Mountain Bike Shenanigans

Eejits in Thunderstorms
July 30th, 2009

So the ride in this morning was a full on waterproofs affair. Having been woken up by thunder it wasn’t a good sign and sure enough the weather was fairly torrential. Which was fine – I have no issue with riding in the rain, even less so when prepared for it. What I do have issues with are people trying to kill me in cars.

I roll up to the second set of lights and there’s a car in the oncoming traffic lane waiting to turn right across the junction. He’s stopped so I assume he’s seen me. There’s no other immediate traffic so I assume that he’s waiting for me to cross before making his manoeuvre. As I start to cross the lights he starts executing his turn. At this point I may have uttered something along the lines of ‘Don’t be a sitting duck’ and put the pedal down, not that it was going to do much good in avoiding the several tonnes of steel bearing down on me.

Then just as I think I’m going to be kissing him through his windscreen he stops. My heart’s dancing like Jimmy Somerville on speed. That was close. I can’t remember what car it was, even what colour or whether it was actually a male driver. Must having been thinking about something else at that point…

Get Off My Six
July 27th, 2009

Monday morning ritual resumed: Retrieve bike from it’s hanging position in the hallway. Insert front wheel, check over the running gear, stopping today to adjust the chain tensioner in a bid to stop a third chain deraillment (I think I was clipping it with my heel when accelerating from a standstill). Descend with bike to the garage, inflate tyres to 120PSI. Clip in and get going.

Cotic Roadrat

Catch and pass two riders at the second set of lights on the way in by timing the change just right. Get into a comfortable pace on the long run past the Tesco garage. Stop at the 8 second lights and then find the right pace again for the following section to get the lights on green. Approach the penultimate set of lights and look right over my shoulder to check the traffic.

There he is. A roadie tucked into my not insignificant slipstream. The cheeky scampster, we’ll see how fit he is. I wind up the gear and put a 10m gap in almost straight away and keep building the cadence. Then checking the traffic again, swing right across into the third outside lane to be in the right one for the lights. He knows it’s over. He looks knackered even after a 50m burst of effort and I feel victorious. All I need to do is safely make it through the Bends of Fury (which will be slick with Diesel on this damp morning) and I’ll have made it into work.

It’s all fairly insignificant in the bigger picture of things. Chilly has been in France to ride the Etape du Tour and despite having a laptop with him hasn’t posted up again since his initial article on getting there. This I can assume means one of three things. One is that his room has been broken into and his laptop stolen – now being used to sell snow to Eskimos by a long lost African relative. The second is that he has succumbed to the French wine and cheese and is too chilled to care about a bike ride. Or thirdly he has paid the price for taking on Mt Ventoux and is now dead. We wait for news from the south of France.

Majority Commuter
July 22nd, 2009

First let me start this post by saying that I may be wrong. Given that cycling to me is a very personal thing that I take seriously (in the same way that some people take football seriously and could recount the names of the players in their favourite team) I’ll admit my ability to be objective about things relating to bikes is difficult.

So here’s my thought for the day: I think that the majority of people who commute by bike to where they work do so in their work clothes. I am not therefore , talking about the minority of cyclists who ride all year round in any weather and have all sorts of specialist and expensive gear for the job. For this very reason bike clips were invented to stop your Paul Smith suit trouser legs being shredded in the chainset. This is also why many cyclists want mudguards and a pannier rack and a bell and lights and a pump and a toolkit and a spare tube and pannier bags and… all sorts of other accessories that I would either never fit or only fit when it was absolutely necessary.

Yesterday for the first time ever I rode to work to my office job in effectively work dress. Trousers, shirt, tie, etc. Admittedly I wasn’t wearing a suit and the trousers were a pair of chinos that double up for hiking duty, but nonetheless it was a momentous event in my cycling life. Predictably it rained, for which I was prepared – with my smart casual ventile jacket. This was utterly useless in preventing my arse from getting soaked by spray of the back wheel.

Even after riding at a pace which could be descried as sedate (but felt glacially slow) I arrived at work hot and bothered, needing to cool off for a good ten minutes – even after taking off my merino base layer. At the end of the day I waited until it stopped raining before even considering setting off for home. At a set of lights as I started my singlespeed big ring charge off from the lights, sandwiched like the unsavoury filling between a double decker and a couple of black cabs, my chain came off.

I had to coast sheepishly in front of the bus to the side of the road and then get oily fingers sorting it all out. I am in no rush to do it again. In fact I have no intention of doing it again (ever). Quite how people do it every day I have no idea, but there must be some very sweaty people in offices up and down the country. I’m just glad I’m not one of them.

It wasn’t Bad
July 16th, 2009

So some other loony tried to kill me on the way home last night. Hogged the road in his white Mercedes Sprinter van on a leafy suburban street lined with cars. There was room for a bike and him despite the cars, but no I had to slam on the anchors and pull into a gap to avoid joining the collection of dead flies plastered over his grill. I didn’t have one problem riding in France, but then again some of the places being explored by bike weren’t that crowded…

Switchbacks ahead

Front Wheel Skid
July 15th, 2009

There are some things that are actually quite hard to do on a bike. The Switzerland Squeaker is one of them as demonstrated over the years by Jez Avery. Which it helps to do if you’re northern. Another is being the most successful at winning downhill mountain bike races against the best in the world. Which it helps to do if you’re northern too. Another is riding skinnies, where it seems to help if your northern and Canadian and they’re in the local woods for practice. Then and possible the hardest of them all is doing a front wheel skid on a road bike.

This is tricky because the tyres are generally quite grippy and that the back is usually the first to slide, yet this morning on the way to work, I managed to lock up the front wheel. Some numpty in a Micra was in the wrong lane in the dual carriageway just after the Bends of Fury and darted across for the left hand exit cutting up the car in front of me, who slammed on the brakes causing me in turn to slam on and swerve to avoid stuffing it into the back of his red Polo. So, it seems that it helps to be surrounded by daft northern drivers if you want to perfect your life saving front wheel skids.

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