This is Hardcore

We’ll I’ve had something of a busy weekend – the weather has been distinctly shitty but I’ve been riding anyway. In doing so Major Tom and myself have been getting very, very dirty…

On Saturday I didn’t have my usual morning appointment so after a very welcome lie-in I set to work giving a Major Tom a bit of TLC in the form of a bit of attention to the brakes as well as cleaning the rims and degreasing and re-oiling the drivetrain. You’ll note this was before I went out. 

I decided to try out the lane to a village called Salt, which is where you get to if you turn left rather than right on the road to Aston Marina. I was wearing the full regalia, Lycra everything and tracksuit bottoms to keep my legs warm – the temperature’s still single digits centigrade. The brakes had stopped squealing and the bike was working pretty well, but it wasn’t long before the rims were filthy again and starting to make that horrid grinding noise when I braked. At least it wasn’t actually raining – I was lucky to find a three-hour window where it held off.

It was nice to see the lane to Marston again, it was my first trip of the year that way. The surface hasn’t got any better though, and I did have to watch out for the odd pothole. Again the cars I encountered could be counted on one hand, which is what I really like about cycling that way. I got to the turning and went left, and the lane as far as Sandon Road is familiar to me. There’s lots of farms around so the roads are often covered in mud and dirt near the entrances, which gets carried to other parts of the road. I started reaching down to place my thumb on the seat-tube and the reach with my index finger to scoop the mud off the rear rim, alternating hands to clean each side, and this seemed to be quite effective, at least until I’d gone a mile or two further and the rims were dirty all over again…

I crossed over the Sandon Road and ventured out to Salt, where I found a nice old village church, next to a small triangle of grass with a bench. I sat on the bench and had a drink for a couple of minutes then set off again, back the way I’d come. At the turning I carried on straight towards Aston, but had to turn back after a couple of miles as the road was flooded. I thought it probably wasn’t deep enough to be a problem, but I felt I’d gone far enough and didn’t want to catch an invisible pothole. Back along the lanes I was regularly practising my rim-cleaning trick, and overall it was a pleasant ride despite all the mess. I watched a documentary about Amy Winehouse in the week so had my go-to karaoke song ‘Valerie’ stuck in my head for much of the ride.

As I headed back I calculated I was on for about 18 miles, so I tacked on a cheeky loop through Baswich which took me up to just over 22 miles. This is the furthest I’ve ridden without a significant break, so I was quite satisfied with that. I got home and washed the bike down, and also washed Crichton down while I was about it. Later on I went out for a big meal with my future in-laws, and I had quite an appetite!

Today I had myself all set to venture out again, and was about to place my rain jacket in my pocket when I saw the weather – steady light rain. Immediately I decided to just put the jacket on and dispensed with my glasses, which would have been useless after the first quarter of a mile anyway. I set off towards Aston, and it was a fairly uneventful ride out apart from the horrid weather. I could definitely feel an improvement in my fitness, being able to keep pressing up slight inclines to keep my speed up – I was rarely at less than 15mph. I rode through the flood (it was only about six inches deep) and made it to Stone Hockey Club, which is a few miles short of Aston. I stopped for a couple of minutes for a drink and set off back. Today’s mental music track was ‘This is Hardcore’ by Pulp

I was really trying to maintain a good speed, and also to keep my cadence a bit higher than normal. I’m aware that most of the time my cadence is pretty low, say 60-70, which is probably to do with riding a three-speed so much where often power is more important than speed. I was helped by a glitch in my rear derailleur which prevented my getting into my highest gear, though all the other gears were working fine. As I came back down Beaconside there were a few joggers out, probably practising for the Stafford Half-Marathon. One guy in particular caused the major drama of the day…

I’d reached the straight, mainly flat stretch where I often build up a fair amount of steam, and could see this guy jogging along in the distance. The cycle lane was on my left, the path on my right. He, however, was running straight down the middle along the white line that separates the two. I rang my bell, but he didn’t react, so I rang it again until I made out some earphone leads. Hmm. I could either slow to a crawl, or else find a way down either side, so I chose the latter option. Just as I got past him all hell broke loose…

Suddenly, I was aware of getting a giant fishtail on (and I mean a good 20-30 degrees sideways) as I hit some mud on the side of the path, and I really don’t know how I avoided wiping out, but I managed to right myself somehow on pure instinct as I certainly didn’t have time to think about it. This though had steered me towards the verge, so suddenly I had another massive slide to correct, every bit as bad as the first. Again, somehow, I retrieved the situation, and I carried on down the path having lost a fair bit of speed, yelling foul oaths at the jogger as I went. I imagine I made quite an alarming sight for him!

Afterwards I was in two minds about it, both concerned at the potential consequences of such an accident, and at the same time pretty chuffed with my rather masterful bike control. My balance has never been great on its own but give me a vehicle and I’m pretty sharp – my first car accident happened because my reflexes were a little too fast. My second car accident (not my fault) I recall an instinctive flooring of the throttle momentarily to pull the car straight to avoid hitting a house, which in retrospect was quite a clever bit of quick thinking. It’s good that, clearly, such instinctive reflexes extend to the bike too, though I’d rather not call on them too often!

Anyway, I got home covered in all manner of gunk, and immediately hit the shower. I’d done about 15 miles, which was pretty good considering the weather was so nasty. I don’t want rain to put me off longer rides because, we’ll, it does rain quite often in Britain and there’s every chance it might rain for my big ride in June, so I need to just man up and get on with it. I’ve done very nearly 50 miles this weekend, which brings me over 150 miles for January and gives me a little buffer against my schedule. 

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5 thoughts on “This is Hardcore

  1. Gotta love it, those first few times where you realize you really can handle a bike.

    My friends and I went out today and it was -7C with snow on the ground. It wasn’t all that great but it still beats riding a trainer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I remember last summer when it was baking hot for a couple of weeks, then one day it was tipping it down and I was about to put a waterproof on but then thought “nah, I’m just going to enjoy this…”

      Like

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