Monthly Archives: June 2012

Most annoying roadside repair?

So to all the cyclists out there – what is the most annoying roadside repair?

Punctures? Not really a big deal, you should have everything with you to do that one easily enough.

Broken chain? Yes, this will ruin your day on the bike. Touch wood though, it has never happened to me on the road bike.

Bits falling off? Only your self to blame here, I’m afraid.

No, I think on a road bike, the most annoying thing is one which I had to do this week. Just before coming here (Ibiza) I replaced my bar tape and rewrapped my bars. I did this at home in Manchester, inside our apartment. The problem is, the apartment is about 20degrees inside. Fast forward to Ibiza, in he sun, and the bar tape heats up to about 40 degrees, the glue fails and it starts unravelling. Really annoying at the side of the road.

I think the most annoying repair ever.

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Ibiza

This is the first time for me. Clubland, Ibiza. Despite DJing when younger I’d never been here. I wasn’t that much of a hardcore clubber I suppose. The murky drug side of it all put me off too. I have never really been one for all that stuff.

Now, at the age of 32, and with TPO’s 30th in a matter of days, we decided to come for a bit of a mixed holiday. The Balearics for me is something I associate with cycling training camps. Majorca has some of the best roads and a climate that is favourable makes it precisely the type of place cyclists like to spend a week or two at the start of the season. A bit of searching on the Weight Weenies forum, and I was told that there was enough riding on Ibiza to fill a week too. In that time you could pretty much cover the whole island. I packed the bike into the (new) bike box, and we headed to the sun for 5days beech, cycling (me), running (TPO) and relaxing in the sun. This was followed by two nights in Ibiza town doing the party thing. Fortunately, I am not at work again until Monday 2nd, so I will have some time to recover.

Well lets just put it this way – the roads are awesome. Too twisty to be fast in a car, so locals seem to stay below 80km/h most of the time. I have ridden along country lanes, with the sun shimmering on irrigation tanks, a perfect mirror of the brilliant blue cloudless sky. I have seen farmers rebuilding a dry stone wall. I have seen the coastline, beaches, boats. I have seen hairpin bends, and the type of twisty yet smooth road descents where you go as fast as you dare, the tyres and your faith in your brakes being the only limiting factor – the mountains in the north really did give me what I was looking for, as the pass climbs from sea level to 270m in a very short distance. It was a case of selecting the granny gear and grinding. All of your effort going into climbing in autopilot mode, while the sweat of the 35degree heat glares down on you. I drank litres of fluid. Perhaps 4 – 5 litres a day. I got up at 7:00 to avoid the heat. I once more fell in love with my bike again.

It is true to say that traveling with a bike is a pain. You need to hire a car or get a larger taxi – you need to pack it properly and cross your fingers that nothing will happen. You need to be prepared for it to be destroyed. I ride a lot of bikes though, and honestly, there is nothing like riding your own one on the sort of roads you kid yourself you ride. The sort of roads which are the image in your head. The type of roads where Armstrong and Ullrich would have duelled. Yes, it isn’t the Alps or the Pyrenees and they certainly are on my list, but please don’t dismiss Ibiza if you have a week to spare. Particularly if your own pretty one is with you. The parties in the evening, riding in the morning and sleep all day is a sweet way to pass the time.

Just a word of warning. Do not burn the candles at both ends too much. It could be messy.

My rides were as follows:
45.3km 422m climbed
62.2km 802m climbed
81.4km 971m climbed
28.0km 245m climbed
85.2km 1072m climbed

So 302km with 3512m climbed. Not too bad, given this is a holiday and I went clubbing all night between the first and second ride!

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Emergency landing

Holiday time, and off to Ibiza. I decided that I was fed up of the summer which we were being inflicted with in Northern Europe. Cold, wet and simply unpleasant. I managed to talk The Pretty One into agreeing to my bringing the bike. A new bike box was purchased and an evening wasted trying to pack the bike.

The flights were booked on a budget airline. When traveling with a bike I always try to do the most direct routing. Jet2 was the airline selected. It all got off to a bad start with checking in the bike. Apparently there was a 20kg weight limit for sports equipment. Given that to book the bike onto the flight you have to phone their sales line (on a premium rate number – thieving tactics being fully deployed) you would have thought they would mention this. The box weighed in at 30kg, and they promptly requested 120gbp per flight for the box. Given that the charge for the box already paid was 70 for the round trip, my opinion of most budget airlines hasn’t changed. They are out to scam you at the first given opportunity. We should have read the small print though. After negotiations with the supervisor, the charge was reduced to 40gbp. I paid. It will be point one of many on my letter to Jet2.

We boarded the flight. A 737-800. It is a while since I have flown a 737. They are normally the domain of airlines I don’t fly. European airlines usually fly Air Bus short haul. Yes, Lufthansa and BA have some ancient 737s on their fleets, but they aren’t deployed in my routes.

So Jet2 was a new airline for me. I must admit the cabin was fairly pleasant. Alternating red and grey leather seats. Not the super economy feel of Ryan Air. Leg room was good too.

So the flight began, and it was lumpy. Not massive, cabin shaking turbulence but enough to make it uncomfortable. The seat belt lights remained on About 30 minutes in, there was a call put out for the ‘senior cabin crew to come to the flight deck’. It struck me as unusual. Almost immediately there was another announcement.

‘Ladies and Gentlemen this is the captain speaking. Unfortunately there is a technical problem with aircraft. We will be returning to Manchester, where we will make a precautionary landing. Please remove all loose items from the cabin and ensure your hand luggage is returned to the overhead bins, or is pushed right forward under the seat in front of you. Please ensure your seatbelt is tightly fastened and follow the instructions of the cabin crew precisely’.

His voice was tense.

For me, precautionary landing means emergency landing. The cabin crew came to the overwing windows and checked the engines for fires.

The cabin however remained jovial. I suppose that is the way we cope. Of course there were the typical idiots mouthing off. Suggesting this was more likely with Jet2 than with another airline. That, I don’t believe. Some were abusive, and subsequently not allowed to take the replacement flight. Good.

The landing was hard. It would be. We were overweight. Aircraft are not designed to land with a full load of fuel. It puts a lot of stress on the airframe, and also requires the entire length of the runway.

It was very hard though. Positive. And there were fire engines there waiting, racing us down the runway. My friend in air traffic control tells me that this is standard procedure for an emergency landing. The plane came to a halt slowly, then was taken to a stand away from all over aircraft. It was circled by fire crews.

Eventually we were let off. I had called the ATC friend, who had informed me that the aircraft had suffered dual autopilot failure.

Jet2 were pretty good. A new flight on a repaired aircraft was arranged to take off at 19:30 (from an original 14:30 departure) however due to removing people from the flight, and then not being able to find their luggage, the crews hours were exceeded. The cabin crew were also up against it. The water runs never reached the middle of the plane (front and back were watered) and the free soft drinks also never got to us. We were fortunate that we had brought our own food and used the Jet2 food vouches to purchase food and drink we could consume during in the wait. We eventually took off at 21:45 or 22:00. Even once in the air, Jet2 were still expecting everyone to pay for any food. This was disgraceful. £5 worth of food was supposed to sustain you for an additional 6 – 7 hours.

The flight was then uneventful. However the rental car office was closed, so there were out of pocket expenses.

As for Jet2 – well, shit happens. For the most part, it was only the inability of the cabin crew to stand up to more boisterous passengers which let them down. The insistence on sticking to the rules meant the service recovery was lacking (no free food or drinks beyond the legal requirement). I will see how much they respect the rules when I invoke the EU law on delays and compensation.

Denied boarding.

I have been away again.  I was in Germany, which is not a big deal to me anymore.  Just a nice visit to the office with a bit of fun at the beginning of the trip, just to add excitement.

Flying often means that there are things which I research to know the best thing to do when they come up.  There are rules and regulations, and if you don’t know them, the airlines will rip you off.  There will be compensation which they will trick you out of and there will be lies bandied around as the truth.  It is all about cost centres and defending them.  You can’t take it personally.

One of these rules relates to compensation if the airline doesn’t have a seat for you.  Overbooking is a good way of airlines maximising revenue.  For example, if you buy a nicely discounted ticket somewhere two months in advance for £50, and then someone else decides that they simply must fly on the same flight, booking on the day of departure, then an airline will typically charge a HUGE sum of money – say £1000.  For the airline it makes sense to ask me to *volunteer to travel later, compensate me £200 and meet any expenses I have (for me it was an additional £150), put me on a different flight with a different carrier, or one of their own flights but later at nominal expense (airlines sell flights to each other at a different rate) and still come out of it £300 up.

When I got to check in, relatively late, they were looking for volunteers.  As I had never been through this before, I thought, well why not.  It will be a new experience.  I was put onto a later flight to a different city, hired a car, and got to my destination 3 hours later than I would have otherwise.  Yes, it was in the middle of the night, and the 2 hour drive was DULL, but it meant I had a car for a day, and more importantly, the family who were in danger of being split up were able to fly together.

I also have more money paid into my upgrade fund for longhauls.  🙂  What’s more, they booked me into the Y fare bucket, giving me 5 times as many miles as I would have otherwise had.  Additionally, I learnt that an automatic Citroen C3 is a crap car.  Who’d have thought?  Give me a Kia any day please.

*volunteering gives less compensation than if you are unloaded against your will, but if they have to chose someone to unload, it is difficult, because perhaps it will mean someone missing a meeting, or splitting a family.

Things I have seen

I was just thinking the other day about how far removed from the real world some of my cycling experiences are.  Tyres, for example.  The company which I work for is sponsored by Continental.  I needed new tyres, so I speak to our contact and he says that he will send me something.

The tyres come, but there is something about them.  They are labelled like normal tyres, but there are numbers on the sidewall after the GP4000 S logo.  He tells me to test ride them, then let him know what I think was special about them.

The first ride was enough.  These were cornering tyres.  They held on and on and on in the switchbacks.  I was able to carry a lot of speed through the turns.  I called him up, and he confirmed it.  “Yes, we did that compound for Astana for the Tour de France in the mountains.”  Nice.

A couple of years earlier, in fact when I had just started in this job, one of the MTB pro riders was product testing the day before a race.  He came back from a practice lap, and was happy.  I asked what was good, “the tyres, they roll so well.  Really fast, there is a road section in the race tomorrow.  I am going to make up so much time there.  I just wish they were a little grippier in the corners”.  About 30 mins later, his phone rang.  The product development guy from Conti asked him about the tyres, he gave the same feedback.  The guy on the other end of the phone said, “no problem, I will make the changes now, and bring the tyres to you before the start tomorrow”.

The next morning (on a Sunday) the Conti guy shows up with a set of tyres.  Our rider has them fitted to his bike, rides the race, and wins.  He came back saying the tyres had been modified precisely as he had wished for.

I wish I could tell my 14 year old self some of this at times, I really do.

An update – quiet times

I haven’t posted for a week. I realised that this was becoming a little like a training blog, and a boring one at that. I rode today, I rode yesterday…. Blah, blah. So I thought I would leave it for a bit and write about something else.

This last week involved quite a lot of time off. Monday and Tuesday were holidays in the UK. Germany has loads of holidays too. In fact I hadn’t taken the recent ones, saved them up and took the UK ones instead. Then Thursday was a German holiday, so I took that too. It sounds lazy, but this is my quiet period. Selling in new products to distributors is difficult, and they can only sell what they can sell in the middle of the season. Yes, advertising helps, but advertising needs to be international – and doing that is expensive. A lot of my time at the moment unfortunately is taken up explaining why products which should have delivered haven’t. As you can imagine, this is not much fun. The weather is also critical in this industry. Good weather sells bikes and accessories, shitty weather, well only the hardcore cyclists go out in that. As far as OEM sales go, there is just research to be done. Meeting with people and presenting products takes place from the Munich ISPOBike show this year, then Eurobike, Interbike and the others in between. The product managers at the bike companies arent really specifying the 2014 bikes yet – and certainly not in the detail that our products are on their minds yet.

To motivate people, a few distributor visits are perhaps called for. That said, going without a set target for the visit, other than talking to the sales reps, makes it feel a bit too much like a nice day out. I am very aware that I don’t want to take advantage.

I have been riding too. Last Tuesday, 138km, then nothing for the rest of the week (giving my legs a rest). Some visits to the gym in the building two days running for some rowing, another massage, and some time on bike on rollers doing spin ups (up the rpm until you can’t go any faster then try to hold it). I am in Germany now, after an eventful journey yesterday. Just did a fast flat ride, 43km at 34.4km/h, then another 5km to warm down, so a balance of 49km averaging 32.7km/h. My legs are quite tired now!

Next week, well time for a summer holiday I think. 🙂

Two climbs are better than one.

Ever since I was young, I always thought that it was a bit of a cop out to go out and do a ride with just one climb in it.  If you ride a route with only one big fat climb in the middle, you ride, put your body through the stress of climbing, and then you recover, and that is it.  I admit, it is good for you, and when I lived in Austria I would do it (in fairness the ‘climb’ would be from 420m to 1200m in one ride) but if I went back there now, I would play a lot more, going back down to base camp and then climbing up again.

Today I managed to get a ride in.  I rode part of the route from Wednesday.  Actually I rode out to the climb, did that (a bit slower I think – no one pacing me) then I linked it up to another ‘nice’ climb.  So the route on Wednesday took us up into the Peaks from Marple through Mellor.  We then looped back, but today I headed to New Mills, and on to Horwich End to do the ‘nice’ climb up through Kettlehulme before heading across to Pott Shrigley – don’t worry, none of these names mean anything to me either.

In the end the days efforts were worth 83.6km, averaging 26.3km/h.  A bit slower than I would have liked, but given the 749m climbed, not too bad.  I also had no one else to hide behind.

The ride was actually a bit of an explore, and taught me a thing or two about the Peaks……  just because it looks like a road, it doesn’t mean it is a road.  It might be for a bit, but then it will become a nice track.  It happened once on the ride, and probably added about 20m of climbing to my ride.