Tainted Ride

I must admit, my winter bike does not have clipless pedals. It is one of them things I never got around to, and never had the motivation to, being a winter bike. Somewhat unloved, that could always need a better wash and some money spent on it. Mainly pedals.

I was managing alright. Throw on a couple of pairs of socks, old pair of trainers and off.

But the problem with winter is it is almost always wet out. The ground doesn’t get a chance to dry, so your bike gets wet and filthy and so do pedals.
 

(Told like a ghost story around a camp fire)

One mild but damp winter’s morning, I set off as usual. Cautious at first, warming up and checking the bike felt right before pushing on. As I stood to accelerate up a slight incline, the combination of increased power and wet grime on the pedal caused my foot to slip from it, past the mostly useless strap, it dangled, hopelessly trying to seek out something solid. It  had slipped from the pedal taking all my weight, attempting to propel the bike, therefore something else had to take the weight; I dropped like a stone and landed on the tip of my saddle.

Missing my delicate areas but still hurting like hell, grimacing and careering around trying to get back in control whilst checking for injury and also reprimanding myself for not buying some SPD’s.

 Of course it is all part of the fun of cycling. I carried on with the training ride (wasn’t really), and never did manage to get comfortable on my perch.

 
They are on my shopping list.

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Getting back to basics (part 1)

 

Like most people, as a child I cycled everywhere, then as a teenager I got caught up with other things and stopped. Some years later I had a brief revival, got an expensive bike, which was great, but again stopped as quickly as I started. Then, several years later, after moving to a more rural location, suddenly started again. This time for good, I hope.

 

The latest revival was during one of those surprisingly warm summer afternoons, with nothing else to do other than relax, I suddenly felt the need to do something. Relocating the bike to its new location was still fresh in my mind and I had wondered what it was like further down the river. Thoughts collided and decision made. Thankfully expensive mountain bikes seem to work perfectly fine after being parked for several years. I dug out some of my old cycling kit, horrible looking crash helmet and the t shirt I was already wearing, a quick pump of the tyres I was ready to go. And did.

 

It was a eureka moment. Why was I not doing this already, why had I stopped, I love it. The pace was steady; but I was too busy exploring new places, admiring the view and feeling the warm air on my skin, to care.

 

The previous time I quit, I was cycling with friends that were competitive, head down, hammer down. If only I had realised it then, I could have made my excuses and cycled the way that worked for me, at that time.

 

I felt like I was back on my first BMX, back having fun

The meaning of life

Once upon a time, you would speak to your colleagues on a Monday morning, ask the obligatory ‘how was your weekend’ question. They would say things like; it was ok, had a quiet one, visited the in-laws… or even it was good.

Times have changed. No need to speak. Check social media feeds and each update is more earth shatteringly awesome than the last. Hot air ballooned to an outdoor theatre in which they starred; mountain biked down the country’s highest peak, a weekend of unrivalled unexpected madness. It was not simply good.

Nobody wants to be left behind, the madness perpetuates and people feel their weekends should be as action packed.
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Which is a shame, as us cyclists know the true meaning of life. Whilst we enjoy a somewhat thrilling hobby, we also frequently pause, to enjoy the small things. And this is why cake is so synonymous with cyclists. We might not take photographs of the cake and tell everyone about it, because it’s not even about the cake. It is about being with people you enjoy to spend time with, not looking at a screen, but speaking to them, whilst enjoying the reward of some calorie rich snack and drink.

So there, try not to focus on the big event, remember that the little things are the things that truly make life awesome.
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Great Big Wheels

 
I found myself wondering what wheel size my next mountain bike will have. Whether to keep with the tiny little wheel I currently ride, that corners like a squirrel. The gigantic one, that rolls mad fast over boulders. Or the middle size, that apparently is almost as good as the big or small ones, which I’m still a bit sceptical about. But nevertheless, probably makes most sense, or so we are told.

I was having this debate in my head whilst serenely pedalling along a nice flat stretch on the mountain bike, having a breather between hilly muddy bits. Which I have done many times over the several years I have had the bike, and I realised then, whilst riding it, not once have I thought this bike does not roll fast enough.

It was a peculiar realisation; I was debating a problem in my own mind, a problem that was not mine, but put there by many bits of information from lots of sources.

Once I realised that, there was an extra piece of information in the debate; that it doesn’t really matter. Sure, all being equal I would get the middle size bike. For a Pro it is a big deal, the right or wrong size can make the odd second of difference. That there explains why it should not really be a big issue to anyone else. But the information comes to us with the same urgency as if we were professional riders. And it misses out the bits that none professional riders don’t need; such as durability, smaller being sturdier, at the time being more readily available and cheaper.

My debate now is more focused on which way the market is going to go. It does not appear to be the small one, so probably the larger sizes in the end.

And added to that, I don’t need a new bike!

We are a Marketers Dream

We all love shiny new bits of metal on our bikes; wheels, bars, seats and so on. And we are in an age were bicycle companies, via their marketers, have direct and constant influence through the internet, email, social media, texts and magazines. From this barrage of information it can be tricky to decipher the valuable information from the brainwashing marketing speak, even reviews that appear legitimate could have been influenced via funding from marketers.

 

What should we believe or even listen to?

 

I saw an expensive bike advertised as Di2 ready. A review said it was good but the wheels needed upgrading, along with seat, and tyres, and also brake pads. So basically, you would be spending a big chunk of money for a half finished bike. Or, is the bike just fine as it is and it is the marketing machine at work trying to make us part with every last penny?

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Or worst still, if your bike is a few years old; reading news on latest technology can make it feel so antiquated that it’d be madness not to scrap the old heap and get a new one, eh? It is so lacking in ‘must have’ features, that at best it should be fitted with mudguards and demoted to winter use only.

 

There is little mention that upgrades can be very expensive for the small improvement they give and the lighter bits we ‘upgrade’ to could be weaker and less durable. And if more complex, it may well be more costly to maintain.

 

Maybe I am whinging a bit now, but I remember a time when we were happy with “n”, now we are programmed to want “n+1”. Maybe I am reminiscing through rose tinted glasses, at when cycling used to be a cheap form of transport.

How much is your bike worth (to you)?

I was talking to the manager of a shiny modern Pinarello shop. It certainly did not feel like a bike shop, other than there being bikes for sale everywhere. Having more the feel of an uppity Versace shop were you shouldn’t really be, bothering the staff standing there looking all un-kept, in actual cycle clothing. But the shop manager was very happy, and so should be, stood there next to several ridiculously expensive pounds of racing bicycle; asking guess how many of this model we have sold this year. If I remember rightly, the answer was about 50 against a target of 15. Which was pretty good considering the target was for the year and it was only February.

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Of course it was a lovely bike and almost any cyclist including me would love to have it. But part of me knew that having it would also be very silly. Given that amount of cash in my hand, I would leave the shop and instead buy three good mid-level bikes; road, mtb and commuter.

A bike costing that much has got to be pro/semi pro rider quality, which I am not, neither do I want to be. And considering that riders at that level often have bikes bought or given to them, led to my only question; who is buying these? The answer, considering the prime location, was no surprise. Bought by high earning solicitors, bankers etc etc, that probably also have comparable sports cars and other toys that fit with their status. 

But for the person that buys only what will repay its cost and with regular duty, this bike would not do so. They would not value it highly enough as a status symbol to warrant the cost and running costs. It may be faster, but is it as durable as your old commuter that suffers all weathers, probably not.

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I believe we should ignore what our bikes cost, ignore what the fancy bikes cost and the preconception of value, instead value our bikes based on the service they gives.

Only thing sure in life is tax and snow

Or at least it is for me. Busy filing accounts and filling in tax returns. And it always seems to snow when I do this. And I seem too busy to go and have some fun in it. Although recently I wish I could be out there having fun on a fat bike.

But even if I had a fat bike, I’d be too busy to use it. And possibly a bit self conscious also.

Maybe it’s because I see a fat bike in the local bike shop on my way home from work. It catches my eye with its out of proportion wheels. I still can’t decide if they are a novelty or a serious option to a mountain bike. Of course it would be serious within the Arctic circle; but I’m not, nowhere near in fact.

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But anyway, whilst I was thinking this, there was a covering of snow on the ground. Not a great amount, but when you are filling tax returns it seems to have the effect of forcing your mind to escape and subconsciously think of other things you could be doing. Which then pop’s into your mind as an idea. Just like a rambling blog, to delay the return to work.

Could I reward myself with a new bike after all this work? Maybe not, always seems to be a dozen things that need money spending on them and a fat bike is hard to justify pushing other things off top spot. I even struggle to justify it to myself. Not when I still don’t have a serious commuting bike, with mud guards and panniers and other stuff as exciting as a tax returns.

But now that the tax returns have gone, so has the snow.

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