Yesterday (Saturday) I took Major Tom to Aston and back. Tom’s really not a great bike to commute into town on, that’s for sure. It’s the many little stops that kill you, and all the places where you MAY need to stop. There’s fewer when you’re riding on the road, but there’s still traffic lights. I did ride him into town yesterday morning, then went out around the Isabel trail home, essentially as an easy 5 mile test ride before my trip to Aston. I’ve tightened up the friction shifters and they work fine now. They’re perhaps a little on the stiff side, but the main thing is I can trust them to hold the right gear. To help matters I’ve got in the habit of storing Tom in the highest gear, so that both cables are unstressed.
It’s curious that I’ve got into the habit of always wearing a helmet when I ride one bike, but never wearing one on the other. It just doesn’t feel right wearing a helmet on a three-speed, but on the racing bike I don’t feel safe without. I think it’s largely down to braking stability, since I could propel myself over Tom’s bars on braking alone, but couldn’t do the same on Crichton as the weight bias is much, much further rearward. There’s also less of an inclination to take small risks on a hub-geared bike, since you know when you stop you can still change the gear. Not so with derallieurs, especially with downtube shifters, and after a while one can be tempted to do silly things to avoid any but the most necessary stops. It’s a very subtle effect that it has on your riding behaviours, but I’ve definitely noticed it.
After seeing Frome safely across the line in the penultimate stage of the tour, I prepared to set off for Aston. I’ve watched quite a lot of this year’s tour, in part because I’ve got a colleague at work who has been talking about it all the time. The great thing about watching cycling is that if you’ve ever riden a bike you can start to imagine the sensations the riders are experiencing. One thing I’m really jealous of is the team cars following with spare tyres to slot straight in when punctures strike. So, so jealous.
Today I was in the full regalia – black padded Lycra tights, plain red long-sleeve cycling shirt, a Brooklyn cycling cap, helmet, and black trainers which look vaguely like old-fashioned cycling shoes. I also installed the original clips on my pedals, with some brand new red leather straps. I either looked the business or an absolute tool, depending on your point of view. I tend towards the latter view, but can’t deny it is an order of magnitude more comfortable. In about an hour and a half of riding I think I only saw one person actually laughing at me, a young woman walking her dog. To be fair though, I wasn’t the one dragging a small furry animal about in order to watch it defecate and pick up its excrement…
The ride up to join Marston Lane is a bit fiddly and quite busy, again it’s a damn sight simpler on a three-speed. I now have a lot more confident about changing gear, and overall I’m feeling much more in control of the bike. It’s always a nice moment when I finally get on to the lane, which is about halfway from my house to Aston. From there I was just cruising along, and I got into a nice rhythm, changing gear as required to hold cadence pretty steady. Downhill I was practising a nice low aero posture, and I’m pretty sure now that there’s no significant fit issues with the bike. The saddle’s been moved back, but that’s only affecting where I sit on the saddle, not my position in relation to the rest of the bike. I did get a bit of soreness gradually setting in but that’s just lack of saddle time.
As I got closer to Aston I closed in on a couple of cyclists ( I only saw two cars on the lanes, one going out and one coming back) with one a somewhat elderly looking lady with panniers on her bike, the other a late middle-aged man in Lance Armstrong shorts. He was continually pushing the lady up the hill every time she threatened to stop. I held back a bit until the lane widened out a bit more, then exchanged a cheery hello as I rode past. I got to Aston and stopped for a quick drink from my bidon, and about five minutes later the same guy rode past. I saw a couple of other cyclists on the way back. Now that the sun’s coming out to play Stafford seems to be teeming with cyclists.
I probably stopped for ten minutes or so, then headed straight back. It was almost a disappointment to get to the end of that lovely lane so soon. I came back in along Common Road, getting some decent speed up freewheeling downhill. I’d normally pick up the Isabel Trail but tried my luck on the road instead. Turning back on to the Marston Road I found myself heading for a nasty pothole, and executed a rather effective little bunny hop! After that it was a fairly standard run home. 23 miles in the day!
Today I did feel a little drained but still just about managed to knock out a 10.8 mile run on Crichton. In three days I’ve done about 45 miles, and now I’m just a bit over 25 miles from the target… I’m also rather tired though.