Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Race Bike

So if you want to race, you're gonna need a bike!

There's something very satisfying about building a bike, especially one that you are going to ride quite a bit. Bikes are essentially simple machine: two triangles, two circles and some gubbins to join them altogether but the more you learn about how all those pieces join together, the more you appreciate the subtleties that such a contraption hides under her skirts.

Now, the other side of that fettling coin is once you learn how best each component should operate you just can't ride any old clunker anymore, each rattle and scrape, wobble and squeak brings out the inner cycling princess sat upon a pea within you. You just can't concentrate on the job in hand unless your steed one which you are sat has come from a thoroughbred stable and is fed with only the finest oats rolled between the thighs of Quakers.

My bike has to be just so and when it isn't, well, I can think of little else but getting it on the stand and tweaking it to within an inch if it's life until it is. Well, just so.

The wheels need to be true, the gears indexed perfectly, the brakes snappy and direct. It needs to change instantly at the front and even quicker than that at the back. Everything needs to be lubed and gleaming and it needs to be ready to go.

Now, all this makes me sound like a fastidious fool with nothing better to do. And if you seen how I used to treat my bikes then you'd wonder quite what had happened to me and whether I actually take any of them outside into the elements anymore.

To me a bike used to be a bike and if that bike was hidden under three inches of mud, cow poo and rotting leaves, it was still a bike. I could sit on it, push the pedals and it would go. But no one told me that a bike has a soul and the sort of harsh aluminium framed monstrosity I started off riding had sold its to the devil.

One day I borrowed an Addict from someone and despite it being a size to small I felt like a cave dwelling neanderthal who had just discovered the wheel. I'd gone from careering around on a penny farthing to being instantly transported to the centre of the pro peloton sat upon a futuristic exotic machine.

Now, that may be overstating it just a little bit but please bear with me.

I've heard it said many times that a bike's a bike and we are all just being suckers for the marketing machine. Well sure that is true in some cases, those wheels might mean you get home a couple seconds earlier from a hundred mile ride but they sure do look cool. But there are bikes and there are BIKES!

Now I'm no expert, I've not ridden all sorts of exotic machines but quite honestly I don't need to. The Scott Addict is a remarkable bike it just does everything I want it to exactly now I want it to. It climbs superbly, it's fast and direct, the power comes straight out in flat line speed,  outgoing seems to be wasted, it handles amazingly, it descends without a twitch and corners like it knows where you want it to go and despite its racey pedigree it is comfortable for mile after mile. I don't lust aft any other bike now, this bike has real soul, it rides how I dreamt a bike would if I could have everything I want.

Frame: Scott Addict R3 ISP HMF L 56cm
Forks: Scott Addict R3 HMF
Bars: 3T Ergonova Pro
Stem: 3T Pro 130mm
Headset: Ritchey WCS
Bar Tape: SRAM Black

Front Brake Lever: Shimano 105 5700
Front Caliper: Shimano 105 5700
Rear Brake Lever: Shimano 105 5700
Rear Caliper: Shimano 105 5700
Brake Pads: Swissstop Black Prince Carbon

Shifters: Shimano 105 5700
Cables: Yokozuna Reaction
Front Mech: Shimano 105 5700
Rear Mech: Shimano 105 5701

Seat: Specialized Romin Evo Expert
Seat Post: ISP Ritchey WCS Seat Mast Topper

Cranks: SRAM Red Black
Chainrings: SRAM Red Black 52, 36
Chain: KMC X10-73
Cassette: Shimano 105 11-25
Pedals: Shimano 105
Bottom Bracket: SRAM BB86 Press Fit GXP

Wheels: Pro-Lite Bracciano C50T Tubular
Skewers: Shimano Ultegra
Tyres: Vittoria EVO CX Tubs

Accessories: SRAM Garmin Mount, Elite Race Bottle Cages, Garmin Cadence/Speed Sensor, KMC Chain Catcher, Stages Power Meter

Weight: 7.5kg

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Ciclosomatic is Born

And so it begins...

On a creative writing course you'd rightly be told not to begin your story with 'It was a dark and stormy night' or the word 'and' or perhaps 'so'. And you certainly shouldn't start paragraphs with the word 'but' or sentences with the word 'and'.

But as the year sets off on its wobbly way, devoid of stabilisers, so does the glass strewn cycle path meander it's way towards racing glory or mediocrity.

And so it was on a dark and stormy night when the lead in to the beginning of the season really began.

2014 had been ushered in by a gawp through the bottom of Alice's looking glass filled and quickly emptied of effervescent champagne. 2014 made a second appearance shortly afterwards by way of a headache and eyes the colour of lean steak.

Ever since I started riding a bike again in September 2011 a thought festered like a saddle sore unacquainted with Sudocrem. I'd followed pro racing for years and always wondered what it would be like to be jostled along in the peloton.

As I got faster and stronger my ego grew along side and I thought to myself that I might be quite good at amateur racing. I could climb hills reasonably fast and ride all day at a respectable pace but a crash on a descent in 2012 gave me the real heebie-jeebies and it took a long winter of scaring myself silly until I felt anywhere near confident enough to go down hill again anything like rapidly.

Being flattered by Strava and finishing first in a a hard and hilly sportive in the pissing rain can lead one onto delusions of grandeur. Riding with people who are slower than you can result in the same inflation of the ego.

It's put up or shut up time. Real racing takes no prisoners and gives no one an easy ride. You need to be fit, fast and fearless or else you're gonna have to go home and have a good cry.

I've bought a jumbo box of man-sized tissues just in case...

Let's call him protagonist A. Protagonist A had had a pretty good summer of riding and was polishing the sunny months off with rides at a speed of 24 mph plus. Going for a ride with him would result in much handlebar munching and complaining whilst being regaled with tales of who lives where and what they get up to. All reeled off without seemingly drawing breath whilst I languished listening in a mute, panting, sweaty mess.

Protagonist A sowed a seed as the nights drew in and he proposed to form an alliance and a team of sorts and jump two footed into the world of amateur road racing. As my 32.8 year plus VAT birthday looms this coming Monday it really is now or never for me.

And then there's protagonist B. He also was having a fine summer season, personally consuming the European Haribo mountain had fuelled him to winning success in two autumn hill climbs whilst pretty much claiming any Strava KOM he set his mind to, including the legendary Col de Solour in the Pyrenees.

Hand selected by protagonist A for his hamster heartbeat and the cadence of a unicyclist careering down a cliff, it seemed the combo of someone who can out sprint even himself on a good day and another who climbs so well that they've rendered all the hills seemingly totally flat for a 25 mile radius around where they live would indeed be quite formidable. And then there was me...

In 2013 my ambitions hinged around making my legs hurt for as many hours as possible. Like Jens Voigt without any friends, let's call him 'Jensie No-mates', I pedalled furiously in front of an imaginary peleton dishing out the pain. All the while I tried to increase my in-one-go mileage, the amount of hills in a ride and endeavouring to do it all faster and faster.

This all culminated in the taking on of the Bowland Badass. When I first read about this ride and its near height of Everest Base Camp amount of ascent I scoffed at the madness of anyone who would consider such a thing. But it seemed one day I possessed all the qualities of such a deranged loon.

I set off dead last and late and went the wrong way on the very first road adding a mile to the already not inconsiderable 167 miles. All those miles as Jensie No-mates soon saw me overtaking riders. First, those out taking it easy to try and save their legs for much later in the day but eventually I breezed past the chiseled cheek bones of gnarly riders on expensive, exotic machines.

I'll write a longer recounting of that ride on another day but suffice to say it was the ride of my life. I overtook all but four riders that day and as they'd set off before me I finished with the 3rd best time. Perhaps I wasn't bad at this riding-a-bike lark after all?

Now it would be nice to combine all of those attributes into a single, genetically-engineered, cycling machine. One leg of a sprinter, the other from a climber and the engine from the truck driven by the Duracell bunny. But of course that would be silly and anyway I don't think that Franken-cyclist could ride in a straight line.

The question now is what and how?

What do we need to do to compete in amateur races and how are we going to do it?

Watch this space...