Feeling the love

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Pride comes before a fall and here’s me looking particularly proud of myself on the Fuji single speed bike I owned for about a month. This photo was a bit of a joke between myself and my old cycling buddy JP who was the previous owner of the Saracen hybrid that the Fuji was to replace. JP accused me of becoming a cycling ‘Hipster’ and having some kind of midlife crisis so I played up a bit to the camera.

So last night the Fuji was stolen from a pub about a mile from my house. In my eagerness to meet up with a former neighbour that I hadn’t seen for 30 years I rode there with the intention of walking/staggering home (maybe with a kebab for extra ballast). It was great catching up with John and his wife as well as Phil and Claire in The Ostrich next to Heaton Park- a fabulous pub which I wish was a bit closer to me.  I’ve cycled there before notably to go drinking with the Bishop of Bolton and to listen to the Stone Roses soundcheck from the beer garden. I always secure my bike to the drainpipe on the front of the pub which is on Bury Old Road, one of the main routes into Manchester.

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We didn’t leave the pub until after midnight and on doing so we found that the drainpipe had been pulled away from the wall, a section of pipe removed and my bike together with the thick cable lock had been stolen. Everyone else was more upset and angry than I was about the situation. It had happened to me before (twice previously in the last 9 years), nobody was hurt and it’s only a bike (albeit a rather pretty one). I had got attached to it quite quickly and although I wasn’t going to name it, a friend suggested ‘Mambo’ because it was my bike number 5. I was growing stronger on the uphill rides home and we had claimed our first Strava King of the Mountains together for an urban stretch in Lower Broughton called the ‘obstacle course’.  I had spent an hour of the afternoon fitting new mudguards to her and had just about got over the new bike squeaks and niggles.

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I quickly created a poster with a picture and a £50 reward fine which seems to have almost gone viral around Prestwich. In losing her a maelstrom of generosity and love has been whipped up around me today including the following:

  • Claire giving me a hug as soon as I realised what had happened
  • John and Alex taking me in, getting me a brew, letting me report the theft to the police (whilst quite drunk) and lending me a coat for a miserable walk home in the pouring rain.
  • Phil in particular but many other friends liking and sharing my lost bike message on Facebook. The banter has helped me too.
  • Jonathan, Emma and Adam and all former Twitter friends (I quit last summer) grabbing the image and sharing it and in particular Ed who forwarded it to my MP Ivan Lewis who also re-tweeted it. The Prestwich Twitterati would have been mostly seeing orange on their feeds this morning!
  • The Prestwich Spotted Facebook community page for posting the picture (don’t know who runs it)
  • Erin taking copies of the poster to circulate to her Church and friends this morning.
  • Harry the Spider having a word with a Salford based policeman who cycles out from Prestwich on his regular Monday MTB meet.
  • Rick finding a nearly new orange single speed for sale in Radcliffe though it had sneakily been classified as new. Not mine though.
  • Jackie who offered me the use of her husband’s bike before I pointed out that I had 4 others (I’ll be driving tomorrow anyway)
  • Pete who spotted a bit of broken mudguard whilst on a training run this evening for next weekend’s London Marathon. The bike appears to be taken away towards Manchester.
  • Our new Vicar Chris who happened to be delivering a sermon on Sadness so used me as an case study and therefore announced details of the crime to the busiest family service I can remember for quite a while.

Chris was telling us not to be sad in his sermon and I think I’ve kept the correct perspective upon a non-violent loss of property crime with the value of goods being less than £500. The only time I have been in tears today is when I’ve noticed some wonderful comments between people on Facebook and Twitter. So many people have taken time out to try to help me. I’m quite overwhelmed by it all.

I’ve definitely been feeling the love today, especially locally and even if the bike isn’t ever found I will have gained a lot in return. Image

 

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I’m going to run the Great Manchester 10k Run backwards

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April Fool’s Day would seem as good a day as any other to reveal to you my massive readership (have you put on a bit of weight recently?) that I’m going to be running the Great Manchester 10k backwards next month.

I’ve asked for permission off the organisers and everything. On signing up to the event there were all manner of limitations within the Terms and Conditions one of them being no wheelbarrows allowed. As finishers in the annual Studley wheelbarrow race (taking in about 4k and 8 pubs) we can vouch for the hazards of wheelbarrow racing. However, there was no mention of running backwards in the small print but I’m not daft (?!) a mass start among 30 – 40,000 people will not be straight-forward so I contacted the race organisers declaring my intentions and specifically seek their permission. In my favour I have been training hard and I’m well on my way to completing the full distance prior to the event, I could also tell them hand on heart that I have never fallen over yet. Having run the London Marathon and Great North Run I know what to expect at the start of such a big race but crucially I have a guide runner to at least help me through the first few busy kilometres.

It was Catriona’s idea for the family to take part in the event although initially I think she was just looking to enter the kids in the junior runs. She’d been jogging a couple of times this year but hadn’t run 10k since a Race for life event over 4 years ago. So I entered all 4 of us in our respective races: Alex is doing the under 8’s 2k mini run around Heaton Park and Maria is running 2 miles in the 9-15 years junior run. Catriona and I will run the main event at a similar pace: her Race For Life 10k was about 65 minutes and I think with a bit of speed training I can hit that figure too.

We’re running to raise month for Cancer Research UK and have set up the following Just Giving page if you’d like to sponsor us.

http://www.justgiving.com/holmesinho2

 

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Vous pouvez même visiter Rochdale!

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If you were a child of the 80s who lived in Greater Manchester and listened to lots and lots of local commercial radio (particularly when you should have been focusing a bit harder on your homework) then you would have been aware of how hard Andy Kershaw worked to sell the benefits of GM Transport’s weekly bus passes to 16 -18 year olds, coupled with the possibility of them then going on to visit his beloved home-town.

I don’t go to Rochdale very often although I once memorably bought an olive green double breasted suit there around the time of my 21st birthday (no it wasn’t fashionable then either). In recent years bike rides have taken me around the outskirts of the town and I particularly enjoy the descent from Owd Betts through Norden though I turn right to ride past Spotland before hitting the town centre.

Yesterday as we approached Rochdale in the car from the M627 I was amazed to see that the Tour De France would be passing through on July 6th. I don’t follow the tour that closely, I’ll pick up bits of the highlights but mostly because people presume I will know what’s going on and I don’t want to appear completely clueless. It must be one of the greatest endurance events there is on the planet and what those guys do is astonishing. It would be rude not to pop along to at least catch a fleeting glance of it this summer as it passes within 10 miles of my house.

I can just imagine our Andy getting excited by a cover of this German synth pop classic performed on an a West African Kora.

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I’m gonna live forever

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“Baby look at me, and tell me what do you see?”

You don’t need to answer that, I know I look a bit of a knobber but there’s good reason I assure you.

I’ve been likened to an extra from Fame in recent days (again this morning – thanks Hendo) but my striking electric blue and neon orange outfit has a purpose:

I don’t expect to live forever but I do want to increase my life expectancy by being as visible as possible along my daily commute.  Thankfully the dark mornings and evening are mostly behind me for the next 6 months (Happy vernal equinox BTW) and one common observation made of my fellow cycling brethren is that they don’t do themselves any favours by cycling around in stealth mode.

I cannot be accused of that.

In addition to my orange GMCC cycle gillet I have started buying bits of orange to ‘tone’ with my new orange Fuji Declaration but it’s beginning to look dull against my vivid cycling wardrobe.

Sadly there’s only so much you can do and I got Smidsy’d at the mini roundabout around the corner from my house a couple of months ago despite having lights on and wearing a luminous yellow jacket. The driver was cool though. Although we collided, he didn’t knock me to the ground and I still went ape at him (without swearing). He said all the right things to pacify me and ensure I was unhurt and in a fit mental state to start riding again.

So I might look even sillier than previously but I think it reduces my chances of not being seen.

 

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A Certain Ratio

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I’ve bought a 5th bike and it’s a single speed and it’s gorgeous.

I decided I needed to add to my fleet of bikes after I was easily overtaken by Ed on his Dolan single speed about 3 weeks ago: The Saracen was labouring along Bury New Road (okay, so was I a little bit) and Ed drifted past me.  This set me thinking. I tried to catch him at the next lights but in my excitement and efforts to catch up my rear light jumped off and I had to stop and pick it up. Ed was long gone, but I messaged him later asking what gear ratio he had on his bike.

Whatever it was I didn’t want to be that high if I was to commit to a single gear.  The ride to work is slightly downhill and thus the return is slightly uphill.  Going home there are a lot more stops and starts for lights and congestion so I definitely needed to focus more on the return ride when choosing the ratio for my primary commuting bike.

Over the next few days I experimented by committing to certain gears on the Saracen:  5th gear against the middle cog was comfortable, 6th was a little less but still manageable.

A couple of days later I was overtaken by another single speed on the way home. Using a bit of local knowledge I regained my position by taking the cobbles at the end of Great Clowes St rather than Knoll St and as she passed me for a second time along Bury New Road I asked her what gear ratio she had.  She didn’t know but said something about it being a 72″ cog and had the option of 68″ or something and this confused me.

About 10 minutes later whilst walking through Prestwich Precinct I met another single speed cyclist and quizzed him about his ratio.  This Eastern European chap didn’t really understand what I was asking (on reflection a bizarre initial question from a complete stranger) but assured me he could hit 30mph on his bike. Nice.

Whilst in London a couple of weeks ago I popped into an Evans shop and looked at what they had to offer. Plenty of single speed bikes there but mostly with drop handle bars whilst I wanted straight ones. They had a 2013 model Fuji Declaration reduced from £475 to £310 and in orange too and suddenly whatever the ratio it had I wanted it.  A couple of days later I was told by the Manchester store that it was out of stock but then the magic of browser history induced adverts made the same bike pop up on my screen whilst I was considering a cheap (and probably rubbish) ebay single speed.  Low and behold it was not actually out of stock, I ordered it and it arrived yesterday.

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It looks gorgeous and I am going to have to change my cycling wardrobe to feel worthy enough to ride it.  Tomorrow will be spent rearranging the bikes in my garage to make space for this 5th bike. I’ll grease and hang up the Mighty Saracen which has served me very well over the last 3 years.  She is the only bike I have ridden over 100 miles upon and whilst I might not ride her as often my message to her is “I won’t stop loving you”.

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King of the Simister Mountains

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Look at those legs! Glorious aren’t they?

Ignore the slightly comedic spotty socks and Aldi’s cheapest SPD MTB shoes and SWOON at those legs of STEEL!  Mud splattered, ever-so-slightly bramble scratched, pillars of pure POWER!

Those are the very limbs that this evening reclaimed a prestigious Strava King of the Mountains crown that was lost for less than 24 hours. To be honest I didn’t know I had a KOM and wouldn’t have been particularly arsed about losing it until a notification came through to my phone that my crown had been taken, nay STOLEN.

My first reaction was what? where? why? but sure enough, on a tired return from a first ever ride over the Pennines back in March I had passed through a mile long ‘segment’ between the M60 and Heaton Park’s perimeter.  I don’t know who defines these segments along which people can compete but I have no desire to define any and whoever defined the ‘Boundary Wall’ segment mustn’t have set a challenging target.  Nevertheless ‘Darren’ from Middleton (though probably equally oblivious at the time) snatched MY title from me.  I followed him on Strava and (grudgingly) gave him ‘Kudos’ and commented that I had noticed he had my crown. He followed me back and replied.

It was dry, the sun was shining this evening and to show I really meant business I put my shorts on for the homeward commute.  I was to be taken over 3km out of my way to take in the segment but I figured it was worth the extra effort.  A good run of lights got the legs spinning and well warmed up but I remembered to ease them as I climbed Leicester Road.  I attacked from the start of the segment with my legs spinning, sadly only one clipped in as my left leg would have fouled the pannier hanging on the frame at the back. I went through at least 2 big puddles not caring one jot for the spray, people I was in the ZONE.  I know this stretch well enough to know I find it a little uncomfortable (it’s a bit bumpy for a hybrid commuting hack) but I powered through, teeth gritted and eyes bulging.

I now have my title back.  You may bow down before me.  And for your information, the incline of this particular mountain on the outskirts of Simister that I was crowned king of was 1.5%

Oh Yeah!

Legs of steel!

Lungs of iron!

Eye of the tiger!

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My first 100 mile ride

Yesterday I completed my first 100 mile ride, but as I’ve discovered there are easy miles and there are harder miles. Prior to yesterday I’d ridden 75 miles a couple of times but one of those trips had taken twice as long as the other. Liverpool and back on a road bike was completed before lunchtime whereas the first day of my C2C ride didn’t end until 8pm.

I’d pretty much stopped commuting by bike at the end of last year and found in January I’d lost the base fitness I needed for a painless 2 hour ride so I put together a programme of a dozen rides to bring me up to 75 mile fitness again.

The training rides were completed on my trusty Saracen commuting hybrid, the bike I knew I’d be using yesterday, but almost all of the riding was on the road and straight uninterrupted roads wherever possible. I kept an excel sheet with distance, time, average speed also factored in the relative lumpiness of the rides with a ft/hour climbing ratio. I could see progress as the rides got longer in time and distance but I hadn’t made any allowance for trail riding.

So yesterday 6 of us set off from the Sage offices at 8am in glorious early morning sunshine. Ian, Chris and James are riding from London to Paris in a couple of months time so the 60 trail ride fitted nicely into their spring cycling programme. Amy like myself had set the ride as an ultimate challenge and she was going to be travelling twice as far as she’d ever ridden before. I, however, was the only one who would be riding back from Southport.

The mixed terrain (as well as the A frames and barriers along the trail) nags at you and compromises your pace in a manner that is more significant than you expect. Progress was slower than we all anticipated and the incentive of a late Nandos lunch in Southport to fuel me for the 40 mile on road return was quickly disappearing.

We paused at Hale, just short of half way along the trail and I grabbed a hot steak and kidney pie to supplement my stash of supplements. An hour later we were at the Knotty Ash Sainbury’s for another scheduled stop, but rather than wait for hot food I grabbed a sandwich and decided to split from the rest of the group. I had to be back home for 6:30 so needed to be leaving Southport no later than 3pm. I made quick progress along the remaining 3rd of the trail with Endomondo chirping out lots of sub 2 minute kilometre splits. Although I noticed it start to drizzle I didn’t appreciate the stiffening easterly breeze that was giving me a helping hand. I reached Southport just before 3pm, put on my waterproof and then turned around to face the wind. I then realised how much help I’d had during the previous hour. I shouted and swore at the elements as I took the A570 out of the town and tried to comfort myself by tucking into my supply of caffeine energy gels.

I knew I had two climbs on the way home: Parbold and Haigh. I’d done the latter a couple of months earlier and didn’t like the way it dragged on, Parbold was unknown to me and as it turns out, a bit steeper. Though feeling more mentally than physically weary, I got off to push the bike up the Parabold hill and to stretch out my legs. As I reached Haigh, again I dismounted for the initial steepest section. I was looking forward to the descent through Aspull but it was at that point my gear shifter broke and found myself stuck in 2nd gear. I still had the front derailleur to give me a choice of 3 speeds but all of them were to low to do anything but coast on the downhill sections. So the last 15 miles dragged but there were a couple of moments when I was grateful that I was stuck in 2nd and not anything higher.

I got home about 6:30 and had to be showered and out for 7pm so no relaxing soak in the bath but other than some saddle soreness from 11 hours of riding and a left hand that still feels a bit fizzy as I type, I got away without any aches in my back or legs. The bike is already at the local bike shop to have the shifter replaced so I don’t feel quite so bad about driving to work tomorrow.

Thank you to everyone who has sponsored and encouraged us, I enjoyed the challenge of the ride though next time I set myself a distance target I’ll ensure it’s all on tarmac.Image

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