Monday 4 October 2010

Sunglasses? It's pouring!

After life getting in the way for a few weeks, I actually managed to get back out on the trails on Saturday, and the had chance to test out a couple of new bits of kit. The first was my Thulé ProRide 591 roof-mounted carrier. Great bit of kit, snagged at a bargain half-price on ebay (brand new, too). It's a revelation not having to finagle the bike into the boot, back seats down.

Secondly, I was wearing my new Bollé Venom sunglasses, despite the truly horrible weather. For those of you who don't know, I need prescription lenses. Not all the time; only when I need to see things. And I don't wear contact lenses.

I went for the Venoms because they don't scream "Cycling Nerd" and, crucially, with Bollé products the prescription can be applied direct to the glazing, with no need for inelegant inserts that sit too close to my eyes for comfort. The downside is that this is VERY expensive, and as the lenses are curved extra measurements need to be taken to get the prescription right.

If you're thinking of something similar, pay the extra and get your own optician to sort this out. Ordering online just isn't an option - they'll guess at your pupil position and if they are even slightly out everything will go all weird whenever you're not looking straight ahead. Not good. So, while I'm here, a word about my optometrist, Kilgour. I absolutely will not trust anyone else with my eyes. My Optometrist, Carol, and my dispensing optician, Douglas, are both excellent. Together they take really good care of my peepers and sort out my all my bespectacled needs.

Given that a dark pair and a clear pair would have been prohibitively expensive, I went for photochromatic lenses. Pricier than a tinted pair, but more versatile too.

I love them! To have my eyes completely protected from the elements was such a wonderful experience. I think these might be my new favourite thing! And at £310, that's probably just as well!

Sunday 5 September 2010

Stacking it

Another sunny weekend, another chance to get out into the fresh air. Today we went to Mabie, and had a good day, despite Chris incessantly fiddling with his gears (he is a fiddler), a puncture (me), falling off twice (me) and crashing once (again, me). Oh, and falling off and crashing is not the same thing.

I fall off a lot. Very little natural balance and my current lack of confidence returning to cycling after so long contribute to this. Falling off happens at low speed, and I'm usually laughing before I hit the ground at the idiocy of the situation, and my incredible lack of grace.

Crashing is a bit different; in general it happens at speed and hurts to some degree. Today my crash was caused by the same thing - lack of confidence. Falling off usually entails giggles and a handy - and hopefully non-prickly - bush in which to land. Crashing involves sliding along the trail on your face.

Here's what I learned today:
  1. Helmets ROCK.
  2. Put your saddle down on the tricky stuff, or it will kick you right in the ass.
  3. Commit to the trail. And when that goes wrong, commit to the crash. It will hurt less.
  4. Your friends are sympathetic until they're sure you're fine. Then they rip you. Just as it should be.
The mini-slab at Mabie; I had ridden it perfectly fine three times already. "Just one more before we go."

Cocky or complacent? Not sure, but with my weight too far forward the bike kicked me in the ass as I went over the front. My face hit the trail, and the bike booted me in the ribs for good measure.

I thought I was a little bit scraped, until I got in the shower once home and found I was one big scrape with intermittent patches of skin. And my ribs still hurt.

Can't wait until next time!

In other news, bagged my first 'Stane' today - see the picture. The Ghost Stane is a two-and-a-quarter ton white marble sculpture engraved with a lace pattern. One down, six to go!

Monday 30 August 2010


I've been trying to remember when I bought my first mountain bike, my beloved GT Tequesta, and I think it was 1992. I loved this bike. I still love this bike.

I bought it from Graeme Obree, when he ran a small bike shop in Prestwick. When I trashed the back wheel, Graeme built an absolutely bomb-proof one for me. In case you don't know, Graeme is a legend in cycling; read his story, and watch the film The Flying Scotsman.

The bike got abused, and maltreated, and always came back for more. I cycled straight into a parked car at 20 miles an hour and bent the forks right back into the frame. New forks (and a new helmet for me) and it was back skipping round my ankles like a happy puppy, desperate to be taken out again.

The very last time I rode it I took it to the beach. And rode it through the sea. All that poked out the water, like some steel framed nessie, were the saddle and handlebars. And then I put it away.

A dozen years later and it should be one big rusted lump. Gears, pedals, wheels, everything should be seized solid. But... the wheels spin freely, the pedals go round. And the gears shift seamlessly!

I love this bike. So have lavished a little tlc. New tyres, some shiny bolts, handlebar grips, pedals and a new saddle.

Isn't she lovely?

Friday 27 August 2010

A proper cyclist

Sometimes I'm reminded that, even as a born-again evangelical cyclist, I'm really only playing at it.

For some people, like my former colleague Pauline, cycling is in their very soul. It is part of who they are in a way that almost nothing else is.

Take a little time to read about her current endeavour; she's currently in Spain as she cycles round the world. You know, as you do.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

My world of endorphins

I'm a geek. I'm turning (back?) into a bike geek right now, but I'm a lifelong geek in oh, so many ways. So, perhaps being back in the saddle is just another way for me to indulge my geeky nature?

My first real bike/gadget geek crossover is Endomondo. Endomondo works on GPS smart phones (like the iPhone I don't have, and the Nokia N97 I do) and tracks your efforts in a range of breathlessness-inducing activities.

It's in two parts: a downloadable (and free!) app for your phone, and a website to which, once you've registered (also free), you upload your info. Basically, the GPS unit on your phone tracks your location, distance travelled, speed, (as well as linking to your bluetooth heart rate monitor if you have one) and once the info is uploaded to the website you can see all kinds of cool stuff. Like how slow I am.

I like it. It ticks my boxes. See if it ticks yours.

Monday 23 August 2010

Mid life crisis? What mid life crisis?

The Guardian newspaper's cycling blog says "Research suggests a boom in cycling among affluent 'mid-life crisis' men and car owners."

Umm... is that me? Maybe. Let me tell you a story. Are we sitting comfortably, boys and girls? Then I'll begin...

One of the reasons I'm back on my bike after all this time is that a friend of mine - let's call him 'Chris' - has made a similar return. Chris and I used to cycle together way back when, and when he called to say he was in a bike shop and could I check on the internet for reviews of the bikes he was looking at, I just knew I was going to get roped in to the energetic, out of breath part of cycling.

And, sure enough, a couple of days later I had to dust off my venerable, retired GT Tequesta and accompany Chris on a ride. It was tiring (I hadn't just given up exercising for a decade, my decadent lifestyle involved no exercise at all) but really, really fun. I was hooked. And more on the GT later.

This is where the evidence of a mid-life crisis might be said to exist... with Chris on new wheels I just had to upgrade. Enter, Focus Bikes' 2010 Black Forest Expert. Isn't she lovely?
Yes, this was quite a lot of money for me. It's a grand's worth of hardtail - that's a mountain bike with suspension at the front wheel, but not the back, fact fans - and although I got it in Wiggle's sale, it was still a lot... spending more than I perhaps needed to, on something that is perhaps a bit too flashy... mid life crisis?

No. And here's my justification. This bike is too good for me. It requires a level of skill, commitment and confidence I just don't have. Yet. It's an aspirational purchase - I aspire to be good enough to deserve to ride this bike.

And, by George, it is light!

Sunday 22 August 2010

I used to ride... then I stopped... but now I'm better.

I'm cycling again. I was cycling before, now I'm cycling again.

Before to again took ten years. That's quite a leap, and this is where I'm going to tell you about my experience as it unfolds. If you, like me, are a lapsed cyclist, maybe you'll be encouraged to take it up again. If you're an active cyclist, maybe you'll look at your activity with new eyes, just as I'm doing. If you've never cycled, maybe you'll think about giving it a try.

If you're a golfist, you're in the wrong place.

I'm going to talk about how much my legs hurt, and how much my bum hurts. And how quickly these bits of me stop hurting. I'm going to talk about the places I ride, and the things I buy.

This is a geeky blog about bikes, and riding, and the cycling culture. Welcome!