As in retrospect seemed inevitable, my cycling in the last couple of Saturdays has been interrupted by being called up to play cricket. I did manage to top 70 miles last week, but couldn’t do the planned 20 mile trip as cricket’s a very long game that gobbles up masses of time – matches in our league can last up to six hours, and when you add on travel times, the pint or two afterwards and the time spent sorting one’s bag out, you’ve lost about a quarter of the weekend.
Add on another 40 miles this week and I’ve already topped June’s total with half of July left. Yesterday my cricket match was somewhat curtailed by an epic batting collapse, from 18 for 2 to 23 all out, with my contribution being a rather comfortable 2 not out. As such we were all done in less than an hour and a half, and while I’d sooner our game had lasted a bit longer it did give me an opportunity for a ride afterwards. So I took Major Tom out down the Marston Road.
I’ve obtained for myself some rather more appropriate cycling clothes, including some padding for my rear. I’m really not comfortable wearing it though, I feel like such an idiot! I was all dressed up and ready to go and had a sudden attack of shyness. “Nope, no good. I’m going to have to wear some trousers over the top!” Just a matter of time I’m sure, but the padding does make quite a difference to the comfort of the bike. One issue I’ve fixed was that the left-hand pedal was siezed up a bit, which may explain why the bike as a whole felt so energy-sapping to ride.
It was lovely weather as I headed out onto the country lanes, and it was great to ride the bike a decent distance uninterrupted by traffic lights etc. Most of my comfort issues seemed to disappear, and it seems the faster you ride the more comfortable it gets. The saddle may have to move backwards an inch or so, but apart from that it was fine. As I suspected the long reach of the handlebars just needed some getting used to, and before long I was quite enjoying bending right over as aero as I could. It’s mainly about knowing one won’t have to come to a stop any time soon.
I’m still getting used to the feel of the steering, very light and rather nervous, which does pose some problems when one has to reach down to change gear. I imagine it’s a very different skill to riding an STI-equipped bike, and I made some progress in learning how to plan when to shift, and when to just bludgeon my way up a small hill in the wrong gear. I’m having the odd issue with the rear derallieur sometimes refusing to stick where I put it, and every know and then it’ll ride the chain over the top of the sprockets effectively giving me neutral. I think it’s part adjustment and part my own inexperience, so I just need to keep riding and learn what’s going wrong. The high and low stops are set right so there’s no risk of anything dangerous going on.
Overall though it was a lovely ride, and it feels as if I finally ‘got’ what this bike is about. At one point I was really pressing on, gritting my teeth like Bernard Hinault (I’m reading a book about his rivalry with Greg LeMond at the moment) and the bike felt so utterly different. It just seemed to come alive, and I was finally able to maintain a respectable speed. Some of my muscles need to get used to operating in slightly different positions, but the position on the bike feels comfortable now I’m a bit more used to it. All that remains is to put the clips back on and get over my Lycra squeamishness, and I’ll be good to go!
The scenery was, as always, gorgeous. You’ve heard of the land of milk and honey, well Staffordshire is the land of beef and strawberries. I stopped at the crossroads I’d previously stopped Crichton at and surveyed the scene as I had a drink. I decided to turn back at that point as I didn’t really have the time and energy to get all the way to Aston and back, but it was enough to see a very different side to Major Tom. Eroica here we come!