Monthly Archives: July 2009

Shaved Legs

So I shaved my legs.  I had to.  I needed to feel like a cyclist.  I know.  Feeling like a cyclist can be achieved other ways.  Ingesting the contents of the medicine cupboard, for example.  Oh, I jest.  No, the reason I needed to feel like a cyclist if because I was going to race.  Now, the best preparation for racing is training, and careful planning and discipline regarding your sleeping patterns and food.  Everyone knows this.  However, we also know that this isn’t always possible.  Try being ill in bed for the time you set aside to train.  Try being delayed at airports so that sleep is just a distant wish and getting to bed at a reasonable time is out of the question.  Try having to eat junk food in an airport as a result.  None of these things were actually preparing me in any way that would actually give a slight advantage.  Now realising this, I did the only thing left that I could think of to demonstrate my dedication to the cause.  I shaved my legs.

The race in question was Bontrager Twentyfour12, in Newnham Park, Plymouth.  Back in 1994 I had watched Johnny Tomac, David Baker, Barry Clarke, and the whole ‘Grundig’ World Cup crew race here.  It was now my turn.  Only…. It wasn’t.  I was stuck 15miles from home on a closed motorway going nowhere.  Getting there for the start of the 24hr period was out of the question.  Luckily I had planned with Rory from USE to ride duo for the ‘Torch Bearer 12hr’ starting at midnight.  I had wanted to be there to see Sally Bigham start though, not to mention Trevor doing 24hr solo.

Once racing it went well.  I felt pretty good despite piss poor preparation.  I also remembered just how much fun riding in the dark could be.  Rory was flying too.  Admittedly, he has been a better athlete than I ever have, but his lap times were giving me something to live up to.  I had to push to keep us in the game.

Endurance racing through the night is a strange old thing.  I don’t know if you can like it.  At the time, there is a little voice saying softly and menacingly in my head “you know, you don’t have to do this.  This is silly.  Go to sleep”, on the other hand, you get in after a lap and want to do the next one.  It is like a reverse drug or something.

The events themselves do the best to be a little surreal too.  From the jazz singer belting out the songs in the arena at 2.30am, to the full on disco with smoke machine and lazer in the furthest part of the forest.  It makes you raise a wry smile.

The course was great.  I mean really really good.  Really good for a days ride through the woods.  Possibly less well suited, if we are being honest, to 24 hour racing.  The technical sections were pretty technical, and there was little respite throughout the lap in which to recover.  The singletrack though… it was all worth it for the singletrack.

Back to those technical sections….. well, the effect of 2500 people riding on a course doing laps is that anything that might be slippery will be polished by skidding tyres and become like glass.  Tiredness also sets in, and as daylight comes, there is a little thing telling you that you should be going faster.  That is when it happened.  On my fourth lap, in the rooty section something went wrong.  The bike suddenly stopped moving forward and I was thrown over the bars.  I landed on my face and head, smashing my helmet and giving me a mouth full of mud.  The high pitched ‘you’ve been hit hard in the face’ sound rang in my ears.  My nose must be bleeding.  I must have lost teeth.  I will certainly have two black eyes.  Will I be able to ride back to the arena?

I decided to take five mins at the side of the course to gather my thoughts.  Not that “fuck” really needs much gathering in the thought process.  My knees hurt, and my face did.  Grab the water bottle and wash yourself off a bit, was the only thought going through my head now.

Most of it was mud.  Some of it, on my knees, was blood.  But most was just mud.  My teeth were all in my mouth and fine.  Vision was okay.  Helmet, well, muddy, but appeared all right.  Bike, okay.  I got on and gingerly rode back to the arena.

Rory was there, waiting….  “You know what bud, I think it is over for me.  I landed on my head.”

“Go and see first aid, I’ll be back in a bit”.

The helmet was smashed, cracked in a couple of places and clearly having taken a knock with compression visible too.  There were no other injuries, and I was patched up.  My neck ached, so I called it a day.  I became a spectator, and that was almost as good.

Sometimes its nice when you can recognise some of yourself in someone else.  Trevor, riding around there with the gritty determination that I now lack in my riding, reminded me of how I used to be.  He was clearly pushing things farther than he had before and was in a trance like state.  He knew that he just had to hold it up to take third.  He did, and everyone, all of the crew and myself were delighted for him.  It was a great ride, and he deserved the place up there on the podium,

That afternoon I drove back to my parents place to shower and eat.  There, pealing the dressings off, I couldn’t help but think how much more it would have hurt if I was ripping hairs out too.  My preparation had paid off after all.

Denmark for a day

I am in Denmark at the moment visiting our new distributor. I find Denmark to be an interesting place, and the Danes too. It is a bike mad country, but bike are utilities for most. Our products are under-represented here which is something I want to address. I think I have found what I am looking for though. That is passionate, honest people who have good brands and ambition.

Flying completely in the face of this ‘utalitarian’ attitude to bikes however if their acceptance into common culture. Today I am in Aarhus. So is the tour of Denmark. It is good combine these things. It’s all work. Honest.

Same singletrack, just faster

Rode again last night. It is so hot and humid here at the moment. 28 degrees feeling more like 40 degrees. Just hit pretty much the same trials and rode with one of our designers. Such good fun.

Today I need to get ready to fly back to the UK. I need to pack the bike to fly with and get some stuff together for a bit of a give away at the Bontrager TwentyfourTwelve. I will be riding with Rory from USE in a two man team for the 12 hour race. I am hoping that the weather holds off!

Anyone need new cleats? Come and see Ergon.

Singletrack

Is there anything as good on this earth as a good clear stretch of singletrack? Something that twists and turns like a roller coaster. Something that requires your attention and faith to do it fast. Something that will be spoilt by too much braking, and disasterous with too little. Something with points where your head is screaming ‘slow down’ but you know that a little faith and a good line may carry you through faster and better than you ever imagined. Is there anything better?

Dusseldorf, riding and thinking

Thursday after work I finally got on a bike again. It had been a while because of illness, and then being back in Germany moving into my new (and tiny) apartment. Then there was the damage done to my car by a bit of road debris on Wednesday, reporting that to the (disinterested) police. Thursday I rode to work. Together with a colleague, we had decided that we would ride in, then home, then put in some time after work. It was a good call, especially as a different guy at work had managed to collect all of the parts for a bike to build his first ‘proper’ one. eBay had provided him with pretty much everything that he needed, and an XTR equipped hardtail, with a very grinny owner road back with us, having finished the assembly that day.

Our route home was 50% offroad. Just farm tracks really, and a couple of paths. Just about as hard as you want to go on a brand new bike. He headed home and the other friend and myself headed to the other side of the Rhine to where we live in Koblenz, and headed into the hills for a spot of further mountain biking.. The loop was 25 miles, with 500m of climbing. It was boiling hot and a great ride in alpine-esque scenery. Added to the 15 miles of commuting, and it was a good days cycling.

Friday it pissed it down in the morning, and so I drove in. The evening was going to involve driving to Dusseldorf to visit a one of my best friends and loveliest people in the whole wide world, who lives there. We were at university together, and she enter became a member of my ‘superleague’ of trusted friends very quickly. Over the years we have kept in touch, despite the international nature of our lives (she lived in Spain for a year, is half Irish, half German, studied in England, then worked in Munich and is off to Madrid to return to studies soon). Seeing her home where her parents brought her up is a real privalage, and meeting her whole family, was also great. It was so nice to be made to feel so welcome. It is certainly a good move on my part to have consciously decided to make more of my time here in Germany,, visiting more people and taking fewer things for granted.

Speaking of which, I have just watched Rich, Famous and Homeless on the BBC iPlayer. If you can find it on YouTube or something, it is a real eye opener. Part of the conversation this weekend was actually about how good our lives are, and how although I think we have all suffered with feeling lost and desperate at some point or another in life (I know that I have), that comparatively all of us are very spoilt and have a wealth of opportunity. It is something that I don’t want to forget quickly.

Civil society

There are some things in German culture that I will never understand. Cigarette advertising is one such thing. Why? Well in the UK this is just a distant memory. My childhood, with Silk Cut adverts. Don’t even get me started on the price. Of course, everyone to there own, but seriously?

Back in Germany

I keep forgetting to write here about what is going on with me. Well I am back in Germany at the moment, and I have an apartment. It is small, and cooking facilities are somewhat basic (as is the kitchen) but it is my own four walls. This is clearly a step forward and, as the sun is shining that also makes me happy.

Talking to The Pretty One on the phone, it appears that the bike shed, dubbed The Armoury (security has been taken fairly seriously) was a great addition in London. Her two days off this week have been used well, and she is becoming a bit of a cyclist. Having the bikes there of course is key to this. Apparently my Giro Atmos, and Team kit is good stuff (who would have thought) and her enjoyment has benefitted from it.

Tonight I will hit the trails. It is the first time riding in about 10 days. I took last week off work to ride and watch the Tour de France on TV, but was struck down and bed ridden for the week with something that may well have been Swine Flu. A normal cold it was not.

Of course, this doesn’t help me for the up-coming event (I will be riding for 6 hours) which I had planned to train for during my time off. I am hoping that my riding partner isn’t taking it as seriously.

I will try to take a couple of shots later on the bike to jazz it up a bit.