Tag Archives: Slow

Gore, Guts and Glory

It’s been an interesting(?) couple of weeks for me. Started off just over 2 weeks ago.

I had been looking forward to doing the 80 mile ‘Tour of Tweeddale’ Sportive in the Scottish Borders, one I’ve managed every year since it started 4 years ago.

But, on the Sunday before, I was out with the local Haddington Club. Going up hill I suddenly thought, back off, I’m getting too close. Next moment I touched tyres with Terry in front, wobbled to the left, straightened up thinking I’d got away with it. Terry slowed down and I came back into his wheel from the other side – tarmac crunching time. He said later he had slowed down to look how the back of the group was doing, ah well.

I got up a bit shook up, assessed the damage to me and the bike, got back on and completed the run.

My knee looked a mess & a scraped shoulder didn’t help, but it was all superficial. The painful damage was a staved finger which made changing gear and braking awkward. But it looked like I’d be OK for the next week’s event.

Ouch!

Ouch!

Ouch Again!

Ouch Again!

So, after a week of healing I was at the start line again. 82 miles and over 4,000 feet of climbing to go. The three desperadoes had teamed up again. It was cold at the beginning, 3°, but rose up to a lovely 20° with hardly a cloud as the day slipped past. Ronnie had a puncture before we began then 15 miles out another. Once mended we set off again and another flat. This one was sorted and we headed for “The Wall of Talla”, a local test piece. Ramping over 20% it wasn’t too bad this year as a tail wind helped us over, or maybe I was fitter (or had lost weight gouging lumps out of my knee?).

Approaching the 'Wall of Talla'

Approaching the ‘Wall of Talla’

The 20% section

The 20% section

Another ramp up

Another ramp up

Then it was over and onwards, seeming to stop at every temporary road works traffic light on the way.

The soup awaits!

The soup awaits!

Yet another of the road works

Yet another of the road works

We reached the River Tweed and started up the last 10 miles into a crazy head wind. But we were stopped again, this time by the police as 150 horses were coming down the road. The Selkirk Riding was holding a charity event so we were held up for a wee while, then continued, dodging horse poo, wide horse boxes on a narrow road and tractors blocking the road when pulling out from fields. So it was a gentle procession to the finish. Despite having a reasonable moving time, our overall was an hour slower, with only one planned short stop. Still a great event with the usual sun and some familiar faces and good chat with others.

Then 3 days later the Tour of Britain came through the area, with a King of the Mountains section on one of our local ascents. So we had to be there. Up early to get a good spot, packed 2 cameras, tripod and a sportscam and lots of warm clothes too. Hard work getting up the steep bit of the climb at 17% with all the gear though.

Adder by the roadside on the way up

Adder by the roadside on the way up

Got my site, but there was a chill wind blowing down the hill. Cycling buddies started to arrive and we all gradually chilled down, me too despite a down jacket, gloves, arm warmers, leg warmers etc.

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

The hill filled up with folk and I set up my tripod with the sportscam low down on the far side of the road and then took pics of the various folk coming up the hill.

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

The crowds gather

The crowds gather

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

The crowds gather

The crowds gather

The police motorbikes and official race cars arrived, zooming at what seemed crazy speeds up the hill through the crowds. A real buzz was in the air.

Roaring up

Roaring up

Roaring up

Roaring up

Then way off down the hill an armada of cars & motorbikes with lights blazing were to be seen in the distance. The race was for the King of the Mountains was on its way. A small breakaway group hove into view, with still a bit to go to reach us.

The leaders appear

The leaders appear

Quite a bit further back was the peloton.

The peloton in the distance

The peloton in the distance

TofB00020

Then the leaders were rounding the bend below us. What a noise from the crowd. The riders were up on the pedals and going for it, with still quite a bit of the hill above us still to climb.

The leaders come through

The leaders come through

The watchers became a bit quieter, wait for the main bunch. Suddenly a roar went up from below and round the bend they came, powering up the hill.

The leaders arriveThe peloton arrives

PowerPower

The Peleton arrives

The Peleton climbing hard

TofB00003 TofB00004

Cav comes through

Cav comes through

Sir Brad in the pack

Sir Brad in the pack

After a crescendo of noise, including a barking dog, the peloton were past us and away.
I wasn’t sure if I’d got any good photos as my fingers were like wooden sausages with no feeling at all, time would tell.
All the multitude of team cars, motorbikes etc. came streaming past, followed by an Asda van, which almost got the loudest cheer of the day.
Gradually the crowd dispersed and the event was over for us. I decided to continue over the hills, the long way home. It took me at least 5 miles of enthusiastic peddling before I had warmed up enough to cast off some layers.
Later that night I watched the round up of the event, and there I was a crouching gnomic figure watching the riders pass through.Spot the Gnome!Spot the Gnome!
So that was it, but for one last thing.
I was out with the North Berwick crew on Sunday, but just Johnny & I turned up. We decided to climb local hills as he is doing one of the biggest bike climbs in the world. It’s in Columbia, 50 miles long and over 10,000 feet of ascent. On the way round he was behind me, touched my wheel but I accelerated off and all was OK luckily. Then right near the end we came to a junction. I stopped, but Johnny’s concentration had lapsed. He braked hard, hit me on the bum and somersaulted over the handlebars beside me, landing in the road ahead but managing not to get flattened by a passing car. He picked himself up gingerly, but was basically OK apart from the odd scraps and minor bleeding. He’s a doctor though so he could heal himself I suppose?

Anyway out of my circle of cycling pals four of us have come to grief in the last 3 weeks, so go carefully out there, we’ll try to do the same!

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The Cyclists’ Ephemera? plus Community

Snow on the Lammermuirs, Central Scotland

Snow on the Lammermuirs, Central Scotland my local stomping ground

There are a series of events known as The Photographer’s Ephemeris. These are when the sun or moon line up in a particular way briefly to light up a landscape or scene. There are apps to show the direction of the light at times of the day at a particular location. I have one photograph I have tried to get of the moonlight reflecting off a bay towards a local hill. So far, no joy, too cloudy or the moon was not quite right, I’ve seen it a couple of times, but didn’t have a camera with me that would do it justice.

Anyways, I think there is also an ephemeris for cyclists. Those moments with elements which come together fleetingly to bring delight or joy.

Recent ones have been turning a corner on a cold sunlight winter morning to see a fresh white ribbon of frost stretching away from me. Oh oh!! But on regardless – and that frost was so new it was full of grip, even on my road bike. I crunched up that road with a broad smile delighting in the unexpected pleasure.

Another was passing 3 buzzards within a mile of each other on the wall or fence beside the road. They each gazed at me unconcerned without even ruffling their feathers. Then just a wee bit further a hare raced along the road in front of me for a while to be followed by an iridescent pheasant strutting it’s stuff.

This morning, going to meet the Sunday group I sometimes ride with, I found myself pushing up the hills easily once again with a real grin of pleasure. In the village I had been unaware of the wind, but it was gently giving me a wee push from the rear.

So these little bursts of good feeling are sometimes the highlight of a ride.

Another of the highlights in my life are the communal activities of the area. I am part of a drama group for which I’ve acted, directed, produced plus plenty of backstage or technical stuff. I also help with the local community cinema. We put on a couple of films every month, often doing special things to go with the film. The latest film was ‘The Lunchbox’, a delightful Indian film. So we dressed the Community Hall with exotic stuff (exotic to us that is), served Bombay Mix, spicy popcorn and onion bhajis. It went down well with the beer! There’s loads of other stuff happening as well.

The other activity for our community is a cycling group originally started by a bunch of retired folk but it seems to be growing. We meet every Tuesday do between 30 and 40 miles and a coffee stop is usually obligatory. This is a very social ride with plenty of chat en route and occasional forays to further afield. This year it is going to be Mallorca. As well as this group there are a couple of others on a Sunday I alternate between. Once again, there is usually some good chat, though only one stops for a brew. The other has a fast & slow group, splitting half way through the ride. If the split is at a point where it is mainly downhill or flattish I’ll try & hang onto the fast group if I’m feeling good, otherwise it’s the slower bunch (still no slouches) for me.

So plenty of variety and lots of the spice of life.

The Photographer's Ephemeris

The Photographer’s Ephemeris

What Do You See?

A wet, chilly miserable day near Kinross

A wet, chilly miserable day near Kinross

My rides vary as we have such different terrain here. Keep to the coastal strip and the ground is undulating, though still with a few sharp hills. Head south and you climb up to the moorland with a lot of steep hills and ascents.

Just a wee local hill

Just a wee local hill – Lothian Edge behind

Then there’s the weather, varies daily from thick haar (smist) floating in from the North Sea, sunshine, gales, calm, clouds, rain, hail, snow – we do have a somewhat variable climate.

There’s also who you are cycling with, solo, with a bunch of friends (coffee stop mandatory), with the ‘Young Thrusters’ wheeling along at a pace that sends my heart rate into orbit.

A flock of swans in a local field with the LAmmermuir hills behind

A flock of swans in a local field with the LAmmermuir hills behind

So, do you keep your head down, do you sit up and look around or just mix and match? I’m usually the latter, my cycling aim is enjoyment, but sometimes that might be the fun of testing myself or screaming down one of our fantastic descents. Other times it’s with a bunch of cycling pals, riding beside each other & chewing the fat, gossiping or discussing the meaning of life. Some times I stop to look at a sunset, what’s scurrying in the hedge row, or watch an adder snaking across the road. Or at times I dangle the camera from my neck and go deliberately to look, photograph or film.

Riding back home, crunchty, crunchety.

Riding back home, crunchty, crunchety.

Some of the places I’ve cycled have been just amazing, especially one’s just around the corner if you don’t take them for granted.

So do you hang over the handlebars, watching the bike a few centimetres in front, do you hang loose or are you just a mixture like me?

Just a couple of miles from our village

Just a couple of miles from our village

A dramatic local castle above the sea

A dramatic local castle above the sea

Mid ride rest beside the loch

Mid ride rest beside the loch

Life’s illusions 2 and pet hates

Shadows on the beach

Shadows on the beach

I finally succumbed. I’ve gone totally metric.

Most of my cycling pals talk in kilometres and metres so I’ve reset my Garmin to do the same.

So do I feel faster cycling at 81.271872 kmph rather than 50.5 mph? Do I feel I’ve climbed less if I wander up the hills for 616 metres rather than 2020 feet 113132 inches? If anything the reverse. I seem to spend my time trying to convert in my head rather than just going with the new. I’m sure that this will pass and I’ll be kilometreing with the best. Gosh, it’s hell being a geek!

Another illusion is the feeling of improving. Having been improving again on the bike, suddenly yesterday it all caved in. My legs became sticks of jelly on the hills, though I was OK on the flats & downhills – as fast as ever. Most of my cycling pals all speed off up the way as I painfully rose up the ascent. And why? Haven’t a clue, maybe it’ll be better today?

Finally pet hates, I have one main one. “To die for”. Why does this irk me so? I’m not really sure. What I am sure is that there may well be things worth dying for but a hat, a pair of cycing shoes, a dress, tickets to see someone perform? The folk using this phrase would certainly not give up their lives for these. Now “To live for”, that’s a different matter altogether.

Give me my bike back

Near Platrand, South Africa

Near Platrand, South Africa

I want my bike back

Maybe South Africa doesn’t want me to cycle? And I want my bike back?

Staying with my step granddaughter here, gorgeous weather mostly, but . . . .

The only bike is an old heavy mountain bike. Only three gears working on the back cassette and they keep slipping. Three on the front, but squealing and complaining, plus desperately hard to change up. Is it worth trying to adjust, probably not as just an hour on the bike is enough anyway and I could make it worse

On the first ride out no pump to be found to blow up the tyre so a visit to the local garage. On the second ride out I discovered the kids had been practising skid stops so the tyre was well worn in places. About 2 miles from the house the tyre suddenly started bumping and then exploded, causing the guys at the building site next to me to gaze in astonishment. Especially as I’m sure a fossil like me in Lycra is a rare sight here. The cause, a big rip in the tyre. So off to the bike shop & had a tubeless tyre fitted.

Next ride out OK except I stopped for a pee on a dirt road up into the hills and I managed to puncture myself on a vicious thorn tree.

Next less than a mile from the end of a ride the new tyre suddenly slipped off the rim, luckily I was going slow at the time. There was no wire bead on it!!! Ah well.

So what conclusions? The cycling here is interesting! Folk seem friendly with lots of waves and cheery helloes. The way of life scenery is so different with the Drakensberg mountains in the background behind the savannah. The motorists are mainly very accommodating, and the roads excellent. Makes me yearn for my Specialized road bike instead of trundling along at 10 mph.

But I’m still so grateful I’ve been able to get out! The world seems so different on a bicycle.