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.
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.
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.)