Monthly Archives: November 2014

“And I would ride 8,000 km” – not quite the same ring as . . . . . . .

Looking across Belhaven Bay towards Traprain Law, next to the cycle path

Looking across Belhaven Bay towards Traprain Law, Scotland next to the cycle path

to paraphrase The Proclaimers famous song – ‘And I would ride 5,000 miles’ – it sounds so much better, even though it is less impressive, maybe?

Being a maths graduate (seems another lifetime away with the flares & tie die shirts), I love statistics, numbers & spreadsheets etc. So I accumulate masses of stats (thank you Garmin).

Just recently I reached the 8,000 km mark on the bike this year, which included 86,00 metres of ascent, over 350 hours of cycling and endless amounts of fun, happiness, companionship and enjoyment. My biggest ride so far was 147 km (92 miles) with 1,478 metres ascent (4877) – this was done on a blisteringly hot Scottish day, ending up fairly dehydrated. Was going for the century ride, but enough was enough. So, call me a geek if you wish, but, that’s your problem not mine.

There was also some angst, pain and frustration mixed in.

So what does it all mean? Not too much I suppose to most, but recollections of some excellent times for me & my pals. I usually annotate rides with weird titles & descriptions, but they mean something to me. So looking over my rides what churns away in the memory banks?

“Wott!! No coffee, scones or sprinkles?” – I have been out with one Sunday crew for a while now, but was requested to join another so popped along to see. The group is around 25, so we cycled along sort of together for a while, then split into fast & slow. Knowing there was a lot of downhill & flat I went for the fast and we flew, managed to stay with them for a long while till we hit the sea front and woosh, off they went, clung on for a few miles & then finally acted my age, and I wasn’t alone. But – no coffee stop as is usual for me. So – nowadays I alternate between the two groups, both of them good in their own ways.

“Tour of Tweedale,1ºC at the start, 30+ miles to warm up – then glorious”  – a Sportive in the Scottish Borders, 82 miles and 1,270 metres (4,000 ft) of ascent with a few tough climbs (one ramps up to over 20% – the Wall of Talla!) It was great, with a couple of pals, a magical food stop with wonderful home made soup and goodies plus plenty of good craic & meetings with pals and groups to follow (and lead) – just perfect despite the initial cold. I’ve done this for the last 3 years and the distance has varied from 80 to 99 miles – definitely the best Sportive I’ve taken part in.

“No Day of the Triffids” – a ride over the hills on the Sunday, the Triffids were the huge wind turbines which usually suddenly loomed close by as we crested the top of the hills.  Because of the thick, thick mist we couldn’t see them this time so had to creep down the hill slowly, slowly dodging gravel, potholes each other and one daft, mad car – so no daft 45+ mph descent for me this time!

And then there was South Africa – a whole different experience in oh so many ways.

Out in the bush, South Africa on "that bike" @£$%$&^%)?!!!!

Out in the bush, South Africa on “that bike” @£$%$&^%)?!!!!

And then there’s the wildlife met en route. Deer, badgers, swans, hares, rabbits, stoats, weasels, skeins of geese, rabbits, dogs, heron, eider ducks, fish, sheep, skylarks, pheasant etc. etc. Wow. are we cyclists sometimes so lucky to be involved in biking?

And looking forward already to next year, I’ve booked a week in Mallorca with the Tuesday bunch I cycle with – yippee!!!!

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What do you smell?

These hedges always remind me of giant caterpillars making their way across the landscape

These hedges always remind me of giant caterpillars making their way across the landscape

Well, here we go, my third in ‘the senses’ post.

I’m not referring to “what do you smell of” here, which is probably just as well, but what olfactory delights (or otherwise) greet you on your rides.
We’re lucky in so many ways here, we have the joyous changes of scene from being out in the lowland countryside, dominated by mixed farming, to up on the high ground with heather and grassland, grouse shooting and sheep rearing, then down to the coastal strip with it’s surf & pretty seaside towns, plus occasional visits to the metropolis of Edinburgh – a real visual feast once you’re done avoiding the traffic, pedestrians, tramlines, cobbles etc.

So what wonders for the nose does this all have?

Out in the morning, pottering down the high street in the village there’s the smell of partially burnt fuel from the cars which have just been fired up, the various seasonal smells of the flowers round the fountain and the winter smell of wood or coal smoke from the chimneys. On days when the wind blows from the north a pervasive stink from the intensive pig farm a couple of miles away. At other times there is a real treat – the smell of new mown grass from the park or folks’ gardens.

Then it’s away out and it changes. Depending on the time of year & activity in the fields you’re aware of all sorts of things. The cows in the field, the cloying sweetness of the oil seed rape plants, the diesel smells of the tractor chugging along in front of you, the occasional horse that you pass with its distinct odour, the hay stacked in the field, or piled up on a passing wagon and the good/bad smell of silage or manure recently spread, or spilled on the road. In the autumn there’s also the smells of the fields once the wheat or barley has been harvested.

Then maybe it’s a road to the west or north, the change of the tang in the air as you approach the sea, especially if the surf is pounding on the shore, the pungent seaweed rotting on the shore and in the seaside towns the fabulous smells of fresh brewed coffee, the sweet smells of the sweetie shops selling their rock & ice creams.

The there is a hard cycle up into the hills. But, some of the joys here can be amazing. As you ascend through the woods pine scents may fill the air or that earthy smell from the dense soil floor under the trees, a bit further on and that gorgeous (to me) coconut-type smell of the gorse with its bright yellow hairy flowers that combat the frosts in early spring. Then higher up, going through the hills, the heather, also known here as ling, exudes its fabulous scent, with its tiny purple flowers just filling the air. If you’re close enough and it is damp it can be overlaid by the presence of sheep hitting your nasal passages.

Then there’s occasional visits to the city, usually not a good experience for the nose, unless you’re on some of the former railway tracks, now converted into cycle tracks or cycling through the parks – a totally different experience from the fumes of the main roads and the stinks of the factories.

And of course there are the personal smells, but maybe that’s for another time?

So there’s all this and so much more – I’m sure you’ll all have your favourites.

Painful meander – 2 falls and a submission

Not quite sunset yet

Not quite sunset yet

I usually try to limit me posts to one a week at most, but . . . . .

It was my second ride after 2 weeks of coughing, spluttering and all sorts of things I wouldn’t inflict on my readers. Spent part of the morning fitting new tyres for the winter – Vredestein Fortezza Senso All Weather Anth/Red 700x25mm. The bike was clean, all the oily bits were attended to, cold weather clothing on & camera strung round my neck. So I was ready to go.

First, up into the foothills, with a few nice climbs as a warm up. I approached Starvation Brae, a steep climb near Spott, but didn’t feel up to it having been up a 17%+ slope (according to Strava) already. So I decided to potter on down the hill & take a meander east of Dunbar. On the way I saw a pal, caught up with her on her lovely pink bike & we  pottered on together, gossiping, to the coast. I left her to meet her man there & carried on to the lighthouse, intending to maybe carry on along the coast.

At the lighthouse I negotiated my way on the narrow trail past a rock and at about 0.005 mph got it wrong, stopped & with feet firmly in cleats crashed to the grassy ground. Oh %$£@*&%?/$$!!. I was shaken and stirred quite a bit, but retrieved myself & the bike for a breather.

The bike recovering from the trauma!

The bike recovering from the trauma!

So along the coast I went, but it was too rough for a road bike (and me) so I turned back & set off for Dunbar. The sun was getting lower & it was getting a wee bit colder, but the sea looked great, so I headed round the harbour, up the wee twisty path round the swimming pool, and then along the cliff top path – not a good place to slide!

A dodgy ride?

A dodgy ride?

So easy back then? Down the hill and along the fairly newish cycle/walk way to the Sea Road. A couple of guys were ahead looking out to sea with binoculars, maybe studying the birds? I decided I would take to the grass to ride past them. It was wet & as I remounted the path I caught the wooden rail at the edge, got caught in it as in a tram line and made an undignified crunching fall onto the tarmac. The guys rushed up, but nothing was hurt much, just pride, ripped winter tights, bloody knee & bloody elbow plus the odd scrape elsewhere. It was a definite reminder of my human vulnerability. So apologies for interrupting their walk in such a fashion and a sore ride the few miles back home.

Luckily it is very, very, very rare that this sort of thing happens – but twice in one ride, a bit much?

The remains of Dunbar Castle and Harbour - look carefully you can see the saltire flying.

The remains of Dunbar Castle and the Harbour – look carefully you can see the saltire flying.

Tiny, tiny, tiny things

November, riding past a plastic sea covering the fields, North Berwick Law behind

November, riding past a plastic sea covering the fields, North Berwick Law behind

No I’m not writing about the effects of the seasonal cold on the ageing (or not so ageing) male’s parts, but bugs. Not the computery type of bugs, but germs, viruses etc., so small that they are quite invisible without resorting to the wonders of optics. Such a small, microscopic thing, but what a powerful influence on our lives at times.

I’ve been off the bike for almost two weeks, aching in body & head, sweating so much, coughing, bringing up phlegm (a great word if ever there was) and just generally fed up. Strangely enough, despite not riding or feeling up to doing much and still eating reasonably well I’ve lost weight – must be the body harnessing everything for the fight against illness.

So, I’ve been watching the fine autumn days go by, as well as the rainy, blowy ones. I’ve been unusually attentive to everyone’s blogs, so had some great reading. I’ve been looking at friends’ and contacts’ Strava recorded rides, noting their PRs, giving kudos and missing out on a few group rides.

At last I slept all night & am feeling the possibility of a wee daunder on two wheels again. The bike has been cleaned & is waiting. New 700×25 tyres have been ordered, new cheap Chinese powerful lights have arrived for occasional night rides and I’m starting to improve in health, if not in vitality.

So what will my first ride be? Who knows, certainly not I? It will depend on the weather, the wind, how strong I’m feeling (or how weak) and who I’m with that trip.

All I know is I’m looking forward to ridding myself of those tiny, tiny, tiny things and being back out on that road again despite the autumn chills. And it’s back above 5 degrees again.