Tag Archives: bike

Ageing Disgracefully and Strange Encounters

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Now I am 6?

A couple of quotes to kick off:

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,

“And your hair has become very white;

And yet you incessantly stand on your head—

Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

Lewis Carroll

“But now I am Six,

I’m as clever as clever,

So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.”

A A Milne

Now I’m tucking into my 71st year on the planet (that I know of), I am ruminating a little more on life, the universe and everything.

So to kick off, a few downsides for me of the processes of getting old:

My little toenails – they’ve grown thick and distorted and so grow hard to clip and unsightly. As those who know me will let you know, I’m not generally a vain person but this one part of my body morphing into another state irks me a wee bit. The rest of my toes are just fine.

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That toenail!

My fingers are increasingly susceptible to the cold, making the most of any opportunity to turn into blocks of yellow numb woodenness. Luckily I’m aware of this tendency, so often I’ll overdress on the bike, wearing double gloves even in summer sometimes.

Forgetfulness – not because it happens, but is it a warning of dementia setting in? I think all this health publicity is getting to me.

Death – so many friends or folk I know seem to be getting life threatening illnesses or succumbing to them. I know this is bound to happen, but I seem to become more emotional as I age.

As a cyclist in Britain, this is probably inevitable – driving that endangers others or is just plain inconsiderate. My plan is to try for the cycling hour record for a 100 year old. I’ve got 30 years to go, providing I can stay alive and healthy. So if I’m knocked off my bike and injured or killed, that might well put paid to my plan, especially the latter. While cycling in Spain I was amazed at how wonderful the drivers were with cyclists, how can the common spitters of hate or disdain in the country be persuaded to think otherwise and respect others?

As a quick finale to this section, the tendency of some more youthful than I to ignore me or my opinions because I am older, a wee bit irritating  at times.

Oh, and I forgot – football, but that’s been an annoyance all my life.

And the benefits of growing older – loads and loads and loads, the joy of living, growing old disgracefully with other friends, not giving too much of a hoot about what others think and delighting in life. Also being grateful for still being able to do all the things I’m able to do.

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A recent moon

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Down at Dunbar Battery

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Flowers in the Battery

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Yes – another sunset

And now for:

Strange Encounters of the 3rd Kind?

I’ve had many odd encounters on my travels, white albino squirrels bouncing through the trees above me, running with a deer, a fox leading me up an alpine trail, another across the mountain tops across the winter snows.

Yesterday on a longer cycling trip, going slightly uphill under the trees, I felt something like a bundle of leaves with thorns in them drop down onto my neck. I looked back and a young buzzard was rising off my shoulders, much to my surprise. I could feel that the talons had penetrated. When I got back I realised it wasn’t too deep, but bathed & put stuff on. Not sure why? Probably guarding a nest?

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Crowded roads? – A distant cyclist ahead

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Before the bird – Borthwick Castle

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Before the bird – Chrichton Castle

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Talon marks

They say things come in threes? Well, the last one was cycling up a local steep hill when a van came round the corner at the top and drove onto the wrong side of the road and down towards me. I was looking at any way I could bail out when a car came up behind me. The van then went back to it’s own side of the road. I had my sports cam on and when I looked at the footage the van had no number plate, so the police couldn’t trace it. I posted the incident on youtube: https://youtu.be/PPVjYPPtS9k

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Coming over to my side of the road

 

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Getting closer – agh!

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Where could I have gone?

 

Then a week late, we had a table sale and heard a humming noise, looked up and a swarm of bees had arrived. Luckily they settled down above us. After and hour they flew off towards the river, came back for another hour then departed again.

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The bees arrive

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The swifts have a meal laid on

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Settling in

Life is never dull, hey?

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Infamy, Infamy, the Deer have Got it InForMe!! 🦌🦌🦌

For those not accustomed to British Humour, this is a misuse of a quote from the Carry On film ‘Carry on Cleo’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvs4bOMv5Xw.

It’s felt a bit like this locally. First the ice and snow, then the deer started leaping out in front of me.

I’ve started recording my rides with my sports cam and there’s been some interesting footage. It has also reminded me (as if I needed it?) how beautiful and exciting our wee part of the world is. On the downside it has also shown how inconsiderate some motorists can be. First the beauty bit: Ride6Jan 18-00003Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 19.50.56Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 19.53.03Ride19Jan 18-00001Ride19Jan 18-00002Didn’t go this way that day!!

Ride20Jan 18-00003Ride20Jan 18-00004Ride21Jan 18-00005Blizzard, worse than it looks here

Ride1Feb 18-00001A friendly smile

Ride2Jan 18-00004Ride05Feb 18-00002Ride05Feb 18-00004Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 16.00.30Now for a couple of exciting bits

Deer3 weeUp in the hills, 2 deer (looks better in a new window)Ride13Jan 18-00005

Deer2 weeJust out of the village 3 deer, just one crossing (looks better in a new window)Ride1Feb 18-00009

And some of the nasties

Ride13Jan 18-00003Not as bad as it looks

Ride18Jan 18-00002Why wait for oncoming cars – close too!

Ride18Jan 18-00003Yup, save a few seconds

Ride18Jan 18-00004Close again

Ride18Jan 18-00005Another can’t wait!!

Another Month Gone By

What an amazing year so far, not even the end of March and I’m almost up to 2,000 miles of mainly joyous cycling, plus a new bike to play with.

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Showing off again? Fat & mountain bike together.

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Above the estuary

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He’s behind you, somewhere

The last few days have been splendid, with that evil wind finally decreasing and the sun coming out to play more. I’ve even been cycling in shorts again, lounging in the outside chairs at the cafe stop and overheating some of the time!

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Cafe stops & bare legs in March!

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Mainly blue skies and sunshine as well

As usual, shortly after my birthday I cycled my birthday miles – 69. It was wild and windy, but I managed to find some shelter in the bunch for part of the time on the upwind section. Back down out of the hills and along the coast we flew and quite near home I had averaged 16.5 mph, but was still 10 miles short. So on down to Dunbar and then a wrong decision, back home via the hills and into the wind again solo, oh how the average plummeted! Ah well!

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Into my 70th year on earth

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Some of the gang

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The new machine

There’s been some great rides too, both solo and with companions.

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Climbing one of the steep ones

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The hill fort caption board (see photo above for a view from above)

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Over the tops

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The road is there somewhere

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An adder escaping into the heather

I bought a new bike for my birthday, as my other one was wearing out after much use & abuse over the last 9 years. I went over to Fife to collect it, planning to cycle home via the Forth Road Bridge and Edinburgh. The ride up to the bridge was pretty desperate, with wild, wild winds and gusts. When I got to the bridge it was closed to lorries, pedestrians and cyclists, so back into Inverkeithing, onto the train station and as I wheeled the bike onto the platform the train was pulling in, yippee. I secured my less new looking bike & settled down for a short journey over the Forth rail bridge to Dalmeny on the other side. Whilst purchasing a ticket I was told that the train didn’t stop there, so my cycle journey was shortened by getting off at the outskirts of Edinburgh.

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The new road bridge over the Forth, from the train, on the way out

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Forth Road Bridge closed because of the gale

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An unexpected train journey for the new bike

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Looking out to the Forth Estuary

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Whoops – discovered this fault when I got home, no wonder the front gear change was clunky!!

I went right through the centre of the city, dodging cars, buses, taxis and trams etc. Once back into East Lothian I flew along in a little calm bubble as I was going the same speed as the wind.

And how has the bike been? Magicke. It has front suspension, which is great on our dodgy roads, the handling is superb, the disc brakes brilliant and all the hidden cables etc. make it a joy to keep clean. I’ve had it now for over 300 miles and the only change was putting on my old Brookes saddle, I just didn’t get on with the Specialized one, despite tinkering with the adjustment. The suspension is sometimes a bit clunky at times but works well and makes a difference to my tender ageing parts.

On foot, there have been some gorgeous days walking as well, though we missed seeing a kingfisher by a minute or so the other day. Plenty of other flora and fauna to entertain though.

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Seen on our walks . . . .

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Another recent highlight was going to a talk by Grame Obree, former hour world champion amongst many other achievements. He was ‘pure brilliant’, outlining his background, successes, downsides and personal philosophy with humour and truthfulness. It was a very enlightening evening, enjoyed by everyone I spoke to.

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Examining “The Beastie” at Graeme Obree’s talk

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At Graeme Obree’s talk ‘The Beastie’, how he fits in I’ve little idea

So, now Spring is rize, hopefully fewer layers and some good longish rides await.

Since I wrote this (tempting fate?) I’ve been off the bike for a week, but the cough, stiffness and aches are diminishing so should be out soon.

Lang Time Away

It’s been quite a while since I posted. An event happened that has thrown me for a while. I’ve also been away to weddings, visits, swimming with newts, cycling etc.

The event that upset me was the death of a former colleague and sometime partner in skiing, mountaineering, climbing, canoeing etc. over the years.

He fell off a descending a 4,000 metre peak in the Alps, which I had also climbed some years back.  He was a well respected mountaineer, known over the world and was usually a very safe pair of hands in the hills. We taught Outdoor Education in similar schools in Edinburgh in areas of multiple deprivation so had much in common in our outlook on life and education.

His commemoration was packed, with folk outside, me included, listening on a loudspeaker relay.  It was very, very moving.

There was an irony which he would have loved. Des was a keen cyclist and the family had asked for a cortège to accompany him on his final journey. About 40 of us gathered at the undertakers, along with a police escort. The wickerwork coffin was to be carried on a cycle tandem with a side car type arrangement. When it was placed on top the tyre was flat. The undertakers didn’t have a pump. They asked us for one and out of all of us only two of us had one. As the undertakers finished pumping up the tyre, one of Edinburgh’s tourist buses stopped opposite with the banner Majestic Tours on the side. All in all a real send-off which Des would have really chuckled at.

I was very much affected by his death and miss seeing his posts of adventures round the world, online banter and very occasional meetings.

Life goes on – I think I’m getting to the age where folk will pass away more often but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Coming up at the weekend is the Tour of Tweeddale sportive. This is a lovely, laid back event in the Scottish Borders which I’ve taken part in for the last 5 years. The long route, which I’m doing is just over 100 miles this year, the forecast so far is reasonable, there are some some good hills and I’ll be together with some good companions. It looks like the usual superb day out, if a longish one.

Finally, as usual, some recent pics from our part of the country.

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Harvest time around the village

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The London train passes the former station

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Up in the hills, the coos & sheep

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One of our rougher hill roads, this is one of the better sections

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Up high in the Scottish Borders

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After the deluge – heading for Sunny Dunny (Dunbar)

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A wee coo at peace with the world, ignoring the cyclist passing

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On a local walk

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Fa’side Castle, a great sight on a ride

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Mending our old bridge, been there several hundred years already

Funny old Spring and bum cream

It’s been a pretty weird Spring this year, hot, cold, windy, still, rain, sun, snow. As I tap the rain is pelting down outside, but the sun is due late on today.

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Hairy gorse out for Spring

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Tulips in the sun

I was cycling up on the hills two days ago with snow around and the week before I was back in shorts a few times. But then variety is the spice of life?

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A 50 miler 2 weeks ago

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Johnny trying not to run me over (me lying on the road!)

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Climbing up Redstone Rigg 2 days ago

My ribs have mostly healed but a couple of weeks ago I forgot I was recovering. I’m involved with the local community cinema (Pix in the Stix). We were putting on ‘Bill’ for the kids film, a comedy about William Shakespeare – great if you haven’t seen it. The adult film was ‘The Lady in the Van’, another terrific one. While setting up for the shows I lifted over the speakers, fairly light and easy. Then I hoiked up the amp in its flight case. Big mistake, I felt something in my ribcage tug and knew I should not have done that! So I was set back a wee bit, but still out on the bike. It was the 25th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, so we decided to put on the film of Roger Waters, from the band, reflecting on this. He visited his grandfather’s grave from the first world war, and his father’s grave from the second world war, as well as giving a huge performance of The Wall. We also had a band playing, a younger member of Pix played some background music and I sang some old blues numbers. A brilliant night indeed, held in the old village hall at Tyninghame, which at one time was a bakehouse.

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Sound checks

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Setting up Pix in the Stix

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The band before ‘The Wall’

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Special cakes for the Pink Floyd night

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Aghghghghgh

I’ve had some good rides, as usual. I’m lucky as I relish variety in conditions. I’ve been up and down our local hills quite a bit. As regular followers know it’s steep round here, so I’ve needed to take it easyish as standing up peddling has caused discomfort or pain, till the last week or so. I look forward to going out with the groups I ride with, keeps me going pushing with folk a few decades younger than me. And there is good banter along the way or at the cafe too.

One of my favourite cafés is re-opening soon under new management. It’s going to be called The Lanterne Rouge, so it’s obviously going to give a huge welcome to cyclists. For those who are not into racing, the Lanterne Rouge was awarded to the rider who finishes the Tour de France in last place.

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Un Lanterne Rouge

Now the final bit, bum cream. As with all cycling things, eating, drinking, equipment, training etc. there are masses of opinions on what we should be doing and how, where, why etc. One of these is the more delicate parts of our anatomy which connect with the saddle. I am fairly scrupulous about spreading ‘chamois cream’ on my susceptable parts before a longer ride, but recently I forgot (or couldn’t be bothered – for want of a more appropriate word). One of these was an 85 mile jaunt to test bikes. Surprisingly I find few bad effects, so I’ve been experimenting a bit and it sometimes it makes a difference, others not. So I’ve reached totally no conclusion, not for the first time either.

So as ever a few extra pics for your delectation or otherwise:

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Up by the monument looking north to N Berwick Law and the Paps o’ Fife

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Subtle overshoes?

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Deep Spring ploughing locally

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Spring snow in the hills

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The climb ahead up to the tops, a mere 17%er

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At the top of ‘The Rigg’, warmer than it looks!

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Looking back over the Firth of Forth and the hills up north

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The Bass Rock below with the northern mountains behind

Nothing Much

Just felt like writing a bit. So here goes.

“Spring is sprung, the grass is riz” in the words of E.E. Cummings. So the weather has gone crazee, as ever. Mid April and snow, though just wee suggestions of it, but a dusting higher up. Before that I was down to 2 layers and hoping for shorts, that’s on the back burner again. Managing to get in the miles though, some warm, some cold, some dry, some wet and some very, very wet.

The first ride after the longish one was out with the Sunday crew, 51 miles in a whole slew of weather, but at least coffee & cake was on the menu.

After that it was much better, grinning like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, warm & dry once I’d climbed up into an inversion above the murk with lambs in the fields & skylarks yelling from above.

Then came our usual Tuesday ride  with the gang of FOSSILs (Fine Old Senior Souls In Lycra)  I ride with every week. Coffee stops and scones are just about compulsory. Forecast was not fine, but some were better than others. Half way round we were nearing the cafe, but cold & drouchit we passed on the stop and headed for home. So 32 wet, wet and chilly miles that took my gear a long while to dry out.

The last one was just gorgeous with the compensation of a glorious sunset, pheasants dotting about the place and a hare bounding up the road in front of me. If I wanted variety then living here gives it all.

Today was a wee bit different, nearby is a wake boarding centre, so we pottered down for a wee wander. As a bonus the local primroses were out in the woods and the bluebells just showing the mass of blue that is to come.

As ever a few pics:

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A steep hairpin

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Round & down

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Topping out

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Looking north, better get hame before the light goes

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Sunset with no rain or snow

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Cherry blossom in the sunset

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Fun at Foxlake

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Wakeboarding the jumps

 

Hard, hard: spondoolics worth of high tech, “Hold the Train”

The invite arrived in the electronic post, come and try out the new Specialized road bikes. Seemed churlish to refuse. But, it was at Knockhill race course about 50 miles away, ah well. So I requested a place – I could always get the train back if it all got too much.

The day dawned, the forecast was rubbish, windy with showers and heavy showers. But a simple thing like that wouldn’t stop me. So beans and egg to stoke up for lunch then away. The wind was awful, straight into it for mile after mile. I thought I’d get a wee bit of shelter through Edinburgh, but it was not to be. The wind was funnelling down the cycle ways, so aching legs and only half way there. I battled on, 3 drops of rain fell on me and I thought that’s it, some wetness to add ramp up any misery. Strangely enough my obstinacy gene kicked in and determination overcame any bad thoughts. So hey, on with the show, no more rain drops and the sun came out as I crossed the Forth Road Bridge, with the iconic rail bridge to one side and the building of the new road bridge to the other. At one point a ship crossed at an angle 300 feet below, a very strange feeling similar to when a train pulls away beside your carriage in a station and you feel that you’re going backwards.

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Forth Road Bridge – 300 foot down

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A wee rest & photo session

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A bad shot of the pillar for the newForth Road Bridge

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The old Victorian iconic Forth Rail Bridge

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Ships below

At least the wind was from the rear on the beam for the first time. That didn’t last as I climbed up and up to Knockhill (so well named!), the wind once more was angled towards me as well as sweeping down towards me. But I knew I was closing with my destination so no chance of feeling sorry for myself now.

I arrived to a seemingly deserted race course, with the scream of tuned race cars whizzing round the track. I was directed down a back door into the pits and spotted the Specialized team setting up racks for the bikes.

Enough – I needed a break. After 50 of the hardest miles I’ve ever done, into hard winds almost all the way, the cafe called. I signed in, went into the cafe and just wasn’t impressed. But a large coffee & chocolate muffin later and the legs had recovered slightly.

Then after a quick briefing it was back to the pits, and by now the racing cars had gone and an array of expensive Specialized bikes were on the racks tempting us nicely.

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Temptation

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More temptation

Despite my white beard and ragged looks, plus probably slightly staggering gait I was offered a pick of the crop. After all Bgddyjim had said, it had to be the Venge. What a bike, it exuded fast, fast, fast. It had the deep, deep wheels on it, so I was warned it might be temperamental in the wind. On with the pedals and after a couple of warnings I was off. It was lucky that they had put a chicane at the end of the straight to slow us down cause this just flew. There was a sharp bend at the bottom of the hill and I nearly overcooked it, but the handling was impeccable. Even on the Venge, the steep hill up meant I was way down in the gears, like everyone, as the wind was charging down towards us. We were all panting going up, but then for me it was a zoom down the straight, through the chicane and nailing the corner at the bottom this time. A wonderful bike but totally not for me. We have lots of small twisty country lanes, steep hills, mud, potholes, gravel etc. Even on the smoothish race track I could feel the bum massage would have been horrendous and as for submitting an expensive top notch machine to treatment like that – it would be doing it a total misservice. I can see why Bgddyjim loves this one, but twas not a choice I would make.

Next came the Tarmac, with disk brakes, once again a lovely ride, though not as sensitive as the Venge, but I felt once again a bit too stiff for comfort for my ageing banes!

Then I tried the Ruby, they didn’t have a Roubaix in my size, so this was the women’s version. It had disk brakes, electronic gears and a climbing pod so you could easily change gears going up hills on the bars. This I loved, with it’s Zertz inserts in the forks and forgiving geometry it just felt good, the gears were great and it felt perfect for our area. No slouch either!

So an hour shot past and I was ready for the trip home. Back down the hill it was magic, wind behind, sunshine, a bit of warmth, this was the biz! I retraced my route. Over the Forth Road Bridge and a pleasant chat with a cyclist going the same way, then shooting back into Edinburgh with the wind and sun behind me. I ruminated on my experience and concluded that my faithful Specialized Roubaix was fine for me for now, though it was good to try different stuff. The staff had bee so good as well, taking everything in their stride and being very knowledgeable but not at all pushy, superb.

I stopped to put my super Cree light on the bike and discovered somehow I’d picked up the charger instead of the light – how dumb?

At least I had my tiny emergency light I leave on the handlebar to flash my way through the town roads. It would be no good though once I got to the country roads. It was also getting cold. I was a wee bit (OK quite) tired by now as well, 50 miles of nasty headwinds earlier had taken it out of me. So off to Musselburgh station. As I turned on to the ramp down to the platform I saw all the passengers were piling out of the train & coming up the ramp towards me. I yelled to the train guard “Hold the train – HOLD THE TRAIN”. He acknowledged my strangled cry and I battled my way through the crowds and on to the train. Hurrah, made it, just as well the next one would have been an hour or two away. And how I thanked the guard when he came round for my ticket!

So 86 miles of cycling with over 4,500 feet of climbing, some of the hardest windward pushing I’ve done on a bike, racing round the track and trying to beat the dark.

Was it worth it – well aye!!!!

and . . . . . the ribs were fine as well as the white beard.

(As a postscript, I’ve also suggested to Specialized that our local race track at East Fortune would be a great place to hold the event, just over the hill and down. Not as challenging to get there, but that sounds good to me right now.)

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East Fortune next time – without the motorbikes?