Sunday, 25 April 2010

To tweak or not to tweak.

The last three weeks have been good - mileage wise - as I have achieved 50miles+ per week.  Shhh, I know 50 miles is nothing to you bonkers cyclists who double that mileage in one ride, but for me, it's great. :-)

So now I have to decide whether to permanently push my target up to 50miles a week - which in essence will double my previous monthly target.

I can't help but wonder though if doubling my mileage maybe just too much. Yeah OK, I know I can do it as I have done it successfully and easily over the last three weeks, but the weather has been in my favour as it has been dry and warm. What happens on the bad weeks where the mere thought of dragging myself out at least 4 times a week into pouring rain is unbearable? I'm not good with failure! I will end up giving up completely.  If I start struggling to achieve the new goal; I will probably stop enjoying the rides and if I stop enjoying them I will lose my determination.

ARGH... what is a girl to do? Shall I tweak or not...?

Saturday, 17 April 2010

A new bike and a Lance Wannabe.

This week saw another new addition to the family. Don't be silly, Ted the Yeti hasn't been relegated already!

It would seem that my enthusiasm for cycling is contagious. As some of you know, after seeing the health benefits that cycling has given me, my Mum has often joined me on a number of rides.  Then, after seeing how much I progressed with Ted, she decided that she too needed a nippier and lighter bike, so in a spur of the moment decision and after advice from Mikey she decided on a Trek 7.5.

The new bike arrived on Thursday.  As some of my previous posts have suggested, I'm not actually a "Trek fan" so I was surprised to find it is actually quite nice - a sleek black frame and thankfully, unlike Mikey's Trek CX bike, it doesn't scream its brand-name 14 times at you. After the clunky rigid mountain bike she is used to riding she is already enjoying zipping along merrily and yesterday joined me on a ride to Penzance to meet Mikey from work.

It was a nice ride, the sun was shining and amazingly the coast path wasn't as heavily populated with tourists and we happily whizzed along. After picking up Mikey on the harbour front we continued back the way we came. We reached Marazion and stopped to compose ourselves for the long steep hill out. I hate this hill! It starts off really steep and due to the heavy traffic on such a narrow road you can never get much momentum to get up it.

After making this first big climb we paused for a moment to catch our breath for the next stage - yet more climbing.  It isn’t quite as steep, but its still a big hill.... a very draggy one and with already tired legs from the first bit, it's a killer!  By now the first stretch has played havoc with your legs and every turn of the pedal is painful. We pootled onwards and up! I was leading with Michael at the back making sure that we were safe (what a gent) I suddenly caught sight of a rider to my right. Presuming it was Mikey I said "Hi". No response! I looked up and realised it wasn't my beloved, but a Lance-a-like in full US postal kit.

Without uttering a word he flew past me. How rude! I was enraged. I chased him down. It took me a few minutes to catch him, but then I hung to his wheel. He probably hadn't noticed me - as I'm sure if he had realised he would have put in more effort, but there was no way I wanted this "jumped up wannabe" to brag about how he dropped a 30something female and her mother. I got close to the top and decided to let him go, as I was exhausted and I also realised that I had left the others further down the hill. He probably hadn’t noticed me anyway. I was shattered and had practically no oxygen left in my body but I was exhilarated. I'm not normally competitive but it was great fun chasing someone down!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Spuds U like.

At the beginning of the month I finally plunged myself into the world of clipless pedals. I just couldn’t stand any more frustrating rides with my feet constantly sliding into inefficient positions or any more painful moments when my feet slipped off the pedals completely. Unable to find any decent flats, I decided it was time to bite the bullet!

With some pedals fitted (borrowed from Mikey), Ted was put on the trainer so that I could practice clipping and unclipping. The clip tension was as low as possible and because the pedals themselves had been used previously and slightly worn in – it made things even simpler to unclip, particularly on the left side. Which coincidentaly, is the foot I always put down first.

After the practice on the trainer, it was a fair few days before I could try them properly as Mikey had a wedding to attend and there was absolutely no way that I was doing it alone. So I waited, impatiently.

Finally the day of reckoning arrived and despite my nerves before leaving the house, it was amazingly a painless exercise (Probably as I had an "expert" by my side.) I was convinced I was going to fall, but I found the unclipping motion quite natural (which was quite surprising as I have very inflexible ankles). Within minutes I was feeling comfortable and relaxed and to Mikey’s surprise I was even unclipping just before I reached junctions - he said that unclipping too late at junctions is one of the most common mistakes of "SPD newbies".

I was really chuffed with my progress but because the next ride was without Mikey, I “bottled it” and swapped back to the cheap and nasty flats. It was a nice ride, but it felt wrong! I was kicking myself for not having the confidence. On my return home I changed them straight back and eagerly awaited my next Spud adventure.

Little did I know what lay in wait? The 1st ride had been a short 6mile road ride and I’d thought that the 2nd ride would be an easy (but longer) road ride. Ted and Mikey had different ideas though and after a few road miles we found ourselves on rough singletrack. Weeeeeee! This was fun! Ooooh... and here was some lovely deep mud and puddles to ride through.

Ouch! I’d forgotten I wasn’t on my MTB. I started to wobble as I remembered I wasn’t on big knobbly tires. Argh! I then suddenly realised I was actually connected to my bike. Dammit! I wobbled some more. My nerves had kicked in. Thankfully they went as quickly as they arrived and I started to have fun again. I got home in high spirits, with a big grin on my face. Who’da funked that my 2nd clipless ride would have been so successful? Prior to setting off I wasn’t even at the stage that I would consider off-roading with Spuds, never mind doing it! 

Since then there’s been a few more (off and on road) rides, all just as successful and just as fun. My confidence on SPDs is growing and just yesterday I set off on my ride and it hadn’t even crossed my mind about the pedal situation. I love 'em!

Luckily, I haven't taken a tumble yet *touch wood* but I had a few close calls when merrily riding down the coast bridle path to Penzance to meet Mikey at work. (I use the term "merrily" quite loosely as most of the ride was quite unpleasant as there were swarms of ignorant tourist shaped obstacles.)

The scariest incident involved a pack of at least 6 dogs (all running free), 2 adults, 2 teens and at least one small child.  When I reached them there was no way past and they had their backs to me. I called out. No response! ... I called a little louder. Still nothing! ... Again and even louder! Still nothing - they were completely oblivious and too busy chattering to each other. Thankfully, “Mum” finally noticed me, she apologised, stating she was slightly deaf (Fair enough love, but that doesn't really explain why the rest of your family ignored me!) They all stopped, gawped and left me very little room to pass through. Ah well, at least the dogs were well out of the way playing on the nearby rocks. Damn! Maybe not - no sooner as I started to weave through the humans, they started to call to the dogs, telling them to move out of my way. Obviously, the dogs just heard excitable orders from their owners, which resulted in them all running straight towards them AND me! Eek! This was it - I was going to fall! I was going too slow to get any momentum to swerve out of the way and as I was surrounded by bodies and now also small dogs I had nowhere to swerve to anyway. I started to wobble. Could I get my feet out quick enough? Phewph! I managed to unclip my left foot, regain my balance and avoid crushing any dogs in the process.

... Oh joy, tourist season has begun!!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Cycling etiquette - Waving

Cycling etiquette is a funny thing. I remember from my earlier cycling days (15+ years ago) there seemed to be a huge divide in cyclists - In a "mods and rockers" stylee; you were either a mountain biker or a road cyclist.

In the mid 90's I used to ride a cute green AlpineStars MTB. It was my main mode of transport and it was used both on and off the road. As the friendly soul I am, I always waved or at least nodded to all who rode past. As an amateur, it took me a while to cotton on, but I often wondered why many of the riders with the curly handlebars only ever reciprocated my greeting with a scowl. I soon realised that it was my bike. I could only guess that as the popularity of the MTB soared the "roadies" just saw us a pests, giving cyclists a bad name as public steps were descended and park benches were hopped on/off. Their elite clubs were being infiltrated by non-athletes.

I feel things have changed slightly. There appears to be less of a cultural divide between roadies and MTBers; probably as the lines have blurred slightly with many cyclists owning both a road bike and an off road bike.

Proud to wave! ;-)
Since returning to cycling, I continue to nod or raise my hand to all who ride by, yet still, there seems to be a small minority of cyclists ignoring one another. Last week, I lost count of all those who just put their head down and rode on without even a smile. Grumpy sods! One incidence remains firmly stuck in my mind though as it really made me angry. I was merrily riding along on my beloved cross bike when I passed two stationary "roadies" (they were giving way to me and a dozen cars). I smiled and called out good afternoon as I passed. They were looking directly at me, so I expected some kind of acknowledgement, but instead they blanked me and turned to each other and started chatting. Not even a head nod! How rude! Did their parents not teach them how to be polite?

Maybe they didn't like my knobbly tires? Maybe they were just surprised to see a girl riding along? Maybe they were annoyed at having to stop for the oncoming traffic - my lane had priority, but as I was riding as fast as most of the cars in my lane (we were in a restricted speed limit area) they couldn't seriously blame me for their hold up! It really angered me, couldn't they have just shown me some common courtesy. After all, as riders, we already have to face enough ignorance and anger by most car drivers, so when we see another bike rider why not acknowledge another kindred spirit.

Sorry, that's my rant over!