racers, the fun bikes, the Dutch cycles, the commuter bikes and the artwork on some. I wished I had won the lottery looking at some of the amazing bikes and technology available. While browsing I was asked if I could be filmed riding a bike on a trainer testing out a new bit of Garmin kit which would be able to tell you all about your pedal strike amongst a wealth of other information.
On my way home it got me thinking just how important cycling tech has become to us. I love a gadget and apps and I love seeing how new technology on the market is making cycling so much more than cycling. It’s like a living science lesson in the palm of your hand, it offers you an insight in how your body is functioning, how your V02 Max training is going and how you physically perform on a bike. Your times, your segments whatever it may be in aid of helping us improve our fitness and well-being, making us healthier, getting us out of the car and burning our own fuel and doing our bit for the environment. But every once in a while, it’s good to switch off, slow right down and take in your surroundings and wear GREAT kit because “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris Buellers Day off – Ride Primal!