*Actually the weekend just gone after the delay publishing the last post*

**Pretty picture…. (forgot to take any)**

This weekend saw the summer solstice, now this is a time of year that call out to all the crazies: the hill loving hippies, the druids, the white witches…. and the cyclist. A solstice ride is to ride through the night from sunset until sun rise to meet the dawn sun of the longest day of the year, a common tradition that is silly…. as a result of succeeding in this ride (assuming the longest day of the year is a nice one) you spend the longest day of the year a zombie either napping throughout the day too out of sync to function or staying active and generally making a mess of the simplest tasks… i suggest it should be changed too sun rise untill sun set of the longest day! EXCEPT I don’t I loved the night I had and wouldn’t change it at all.

Stanley and Fussball planned and arranged the route, so all there was for me to do was get there and ride (after working from 9.30 until 3*). this was a century Ride and the groups fitness ranged immensely, taking myself as a benchmark, happy to cycle 100 miles with plenty of hill. we had Stanley, she rides in London and mostly on the flat but was with gears and very determined to reach her first century. Then Fussball a man who wont be hurried or held up and will ride forever, don’t get me wrong he looked tired at the finish, we all did , we had been up all night. However, you could see that he would easily do it again and possibly once more just to make the point if needed.

An interesting fact about night riding, it’s hard, alot harder than day riding. You are trapped in a cone of high intensity light with no depth but equally embraced by darkness and isolated from all the normal distractions associated with cycling, pot holes are now deadly and are invisible until the light from your bike catches the edge and casts a shadow. But by far the worst thing is your body… humans (unless conditioned by night-shifts and sleeping all day) shut down at night,. the body relaxes and doesn’t want to exert itself. 10 miles feels like 20 and 40 miles feels like 100. My drive through the night was that I knew i could do the distance and the climbing so I had no reason to fail and i repeatedly told myself this until my body responded.

A couple of wrong turns were the only negitives to mention (side roads and hedgerows look he same unless you turn towards them/ know their there) but the things to remember are listless, the cool air meant that it wasn’t a sweaty summer ride but more a fresh spring ride and the stars were stunning.  And it was fun, talking rubbish and telling joke/ puns etc to stay awake and focused were not only enjoyable but needed and this meant that when things got tense or hard, the atmosphere would pass quickly and the pressure would fade.

We saw bats deer and foxes and even chased a badger, it was on the roadgoing the same way as us so we slowed down until it turned off, Fussball nearly crashing into everyone and everything trying to keep it in his light. Which Stanley and myself repeated reminded ourselves about 🙂 lol.

Finally dawn broke and our bodys stopped resisting our every action, the 10-15 miles in day light were easier by far than the previous in the dark although there was no denying that we had been up all night and were sore and tired, the daylight still renewed us somewhat. and so mission completed we went home.

On a personal note: I feel a strong attachment to people I do activities with, akin to band of brothers or the people who shared a trauma, so I have to be careful around new friends as I can become rapidly overbearing, its not intentional and I try to resist it but I know it happens. I have few close friends as I mentioned in the Good bye Mr Ben post and so for me all friends are worth cultivating not to expand the short list, I’m happy with how it is, just to not miss the opportunity to have a new member of the trusted few as each one hold the value of all the mates and pals combined.

 

Mule

*which is a late start for me so… Win!

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** I wrote this last week then was surprised to find it hadn’t uploaded.**

 

This weekend was the British Heart Foundations famous London to Brighton ride… actually I’ll step back a few weeks.

Since the Medway Big Ride I have been chomping at the bit to find my limit, I approached the MBR off the back of a slump in training and still finished easily, surprising myself with the ease I did the distance. The next week my friend and house mate started training for the Tour the south east, a two day tour with 10kft of climbing covering 180 miles. so I joined him in training for this and pushed him when he was flagging and helped where possible. However,  I soon realised was beneath me, the pace was too slow and the distance never seemed far enough. I would end rides stressed and itching to just ride off and leave them behind, but that’s not what friends do, so it all stayed bottled up.

Over the next couple of weeks I started to extend my solo training rides, including some larger hills and longer drawn out sprints. originally this was to see how far I could go before resting but I soon realised this was relative and not a good test of my fitness. so I found a loop that strained me and focused on building strength and stamina that way. As my strength came back i increased the elevation profile for each ride and found my rhythm (in riding and ,though more subtly, in life).

Since Critical Mass I have started subscribing to LFGSS’s rides and have attended a couple of their events, this has not only massively expanded my social circle in the South-east but has also presented me with a good benchmark for both skill and strength that I can use to gauge my progress. I have discovered I have an affinity towards hills, I have strong legs and can power up most things, but I’m lacking in the subtler control skills and balance and this has given me additional considerations whilst cycling.

Last week was the help for hero’s Hero ride and at this event I met soldiers who had ridden 540miles on hand cycles after loosing both legs in combat, and was awestruck at the capabilities of these men and women. Also ashamed, work had sponsored the event so I had subscribed just to show my face for the company and as a bit of a leisure ride and felt a mockery of the event I had no idea of its impact, and although I rode 70 miles that day I feel that the motives were selfish and i should have been more committed. If able (bike and schedule permitting) I plan to do a 24 hour Audax style ride to partake in the event.

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So fully on the hunt for my upper limit I have a full calender of big rides (no official events just LFGSS and sportives). Returning to the weekend just gone. London to Brighton, 56 miles one major hill… not really much of a challenge…. But some RCC members ride home from Brighton… that’s 115 miles with Kent and Surrey hills… this is getting more interesting. However, a few members have just finished the dragon ride (last week) so they were up for more of a challenge. “The Triple X” as it was dubbed, a 158 mile bike ride, with 9500ft climbing, would start at 3am and finish at 5pm. I was thrilled there was no option for faliure but limping home would shuggest my limits and this was what i was looking for. We rode from Rochester > London >Brighton > Rochester, this was a good test and pushed me past anything I have ever felt before. Yet, every time I though I was spent the next big hill would appear and I would power through it pulling from reserves I never realised were there.

Not only did I complete the ride and test my limits but I realised I haven’t yet reached them, the next morning I woke tired but not overly so, and no worse than I would after a training ride, my joints ached from exertion but feel undamaged and ready to recover and in all I’m proud of myself for the determination each hill took and disappointed that I have underestimated myself for so long, time to push harder…

Mule

 

 

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a medal for taking part…
Today I completed the 80mile Medway ride, this event was organised by the Medway council and involved a few of Kent’s hills and lots of stunning countryside.

The day started at 6am with a large bowl of porridge (yuck) and honey (yum). Then a quick ride to the registration point to meet the RCC and start the ride.

We started the ride as one group but after 5 miles the group had split, the front set was rising quickly to the front of the pack where as the rear group held a steady pace and met us at the finish.

I started strong and was cruising nicely in the clean air of the faster riders but soon felt the cardio burn in my calfs and realised I couldn’t maintain this pace. At some traffic lights I nipped off for the toilet and when I returned I discovered the light had just returned to red. I would never catch the pack I was in back up and we had dropped all followers so I was plunged back into the wind and riding alone.

I maintained a fast pace but riding fixed into the wind the acid burn soon returned and my speed dropped slightly meaning that during one of the hill climbs the leaders of the next pack caught me. This worked greatly to my advantage and skipping the next water stop I slowed my speed and recovered my legs waiting for them to pass me.

This time fully recovered I joined their pack and we covered good ground, on the hills I pulled forward taking point and held the position until the down hills, where I resisted sprinting after them instead maintaining speed, this put me back in my comfort zone and my speed returned.

Upon finishing the event I found an ice cream van and free massage tent, this was a good way to wind down before riding home and having a bath. In all it was a good day and I look forward to getting back on the bike next week.

foggy from a fast ride so will correct this tomorrow

Today I return to work having had 2 weeks off (ish).

The Friday announcing the start of my holiday was conveniently the last Friday of the month, which was also conveniently the 20th anniversary of Critical Mass London. Critical mass is a cycle event hosted the last Friday of each month (go figure) and is free to all with a bike. Hundreds of people showed up and invaded London grid locking traffic and causing (light hearted) chaos, interested?? http://www.londoncriticalmass.org/

So finishing work at 1 I rode to London, and enjoyed an evening of party atmosphere and obscurities. before returning home tired and sweaty but altogether rather satisfied.

The next week was a graduate development course, which work sent me on. This consisted of visiting a school, (playing games with kids and basically acting as role models, saying engineers can be cool) and a whole load of team building activities. The course was run in the Lake District so like a good trooper for the cause, I took my Fixie.

bike in room**Bike in room **

On the first morning I managed (for the last time) to get out and cycle around lake Windermere, I enjoyed an early morning sunrise as it burn threw the valley fog and was re-inspired…

For the last 3 months I have found getting on my bike difficult, I still loved riding and would, no matter what the weather conditions, yet I would have to force myself to start and often failed to get the motivation. I fear I may have been suffering a mild form of depression, with the job I had worked towards for years not being what I hoped for, my friends and family were all over the country and I just felt that my actions were an effort and more of a show for observers than self satisfying.

 …the feeling that tingled that morning kept me energetic and happy for days to come and the memory of this feeling has given me a renewed focus and an awareness that everything will work out in the end. Why wouldn’t it when all you need is a bike and a good view!?

Talking of which (large photo dump text continues after)…
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The rest of the week was a blur of team building exercises and minimal sleep, so I was relieved when Friday came about and I could enjoy the social week of my holiday. For the next couple of days I helped my sister with a few tasks around her new home, more a token efforts than real help because I was still shattered from my training week and so I just did what I could, before visiting friends. I met Jess, of course, I cant visit Blackpool and not, she is as best a best friend as I could ask for and I try to be the same in return. I finished the week off with a few old faces and I’m not too proud to say I enjoyed reminiscing and embarrassing them in front of there girlfriends.

Finally(Friday again) I returned home, and within minutes of putting my bags down I was on a TT ride with my house mate and planning my weekend (badly it turns out). Saturday morning I woke up drained to the bone and just watched old TV in bed all day, except a small outing to the shop to get supplies, which wasn’t to plan and left me restless all evening. Later I got an email asking if I was interested in a 100 mile ride focusing on hill climbs and I jumped at the chance to shake off this dreariness.

…Sunday morning, the weather was overcast but no actual rain so I packed light but ready for showers, then rode to the start point of the 100 mile ride. Being the strongest rider in the group I would take point during strong headwinds and sit at the tail during fast paced sections and the group (3 in total) ran smoothly and efficiently.

The first event of note was 3 miles into the ride when the route setter hit a pot hole whilst signalling, lost control and stacked it in the middle of a roundabout. Luckily, the other rider avoided him and I had ample time to block the road while he recovered his parts and got clear.

Later in the middle of yet another roundabout the other guy jettisoned his water bottle which was promptly destroyed by a following car.  This time we pulled up and ensured the route had plenty of water stops available, it did, with the route passing the same pub 4 times we made this an unofficial base camp.

The first and third loop were the same consisting of a long fast down hill (almost as bad as a long climb, when chasing/sprinting after roadies, on a fixie) followed by a long up hill (500ft) but the gradient was comfortable and I managed to climb fast. The second loop was slow and shallow but with a 25 mph head wind for the entire length my fixie was making it a little more challenging, still being the stronger rider I assumed point and acted as a wind break for the others for the most part.

I keep referring to myself as the stronger rider but this isn’t ego, I have been riding for years where as the people with me were weekend/ sunny-day riders and therefore their inability isn’t their skill but there stamina and this is mere fact and being aware of this made it possible for me to aid them.

After the third loop we had a pub lunch (refreshing change from packed lunches when I ride solo) then returned home having successfully completed a century.

Regards

Mule


I worry this post seems rather dry so be honest with any comments as I endeavour to improve my writing style

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3rd from right (in black)
I haven’t posted in a few weeks, my days have been longs but nothing has stood out to me as a good story. I don’t want to just write grumble posts about my new bike frame and the weather has been considerably average…

So last Friday is a slight point of interest, RCC had a hill climb contest which was a good laugh. I showed up on my fixie and received the usual remarks, “your not doing it on that” etc etc.

Due to having had a couple of runs on the hill earlier in the week I knew the last corner shaved too much speed so I marked out my line with some chalk and rolled down to the start. The half mile climb had my lungs burning and caused sharp pains in my chest and legs. By the time I rolled over the line I was immensely dissatisfied with my performance, so I rolled back down to cheers the final starters on before crawling back up to the finish to hear the results.

Bish called out the times 2.40 – 2.15 I knew I had beat this my pb had been 1.58 (and I was hoping to beat that) then suddenly the times jumped 2.01 – 1.50 each name called I got a bit more surprised and excited… 1.44 The Mule was called and I was stunned. The only people to best this were the full carbon competitive racers and only by a second. So 4th place ain’t half bad.

This month the RCC started it’s Tuesday rides back up, the goal is to ride the same 15 mile route each week and push the time gradually down over the course of the summer, we are currently riding as one group but I feel soon that the group will spilt in two and we will have sprinters and cruisers. The current group time is 1hour 5 mins but my current pb is 42min 58 ( rode on own a few days ago to check).

I have noticed that both these stories are basically me saying how fast I am but I don’t mean to post saying woo I’m fast mearly, OMG I’m faster than I though, as a leisure rider I was never meant to be fast… I guess sprinting for gaps whilst playing chicken with traffic has it’s benefits.

Regards
Mule

20140330-223218.jpg Ben and myself 5 years ago

Spent today wondering around London with Mr Ben, it was good to hangout and though nothing particular was spoken about it felt good to be able to say good bye/ see you soon!

I have 3 friends that I trust implicitly Jess (Blackpool), Mr Ben (Blackpool > Japan) and Owen (Plymouth).This isn’t to say there aren’t people I enjoy the company of but I could walk away from most without feeling much loss. These 3 are different and have survived the tests of separation and time.

So I don’t feel much loss over Ben leaving it’s just another chapter in life, he says he will publish a blog so i will follow him on there. I however, am useless and maintaining contact so going have to try harder .

I have been spending more time on lfgss, this weekend, and plan to get more involved in rides with this group. They seems to be a lot more like minded than the more serious clubs, yes there is still a fair amount of elitism but it’s as much tongue in cheek as anything else.

Additionally, today on a train I saw a (internal) door (which I had noticed was faulty from seeing people walk through it) slam shut on a toddlers finger and not disengage. I saw the tip of a finger poking through the door and managed to get down the carriage and force the door before she was too badly hurt and the mother seemed shocked but thankful. Surprised myself how much cycling fixie has conditioned my legs for burst energy.

So well wishes to the little girl I hope nothing is broken! X

Regards

Mule

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I have a new bike frame :), ordered a custom build in June and the builder finally finished!
853 Reynolds steel, triple triangle street frame (track frame with increased clearance). It looks stunning and can’t want to build it up.

Sadly I’m not as pleased with the service as I am with the bike. Firstly, I ordered lug welding on the frame but he chose not to. The triple triangle wouldn’t be lug welded so it would only have lugs on the front which I agree wouldn’t have looked as good but he didn’t contact me to discuss this and just changed the order regardless.

Secondly, I ordered parts that aren’t to be carried over from my old fixie so that I could build it up straight away. Having told him I would arrive last Friday or this Friday, depending on whether I could get off work. I opted to come the second week giving him more time to get the gear together. Therefore, I was stunned to arrive and be told none of the parts I have ordered had arrived. So I have to get my sister to pick the parts up at a later date as I live at the other end of the country… In the modern age there is no reason to not contact the customer when you can’t meet there requirement on time.

Still I will use this to get in with my local bike shop.

Whilst in Blackpool I visited friends and family and had a pretty good time. Discovered that my friend is moving to Japan next week, so have arranged to hangout in London the day before he departs will be looking forward to hear of his escapades as we have both always talked of moving to Japan, I’m secretly jealous.

Once he is settled I will have to fly bout and visit, will be a good cheap holiday!

Regards
Mule