Socks.

I don’t think it’s that far off being warm enough to ride in shorts, and this can only mean one thing. Socks.IMG_4093Now I’m not 100% certain where my obsession with loud socks has come from, but I am pretty sure that it has something to do with my dad. If he was wearing new socks, more specifically socks that he’d received for Christmas, then you would know about. No matter when it was that he saw you, or where. He would regularly come in to where I was working, stand in the middle of the room, hitch up one if his trouser legs, and the point at his now exposed sock, and proudly declare; “Christmas socks.” He would then carry on like he hadn’t done anything in any way shape or form odd. It would not matter how many people were there, or whom; customers, my boss, my staff. However, this ‘should be embarrassing’ behaviour I always found hilarious. So now I’ve taken to buying loud socks for presents for him, just in case he happens to swing by where I now work.

Now, where were we? Warm weather, meaning shorts and loud socks. To be fair I tend to go for stripes more than anything else, but the louder and brighter the better. My shorts an helmet are black. My gloves and shoes are either white or black depending on the weather, and my jerseys are usually pretty sedate, so ridiculous socks are usually my only show of colour. But as you can see from the photo above, sometimes it’s all the colours.

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Despite missing my riding target for the past few years, I’ve still taken the decision to put it up again. This will be now be harder still to achieve as I’ve not really had a good start to the year. Colds and a bad back have seen me miss weeks of riding, so we’ve gotten well over half the way through March and I’ve so far only ridden 162 miles.

What I haven’t done yet this year, is do something that I did a few times last autumn, which really helped with mileage, because I keep finding myself asking; “Is riding with a club for me?”

In September I rode with a club for the first time and found myself really enjoying it, until we got about two thirds of the way round. As it was at this point that I crashed. It suddenly occurred to me that we had been riding around at an average of 2-3 miles than I usually rode, and at no point had we stopped to eat and refuel. So I now found myself at least 20 miles out, with no idea where I was, no energy, and riding with a group of riders who were showing no signs whatsoever of slowing down. They did, but only because of me, but it wasn’t so much slowing down as having to wait for me to catch up. One of the riders was great and hung back with me, making sure I was okay, and encouraging me. And this was great, but I felt bad that I was holding everyone else up. One of the others had ridden with me a little earlier, but there advice had appeared to be to ride quicker. This may not have been what they said, but it was how I’d taken it and there was simply nothing that I could do about it. I was exhausted. When we finished, the guy that had helped me get back told me in front of everyone else that he didn’t know how I’d done it. This made me feel better, but not right then and there as all I was interested in doing was trying to find a chair to sit on and some food to eat.

When I’d recovered I took a look at the ride on Strava and it had been ridiculously quick, for me, even with the slowing down towards the end. I couldn’t believe that I’d done it, which felt great, which is why then I went out with them a few more times. These were a little easier, mainly as I knew what to expect, but I wouldn’t really describe them as fun. Now I know this might not have been the point of the rides, but it has always been why I’ve ridden. Keeping fit and in shape has always just then been a happy accident, that keeps me from joining a gym. But going on these rides where we didn’t ever just stop and look around to see where we were, or for a chat and to refuel, were not what I was looking from on a ride.

Now maybe it was just this group of riders, and that this particular club just isn’t for me. But I don’t then know how to find a club that I do feel that I fit into, and does embrace why I ride?

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It took me a day to decide what I was going to do with the bike, which I’m going to blame my colleague Steve for. Upon arriving at work and seeing me both walking funny, and sporting some pretty good roadrash, he asked me what had happened. But before I could get to the end, he’d got up on his screen a bike that he’d loaded onto the site whilst I’d been off. “You want one of these.” I hadn’t. In fact I’d walked past the same bike several times at Eurobike two weeks earlier. However, the reason I walked past it because I wanted a good look at Tom Ritcheys own hand built road bike. Oh, and that was beautiful. However the bike Steve now had on his screen was a Ritchey, a Ritchey Road Logic. And, it was on the site we both work on each and every day. “We do these?” He looked at me like I’d said something stupid. Which he then backed up with insults. But, he’d done what he’d set out to do, he’d planted a seed…

On the train home that night I searched through my phone looking at the photos I’d taken at Eurobike. I hadn’t taken a photo of it, or Tom Ritcheys own bike. I did remember it though, and I do remember how nice it was and I had seen a lot of nice bikes there. I needed to see a photo now though. The photos on the Ritchey site, were functional at best, and didn’t seem to show the bike off in any way. Scrolling through Google, I couldn’t find either a good photo, or a build I liked. However, that was probably just it, they were all other peoples builds, they were not what I would do. And then, I saw one. I’m pretty sure that it was on the Team Dream Bicycling Team instagram feed, but I saw one basking in the LA sunshine and I was sold.

I had to somehow make it happen. The easiest thing to do was to rescue everything I could from the De Rosa, and then make sure that everything else matched what I had and suited the build. I chose to lose the ridiculously expensive and light carbon skewers I had, as the scared me. But I had a friend who wanted some, so was able to strike up a deal. I had an idea on what saddle I wanted, and it would totally suit the build, but it was a little on the heavy side and would upset some of my friends. It could only be though a Brooks Cambium saddle. I’d used one on Pashley so knew how it felt, and this build was really going to be about comfort. I’d had carbon framed race machine, that was light, and stiff, and would go wherever I pointed it, but that’s not what this build was going to be about. From October to January I gathered together the parts I needed for the build, and then one Friday evening in February after work I bribed Josh at work with beer and Pizza and we put it all together.

Because I’m an utter ponce though, it wasn’t until the first weekend in April until I deemed the weather nice enough to ride it in. It was well worth the wait, and whilst it hadn’t necessarily been love at first sight it was on the first ride. Steel is real. It was so smooth. In all likelihood I’m not going to ever be able to ride is quick on it as I did on the De Rosa, but because it’s more comfortable and the fact that I’m feeling less beaten up by the bike and the road I think I’ll not only be able to ride it for longer but quicker over longer distances. Even though I only started riding it in April, I rode 1391 of the 2286 miles in did in total over the course of the year on the Ritchey, and I’m so looking forward to the weather to brighten up so I can get out on it this year. Is it the best bike I’ve ever ridden? Of course it’s not, but it’s got the best ride of any bike I’ve ever owned or built… and I don’t think it’s finished yet. It doesn’t quite look the same now than it does in the photo at the top of this post, and I think there will be a few subtle changes coming up.

This bike puts such a big smile on my otherwise grumpy face. Oh and if you were to ask me, and I highly recommend that you do, “where can I buy a Ritchey Road Logic?” I can definitely point you in the right direction.

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Is leaving it 18 months before picking right up from where I left off, without offering any explanation, excusable…? I hope so. I will just carry on anyway however.

The very next time I went out riding, I dropped my bike going 30ish miles an hour round a roundabout. I stuffed the rear mech into the rear wheel, bent brake levers, bent the front brake calliper, broke my helmet, scratched my glasses, lost some skin, and melted my shorts and jersey to my leg and arm. I jumped straight up, made sure no one had seen, and then rode the remaining 2 miles home very carefully. My saddle was on the wonk and, to be fair, so was I. My hip was sore, but more importantly I was really shaken up. And the feeling didn’t go away, in fact, I still don’t think it has.

I couldn’t really bring myself to look at the bike, but I did make myself go out for a ride the following weekend. It was a pretty sedate affair, and relatively short, but I did make a point of riding the same stretch of road that I’d come off on. Now, I’ve ridden down that road a lot. It’s one of two quiet routes in and out of the countryside on my side of town. On the way back in, it comes shortly after a Strava Segment that I’d previously had a KOM on. The roundabout however was well after you’ve slowed down, and up until the point, I’d never given it a second thought. But, maybe that was reason why it’s happened. In the crash itself, I’d taken the bike to the left and then as soon as I leaned it to the right I knew that I was coming to come off… and then sure enough I was sliding down the road. So now riding round it a week later I was super cautious. Wary of every stone, every change in texture of the surface of the road, and with what I was doing with the bike. This stretch of road was now not fun, and I wasn’t able to relax (In fact, I’ve struggled to do so whilst riding over the year an a half since). But I was able to ride, and went out again the very next day.

When I got home I put the bike I was riding (the winter bike) back into the spare room. In front of it was my pride and joy, the De Rosa, which I still couldn’t bear to look at. Bits of it we’re facing the wrong way, other bits were bent, others scratched. The frame now creaked, and it didn’t feel right.

What was I going to do…

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It’s pretty much the end the summer already, and again I have found myself having to play catch-up again. However, the funny thing is, cycling never feels like a chore, and bizarrely it never feels like exercise. That last part might sound a little odd, not lease because I own a Garmin and end up cataloguing no end of riding data. I also up-load all my rides to Strava, and will compare my rides to those of others… and yes, of course I’m pretty stoked to win KOM’s. Lots of things go through my mind as I ride, but not of them are trying to remember that I’m having fun. If it ever was, I’d never do it. I’m certain a that I’ve said before that I don’t go to the gym. I actually can’t go to the gym, my head won’t allow me to do it. If keeping fit is byproduct of going out and enjoying myself, so be it. I’ve no idea what would happen to me if I didn’t, or couldn’t, ride. Well, I’d be fat. I’d almost certainly be fat, with the amount of cake I eat.

However, I wrote the majority of this post last weekend whilst on flights to and from a stag do in Spain with every intention of putting in more miles this week. Since I’ve been back though I’ve felt pretty rough. At first I put it down to me not being able recover from the 3 day drinking session that was the stag do, but as of this morning I have realised that I am actually ill. Bizarrely this gives me solace, even though it still gives me more miles to catch up on.

Men who wave at trains.

Despite the fact that an owl flying next to the train I was on caused me briefly to wonder whether I was or not, I have never been on the Hogwarts Express. Neither have I ever been on the Orient Express or the Trans Siberian Express. I’m pretty certain too that I have never been on a steam train. All of which leads me to wonder why I see so many grown adults waving at whatever train I do happen to be on.

Now before you think I’m being grumpy again, I’m not, I’m most definitely not. It brightens my day. I have no idea why they do it. In fact, it would appear to be the action of a mentalist. Are they waving at the train, or the passengers on it? And if it is at the passengers, surely they cannot see if they ever get a response?

I know this would appear to be little hypocritical. In my last post I bemoaned those who show no sign whatsoever have acknowledging someone saying hello. These train wavers though do get a response from me. It’s not a wave, but it is a smile.

A lack of acknowledgement.

It maybe because of my history of mountain biking, and BMX, where stopping and talking to other riders – that were up until that point complete strangers – was the complete norm. Wether it be; out on the trail, in the local woods, at a jump spot, or in a skate park, it was always a given that you would spend time talking to these like-minded fools. Some would then no-longer be strangers, others you would never see again, but the socialising felt as if it were as much of the point of going out riding as the ride itself was.

Now I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not the member of a club and I’ll often go out riding on my own, but I have always been surprised by the lack of acknowledgement by other riders I’ve gotten whilst out riding on the road. I’m certainly not suggesting that I ride around the roads expecting people to smile, release a few fingers on their bars, or even say hello, but I do kind of think that it’s at the very least the polite thing to do to respond in kind if someone’s done it to you. And that’s the thing. I say hello to everyone I see when out riding. I don’t say hello to get a response, I say hello because it’s polite. But I always feel slightly disappointed not to see any signs of response whatsoever. I shouldn’t, I know that, but I do nonetheless.

Am I expecting a response because I think we have a kinship because we’re cyclists? Or course I don’t. I do however think we have a kinship because we’re both human beings usually out in the middle of nowhere. Not responding at all is just plain rude, but perhaps not quite as rude as being blanked. Yes, somehow I must have offended someone so much by saying hello that they’ve turned their head the other way. I’ve also come across a peloton of riders dressed head to toe in a brand of clothing synonymous with riding cafe culture, a group of riders you would assume would be very social, none of whom said hello. They all however looked a little taken aback when I said ‘hello again,’ to every single one of them when our rides crossed paths again later on that same ride.

I’m not the cheeriest of people, and I’m certainly not the most social, but at the very least I make an attempt at least to be polite.

All of this though will seem slightly at odds with my very next post…

“What did you hope to achieve?”

IMG_4057 This was a question I was asked by one of my oldest friends at Christmas when I’d said that I’d had to take the back off the television because it wouldn’t turn on. At the time I had no clue. I’m not an electrician, and have no idea about the inner workings of a television, what on earth was I thinking…? My only basis for taking the back off was that the standby light would flicker when I moved the power-lead. I’d already tried a different lead, which hadn’t made the blindest jot of difference, so thought that it must be a faulty connection inside. I wasn’t sure what I’d find inside, or what I’d be able to do. I actually ended up leaving out a screw so that the board that holds the power socket had some play in it… don’t ask why though, as I have no idea, but it worked. This morning however, the volume kept turning itself down to zero. At first I was convinced one of the cats were sitting on the remote, but this wasn’t the case. I also removed the batteries from all of the remotes, but this still didn’t make a difference. So the back came off the television again. However, this time I went and researched possible causes and fixes first on the net. Now this did involve reading through a few forums, which I don’t like doing as you never know who it is that’s giving you the advice. At work we will have the odd customer repeat research that they’ve read on forums, and 9 times out of 10 it sounds like nonsense. The fix I decided upon sounded plausible, but as it had no detailed instructions whatsoever, I wasn’t certain if it was something that I would be able to do. Turns out, disconnecting all the switches on the side of the television was just a case of unplugging them. It worked. I don’t need to buy a new one…which is unfortunate as I really want a bigger television. So; What did I hope to achieve…? Not needlessly spending money on something that could be fixed. Which I suppose comes from always working on my own bikes. I think though I will have to draw a line somewhere, as there are only so many screws I can leave out and plugs I can disconnect…

Smoothness.

Smoothness is the key to increasing your speed.
How smooth you keep each individual pedal stroke, your cadence, your average speed, your cornering, and your bike. From the drivetrain, to the gear shifting, to the bearings. The smoother you can make these the faster your overall speed on a ride will be. The less energy you waste will mean that you will then be able to keep riding faster for longer. Or… at the very least, will give you one less thing to worry about so that you can enjoy the ride.

I’ve long been an advocate of listening to your bike. What is it telling you. With the exception of the final check of the limit screws on the front and rear derailleurs, the majority of my gear adjustment will be done through listening to them and then making any necessary adjustments. The rest of the drivetrain will be kept as clean and as well lubed as possible, with your lube of choice… which should be this; No.5 by Wickens & Soderstrom. Bearings, will only usually let you know if there’s something wrong by listening to them if the something is very wrong. A good indicator to how things are going can be done by feel. Hold the frame, and spin the wheels one at a time. If you can feel them spinning through the frame, they’re running either dry or rough and need attention. Obviously the key to this would be prevention, as in regular servicing, but I do realise that this isn’t for everyone. For those that can however you should be using the right grease, and the very best grease you can, to keep those bearings clean and running smooth. With that in mind I’m going to be servicing mine with some of the new No.2 HS grease by Wickens & Soderstrom. I’ll let you know how I get on…

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