I used to hate the turbo trainer. I used to hate training. I began to hate cycling. I started to hate Road Racing. I used to hate myself.

I know enjoy the turbo trainer. I now kind of enjoy training. I love cycling. I’m still unsure about Road Racing (more on this to come). I still hate myself.

What’s changed? Well I now train like I usually drink, small quantities with high intensity for maximum impact, a couple of 2/3rds of something around 6-9% =a 40 min high intensity turbo session hard and strong but only able to sustain it for up to an hour before the wheels come off. Bang, bang  get the job done.

A longer endurance structured  tempo session 90mins- 2hrs 30min tops (I can count the 4hr + rides I have done over the winter on one hand)= 4-5 pints of something around 5-6% still strong and hard but sustainable over a longer period.

I still enjoy a relaxed long summer ride with a café stop though. This =  nice afternoon drinks with friends.A session ale of around 3-4% or a nice pilsner at 5%. Steady away you can keep it up all day.

I’m not racing for any longer than 2 1/4 hours these days so why slog my guts out through the wind and rain of winter when I can be indoors hitting all the right spots with my turbo 6-9% sessions.

But now summer is here I envisage more session ales to come.

I still hate myself.CHEV-13

 

WP_20160220_08_04_35_Pro“Why are you paying to ride on roads you can ride on all the time for free”?.
This is one of many of the questions, or statements of derision that get thrown at me by ‘proper cyclists’ when I mention that I have done or will be doing a Sportive.

“They are not races and they are killing road racing” is another. “They are dangerous because the people who do them don’t know how to ride in groups or on a wheel, and they are all fat and they all ride really expensive bikes and wear Sky kit” is another quite long one.

“You shouldn’t be on the road, you don’t pay road tax”…whoops, sorry that’s a different topic but is usually trotted out by similar, equally ill-informed and ignorant people. As is “The Smiths are depressing and miserable”.

The topic amongst cyclists seems to be as divisive as David Millar. Why I don’t know. Why should people out riding and enjoying their bikes in beautiful surroundings attract such negative comments and feelings?. Is it fear? Snobbery? Probably a number of reasons. but there are many reasons why Sportives are a good thing. I will hopefully explain why …but with some people I know I’m wasting my breath!

But let me address some of those negative comments. Firstly the one about paying to ride on roads etc. A vast majority of cyclists who utter these words race or have raced. Which means they have probably travelled a fair distance to ride on a dangerous stretch of dual carriageway, that you wouldn’t normally in your right mind, go anywhere near on your bike – and they pay money for the privilege. Guaranteed its not as expensive to enter a time trial as compared to a Sportive, but time trials don’t normally last as long as a Sportive, so without working out the value for money mile for mile (because frankly I can’t be arsed) you tend to get better value for money at a sportive. Some racing cyclists also pay good money and travel distances to ride round and round a taped course resembling a maze on a sports field (which will be usually free to use on most days) making themselves very dizzy and dirty in the process. And they usually need two bikes to do it with. Or travel far and wide to ride flat out for around 4-5 minutes up a hill making themselves sick in the process.

An equal amount of criticism comes from the Sunday café ride/club run gang – the type of cyclist who does the same ride every Sunday to the same café to have the same food and do the same route back. That’s ok, each to their own, some people are just creatures of habit but that doesn’t give you the right to criticise cyclists who like to explore different roads in different areas. Even, god forbid, put the road bike in the back of the car and drive 30-40-50-100+ miles from home to start a ride in different surroundings. MTBers do this all the time, I do it myself and have done it to ride Sportives.

“They are not race’s!” You are right they are not. “They are killing road racing!” No they are not. There are many reasons why road racing is going through a long slow death in this country, but Sportives are not the reason. Some of the reasons in my opinion are increasing policing and running costs, getting police/local authority permission to race on the open road, a lack of volunteer helpers/commissionares etc, Clubs/individuals bemoaning the lack of road racing but not willing to step up and put racers on. Instead they would prefer to accuse sportives and people who do them of killing road racing. Cycling clubs are not trying to engage with the new influx of people coming into the sport, or helping to get them interested in what can be the very intimidating and elitist world of road racing.

“They are dangerous because people who do them cannot ride in groups or on wheels and they are all fat and they all wear Sky kit and they all ride really expensive bikes”. I have done plenty of racers where there are plenty of participants who can’t ride in a straight line (myself included. I once caused quite a big pile up in a race by not looking where I was going)let alone a group and I’m not taking about that often maliged group known as 4th cats. Yes 4th cats these poor people who get blamed for most of the worlds ills. I keep forgetting that the people who criticise the lack of “race craft” and riding skills amongst these beginners were blessed with instant “Sagan esq” riding skills and bunch savvy as soon as they swung a leg over a top tube.

Ok, some of them don’t know how to ride in a group or on a wheel. Probably because they have never done it before. They might have tried, they might have gone along to their nearest clubs Sunday run and found that they were snubbed because they were wearing Sky kit and riding an expensive bike and were then dropped and left to fend for themselves, much to the delight of the members of the cycling club they went along to ride with. (We are back to cycling clubs engaging with the increasing number of new people trying to get into the sport, some clubs do do this, but they tend to be newer clubs, sometimes formed by the very people who are coming into the sport).

So what if they have expensive bikes. so do the vast majority of other cyclists. Myself included.
But people are also ridiculed for having an old or cheap bike and not the right kit or gear. Whilst doing the Cyclone last year my two ride partners and I passed a guy who was doing the long route with a large rucksack on his back astride a cheap “crappy” old bike that can only be described as a gas piped wreck. He was wearing an old pair of Addidas sambas and had a pair of 80s football shorts to protect him from a hard day in the saddle. 101 miles around Northumberland to be precise. How many local “hard men” would attempt that.
Right enough of this negativity, I’m already in a foul mood. Now I’m going to tell you why I think the Sportive is a good thing.

The sport of cycling is going through quite a growth period at the moment. Yes some of these ‘newbies’ may have just purchased a nice new shiny carbon bike from the internet because their mates have. And a vast majority of these bikes will spend most of their life leaning against the cross trainer or weights stand in the garage. But a good number of these bikes will be used by the owner as he or she becomes a ‘serious’ cyclist.

Most people who involve themselves in a sport will entertain the idea of completion and/or seek out challengers that pit themselves against others themselves and the terrain. In the case of many new adult cyclists this takes on the form of a “group ride” with their mates or their recently joined local cycling club( if they have chosen that route and are lucky enough to have a friendly welcoming club in their area). Now as I have said a sportive is not strictly a race in the truest sense but you are timed (so you could say that it is a TT but with less nerds) so you have the option of wanting to “push on” and try and post the fastest time you can, to beat your mates/club mates or qualify for one of the timing standards that a lot of Sportives employ. So an element of completion is there for people who want it. You can approach it how you want. Even completing the distance for a lot of people is challenge enough, and there isn’t the shame of getting “shot out the back” in the first few miles of a Road Race. If the appetite is wetted, then they’ll undertake more Sportives, and perhaps the following year the same ones again with the goal of beating last years time.

For some it might have been their first experience of riding with a group of cyclists or even riding a bike “seriously” . They might be active in another sport or just “sporty” and want another challenge. The Great North Run or London Marathon might have already been ticked off the list and now the fancy having a crack at cycling and if they enjoy the experience it might encourage them to seek out local groups or clubs to ride with. They might even have bumped into some members of a local club from their area. And depending on how the encounter went they might be encouraged to join the club, or avoid it like the plague. Either way after notching up a couple of sportives, thoughts may turn to ‘proper’ racing and entries sent off for Road Races, Time Trials and Cyclo Cross racers – perhaps a future champion may emerge or at least another recruit to the racing fraternity. Win win in my book.

Lets also look at it from another angle. Last year I did the “Winking Sheep Roof of England” Sportive in upper Wear Dale. This is an area I know quite well, but many don’t and a large percentage of the participants had never been to Wear Dale before – but talking to a number of them after they had completed the challenging course, they’ll be back. This is good news for an area much ravaged by unemployment, putting money into the coffers of local business. I had a similiar experience when I first completed the “Ken Laidlaw” up in Hawick, run by Hawick CC – one of the oldest cycling clubs in the country – in honour of one of our greatest cyclists. I was parked next to cyclists from as far and wide as Cambridgeshire and other exotic southern places who had never visited the Boarders before, but have since returned time and time again. As have I, which neatly leads me into why I do sportives and what I get out of them. I have never been a fan of doing the same rides and routes all the time. I used to find it hard keeping to a usual post work training loop, which meant tracking training improvements could be a ball ache. I even move my rollers from room to room to “mix it up a bit”. Doing the same road race circuits can also be a challenge, I like to seek out new roads and ride in places I haven’t been before. Now thanks to taking part in some Sportives I have done just that. My attitude to racing for various reasons has been changing over the last few years, I have been stepping away from racing all season and every weekend. I didn’t even plan to race last year I was happy just to ride my bike after recovering from bouts of illness both mental and physical. I had planned a touring trip to Norway but a couple of broken ribs had put a stop to that. When I was capable of riding a bike again I did just that. I just rode my bike for the pure simple pleasure of riding. But my “competitive spirit” started to get the better of me. A few “half arsed” attempts on the local chain gang encouraged to get fitter but with out the pressure of racing.

I still needed some kind of goal that would keep me inspired and motivated, but wouldn’t completely dominate my life. I decided that doing a couple of Sportives would be perfect. I would need to be fit to get round in a decent time, but wouldn’t need to be “race fit” meaning I could still have a social life (pub). The more relaxed nature of the events were perfect for me but they were hard. Some of the hardest day’s I have had on a bike for a long time. But I was happy I was enjoying riding and pushing myself on my bike again. and most of all I was enjoying not worrying about anything.

Doing these sportives inspired me. They relit the fire, riding hard in beautiful, challenging terrain with other cyclists made me want to carry on doing it. On the back of these, I renewed my race licence and pinned a number on again. There is no reason why this couldn’t happen to someone else like me or someone new to the sport. Making that natural progression from serious cyclist to racing cyclist. I will be racing again this year but that does not mean I will be turning my back on the humble sportive. No, far from it, I have already signed up for some this year and also entered some “proper” races. I will be mixing it up again keeping it fresh and also just riding my bike because I just like riding my bike. Variety is the spice of life, why restrict yourself to always doing the same thing. A good example of this is my older brother. Due to time constraints he has little time for training so a lot of his competitive cycling is spent on dual carridgeway’s, so for a change he joined me on at the Roof of England sportive last year. A lack of mileage in his legs convinced him to do the shorter distance but he loved it. The change was a shot in the arm for him and he has vowed to return this year and do the full distance. And why restrict it to your home shores. There are plenty of Sportives and “Gran Fondo” all over the world. Combine riding your bike with a visit to another country that’s not Majorca. Soak up the local cycling/café/bar culture. It seems to be more acceptable to travel thousands of miles to beast yourself over horrific stretches of pave or drag yourself over Col after Col than traveling a couple of hours or less to ride a sportive in the UK. But if that’s not your thing then fine, I appreciate that not everyone is the same and has the same outlook on cycling as me. I must also concede that due in my line of work I get to meet many types of cyclists from beginners ,family groups right through to racers both on and off road and everything else in between. And in my experience some people are just twats no matter what type of cyclist they are and beyond redemption. But if you are going to slag off Sportives in front of me you better come up with some alternative reasons to the ones I have discussed above.

I have found this particular blog very hard to write. There is a lot of quite personal stuff contained  within it and I was not going to bother publishing it as I didn’t want to be just another” whingey” attention seeking prick. but that’s exactly what I am so I decided to persevere. And   because as I took so long to write it due to my constantly fluctuating mental state   I experienced some of  the various “me’s”  I describe whilst writing it, some mild some extreme. I also   came to my conclusion at the end due to this experience.. The piece may seem a little disjointed and with out a smooth  narrative.This is because I didn’t edit it as such as I  wanted to reflect how I was changing during the writing of it. and if the spelling and grammar is off tough you will have to put up with it. Or not. It  started  out as a reflective and optimistic  piece on my coping/preventive strategy but as I went on some of It becomes a commentary  of my then  mental  state.  I also find the writing quite cathartic. I find it easier to express myself and try to explain through the medium of a keyboard than talking to close friends and family. I just wished I could kick my arse into gear to do some more.  So here it is rough as a badgers arse warts and spelling/grammar mistakes and all.

race or sportive?. Sportive or hard ride?. Hard ride or café ride?. Group ride or solo ride ?. Any type of ride or Cinema?. Cinema or pub ? Pub with friends or solo pub?. Pub or couch?. Couch or darkened room?.
This sequence is either in accent or decent depending on my state of mind and mood at any particular time.
It’s a state of affairs  I have struggled with through much of my adult life and one which I will probably always struggle with but it is one I have started to be accustomed to.

“just snap out of it”. ” what have you got to be depressed about”  “why are you so quiet “?. “why are you so loud “? “why are you acting like a complete cunt”?.are phrases/questions I have also become accustomed to through much of my adult life. My councillor said I have a personalty disorder and this has made it difficult to sustiain relationships and sometimes friendships.

“Live on feel. Ride on feel” is a phrase I have also been getting accustomed to over these past few months. I don’t know if I will ever truly be able to fully control my Jekel and Hyde character. Lets call them Sport Karl and Pot-Belge Karl both of these two “me’s” can be equally destructive in their own different ways and have a massive bearing on my depression and mood or is it the other way round. im still not sure.but I have recently been able to strike a balance between the two using my” Live on Feel. Ride on Feel” philosophy. Don’t worry it’s not going to be the title of a new self-help book.

Well what does it all mean. Well it means this, sporty serious cyclist Karl will not be as serious about being sporty and cycling and Pot-Belge Karl will not be as serious about being “drunky” and crazy and seeking solace in the bottom of a glass.. How does this work?.

the two extreme” Me’s” can’t exist at the same time. one is always in the ascendancy and the other usually takes back control as I rebel against myself. Months/years of clean living training etc will suddenly come to an end as I plunge myself headlong into a dark deep depression followed by heavy drinking self loathing and despair.

The perfect storm example of this sequence came about a few years ago. Pot-belge Karl was becoming as bit of a pain and a bore and a liability. The gaps between bouts of depression were filled with bouts of drinking and everything else in an attempt to feel something happiness a sense of self anything but that just made it worse. one was just fueling the other.

It had to stop and it did one weekend I made a decision and a step in the right direction .I  dragged out my old racing bike and headed to the hills and not the bottle.

Over the space of a couple of years I gradually replaced one addiction with another. Both equally destructive on both body and mind.

At first cycling then racing gave me the self-esteem I so desperately needed and helped with my ongoing body issues.  Healthy body healthy mind and all that.It started to become a problem the better I became at it. I started to push myself harder always wanting to achieve bigger and better things. Craving the admiration and respect of my peers.

“it was at this stage in Karls racing career that he started to experiment with serious training”. I spent more and more time on the bike and away from friends. Evenings in the pub or at the cinema were replaced by hard training rides in the cold and pitch dark straight after work, A treat of pizza or an indian chased down with a glass of red were replaced with steamed veg and lean meats.

Long days at work on my own were followed by long days/nights in the saddle on my own followed by evenings at home by myself. My obsession with body image and weight kicked in and a winter of over training coupled with under eating   finally took its toll. I spent the following months flitting between bouts of severe depression where I would be bed ridden hiding in  the dark during the day time and going to 24hr supermarkets during the night to stock up on junk food and confectionary to feed my bulimia. This had started as a result of a another rebellion against myself. I over indulged in everything I had been denying myself the last couple of years and would then become guilty and make myself sick. This became a routine and carried on when the depression had subsided. The bulimia itself had become a kind of addiction.

The exact time line is a bit confused now there were lots of mini recovery followed by massive relapses. The few days I did manage to drag myself out of the flat and on the bike were followed by days of complete and utter mental and physical exhaustion followed by long sessions in the pub mixed with binge eating/bulimia. This must have taken place over a couple of years as I remember getting to the Tour de France one year  and dragging my fat body up Alpe du Huez The following year I managed to race at the start of the season which must have  involved training addiction again as I lasted until may and upon returning from a trip to Tuscany I had another relapse.

More weeks were spent  hidden away in my flat  I did drag myself out on the bike namely to watch the first stage of Le Grand Depart Yorkshire the next few days were spent in bed mentally and physically spent. I missed the tour going over the roads I used to ride as a kid the next day.

When I did recover enough to leave the flat again my evenings were usually taken up with sessions in the pub and weekends in the pub. I didn’t look or touch a bike for a long long time. I had managed to suck any enjoyment out of the one thing at the time that gave my any enjoyment and a sense of worth.

I decided to take some time away from the bike. The first time for 6 or so years I didn’t undertake a winter training program. I did occasionally go out on the bike but only when I really missed it. I missed the company of some of my cycling mates as well. Some great café rides started to remind me of why I truly love cycling.

During this time Pot-Belge Karl was in the ascendency.  was drinking heavily and was in danger of falling back into old habits but something had changed. Subtle at first but it started to make a difference. counseling was starting to help with the eating disorders and this also started to help with my self-esteem and the ideas of moderation. just a few months before I would have never even contemplated time off the bike or having a drink or some junk food. I would have beaten myself up about how I had let myself down but now as I was learning to embrace moderation again. a couple of days off the bike is not a big deal not now I had taken a massive weight off my shoulders by deciding not to race for the foreseeable future. so having a few pints or even a complete blow out weekend were fine. Just as long as I didn’t put too much weight on!!!

 

 

 

I drink to stop depression. Depression  makes me drink     I drink because im lonely im lonely because I drink

I ride to stop depression. riding dpresses me. I ride because im lonely. riding makes me lonely.

I have recently started to enjoy the bike again . I did some sportive’s  which I really enjoyed. I could do something which still had an element of competitiveness involved without having to be super fit. After these I actually competed in a couple of racers which I did far better than I expected although the third race was a disaster. but it did show I can still be competitive without having to dedicate my life solely  to racing and training. After the last race I didn’t touch the bike for a week and went to the pub every night instead and  that’s moderation for me and I just said to myself its ok to do it.

 

 

both of the me’s have some good features and quality  worth keeping they just turn into monsters given the chance. I need to take the best bits from the both of me’s and make one super me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

this I thought I had achieved even though I knew that the black dog will always be scratching at the door sometimes louder than others . I will no doubt let him in at some point again but I will try to take him for a bike ride and not for a walk to the fucking pub. when it comes on I recognise that I just have to go with it and don’t worry I can’t do anything about it but going with it seems to reduce the length of the depression.

the only problem is that since starting to write this blog I suffered another relapse even though my “live on feel Ride on feel” approach seemed to be working. It only lasted 3-4 days but I was once again consigned to the darkened room and time off work again.When I came out of the other end I had to admit to myself and come to the conclusion that there is in  fact  another “me” to add to the other two. :Lets call him black dog Karl and no matter what I do  black dog Karl will  always come scratching at the door no matter what balance I strike between the other two and no matter what I do he will get in. I just seem to be able to recognise when he is sniffing around now. I will continue with my “live on feel” etc but I have to come to terms  with the fact that “black dog Karl” will always be around that he ultimately determines the fate of Sporty/healthy Karl and Pot-Belge Karl and not let it depress me too much.

Epoca R50Forged in the midst of time, deep within the bowels of the earth, the mystical material known as “Carbon Fibre” has been sought by man. Since the time of the dinosaurs, mighty Empires have been built and lost trying to control the ancient trade route known as “the Carbon Fibre Road”. And all to enable bearded men with bare muscle ripped torsos – like ones you see in that terrible film 300 – work the raw material in front of blazing furnaces into bike frames, golf clubs, stuff for space ships and probably frying pans as well these days. 

Unlike steel which I’m sure is made from stuff from the earth by blokes I have described above I have absolutely no idea how carbonfibre is made. Or what it is. I do know that there is carbon in it and fibre, so it must be good for you, and it comes in different forms of Ks like 3K and special K. I also know that don’t know what that means. I have tried to educate myself about the stuff. I have various cycling magazines lying around the bathroom which contain articles about the use of “C F” (I’m getting fed up of typing carbon fibre so will use CF from now on) in the construction of bike frames and why it’s good. I attempt to read these whilst doing my business, but they quite literally bore the crap out of me. 

What I can tell you for certain is that my beautiful EPOCA R50 CF bike frame is made from CFAnd unlike most CF frames, it’s hand built by a Italian bloke called Valentino, in Northern Italy, in the shadow of Monte Grappa and not by some automatons in a sterile soulless factory in the Far East. I‘m sure he owns a fire belching furnace as well, but as for his muscle ripped torso, I cannot comment as I have yet to see it. 

IMG_2232

Valentino complete with shirt admires another one of his masterpieces.

This I also know, my frame is constructed from 3K CF tubes which are made to Valentinos exact spec and delivered to him by mermaids or angels or a bloke in a van. He then hand finishes and mitres the tubes together. This allows for a truly ‘bespoke’ frame to be made to each customer’s particular design and specification. Epoca have 3 frames in their range. The more traditional looking R30, the aero tubed super stiff R60, and my R50. The R50 is described as a ‘Gran Fondo race bike’ that Epoca claim ‘delivers maximum performance, but with the comfort for long days in the saddle’. And that this is achieved by ‘wrapping a layer of Kevlar over the 3K carbon tubes and adding an extra layer of reinforcement at the joints’. 

You have probably figured out that the above paragraph was not penned by me but lifted from a Cycling magazine that did a piece on my frame. Mine wasn’t an off the peg big brand frame but my OWN unique one-off frame.There is probably not another one like it in the world (although there will always be someone who shows a complete lack of imagination and blatantly copy other peopleideas – I speak from experience). Valentino and Epoca not only hand build their frames, they also finish and paint the frames in-house, including decals which change colour depending on light directionwhich means unique frames with a unique finish as well. 

Epoca R50 Karl Juan Denton

Original paint design. The stripes along the top tube are a combination of the Italian and Northumbrian flags. The cheques down the back of the seat tube are in honour of the famous/infamous Newcastle Cheviots CC.

But not everyone wants to be unique which is fair enough. That being the case, then Epoca or any other of the small independent bespoke frame builders out there are probably not for them. Cycling, like most things, is affected by the fickle and fleeting transitory nature of fashion, but good design and craftsmanship is always constant. A hand built ‘bespoke’ frame which is designed and built around you, the type of rider you are, and the riding you do, will always be that, no matter what flavor of the season colour bar tape and saddle happens to adorn it. 

Unique and fashion bucking is all very nice but if your unique handmade frame rides like a sack of shit you might as well just swing your leg over one of them bikes beloved by the masses. 

Well I will certainly not be doing that at any point soon as I can tell you that my Epoca is definitely like no sack of shit in the handling department, unless that sack of shit was provided by the god of great handling bikesbecause even if I don’t fully understand the stuff its made from, or even want to try to understand,  I still know it’s the best handling responsive bike I have owned up to now and I have owned some good ones. Most of them handmade Italian beauties. And so it should be as Valentino has been building bikes since the mid 1950s. Most of them for other people and ‘brands’ (one of them was a Belgium bloke who was quite good at racing and if you believe his nickname liked the taste of human flesh). 

I’m also lucky to own a steel beauty which was also made by an Italian guy, in front of a fire belching furnace, wielding a massive hammer, but this is my utility bike. I have used it all through winter with full-length mudguards and the start of summer. It also has pannier rack eyes on it and I was all set for some touring in Scotland and Norway during Spring, until a few broken ribs put the end to that idea. The reason I mention this is because I wanted a comfortable bike for long days in the saddle, and I have always been told that steel is the best material for making nice comfy “compliant” bikes and my steel Racer Rosa is certainly that. I have spent many a long ride over terrible North East roads aboard it, with no comfort issues. My Racer Rosa and Epoca were built from the same custom personalized frame design, so in terms of riding position, swapping between the two should feel like a natural progression and it does. The difference is that the Epoca is lighter so goes up hills and accelerates quicker, but the comfort and ride quality is almost the same. I say almost because I have some super stiff wheels attached to the Epoca which make for a slightly harsher ride, but even the extended seat tube doesn’t affect the ride quality. The ‘trend’ now (see – fashion again) is for narrower seat posts etc for a more ‘compliant’ ride this I know because I managed to get through an article in a cycling magazine about compliance in CF bike frames. It took many trips to the little reading room to do this, but I did and I was proud of myself. But very bored. I’m sure Valentino and Epoca have good scientific engineering reasons why they are shunning this latest fashion, but I don’t particularly care. The extended seat tube enabled me to see my paint finish design along the top tube and up the extended seat mask. Oh, and the bike feels more ‘grounded’ when climbing in the saddle. Always a bonus in my book. 

IMG_2233

Cheque it out.

Well at the end of the day, do I really need a made to measure, bespoke fitted, CF bike frame. Probably not. I‘m quite an average guy when it comes to my height, etc, so I could easily get away with an off the peg frame from a big brand, that feels like riding a plank of wood… probably. But I‘m not really an average guy when it comes to my tastes. Yes, I still keep an eye on fashions, and to a certain extent  follow the crowds be it cycling trends or fashion trends. I’m sporting a beard as I type, but this was more through accident than design. But I always try and add my own unique stamp or twist to most things I do. That’s why I choose to ride custom built bespoke CF and steel framed bikes, because, for the similar price to a top end off the peg mass produced frame from the big brands, I can have something unique, something that little bit different, something with my own stamp and twist on it. Something that was built by a person with a name and a face who may or may not have a muscle ripped torso. 

ANALOGY ALERT ANALOGY ALERT !!!!!!!!! 

Savile Row or Marks and Spencers for your suit? Well I can’t afford either because I own a top line CF bike but if I had the choice I know where I would be getting my next suit from.The material will be just right for me, the cut perfect for great handling on the wedding reception dance floor, understated but with just a splash of colour that sets me apart from the crowd. Fingers crossed no one else turns up in the same outfit. 

for most people the race season is starting to wind down. for me mine never really wound up. i can safely say that my first season in my OCC kit and aboard my Legend has not been a great success.

the year up to know has been  a long hard slog,i may as well use a cheesy cycling meatphor to describe it.this year has been like a grand tour queen stage from hell. one where i have had to struggle over the fearsome climbs of the col de multiple illness,the col de redundancy- twice,the col de depression and the col de eating disorder.

along the  way i have become even more selfish and introverted. i have neglected both friends and family and lost sight of the important things in life.

but i’m now on the last climb and have just passed under the flamme rouge.the finish is in sight,its the beginning of the end of my queen stage from hell. on sunday i will be doing something only a few weeks ago i never thought i would do ever again.

i will be  pinning on a race number.a lone rider illustrat#91a

the words of george mallory spring to mind as i slump over my handlebars gasping for breath after  dragging myself over a white line chalked on the road at the top of some windswept godforsaken hill. i have for the last 4 or so minutes in between the spasms of pain and heavy breathing been repeatedly  asking myself the question “why the hell am i doing this????” ” why the hell am i sprinting up this twat of a hill as fast as i can and making myself feel ill in the process????”

the answer is not “because its there” its  more like the fact i have a race number pinned to my back and some bloke is stood at the top of  this twat of a hill with a stop watch and clipboard waiting for me and i don’t want to let him down

it can’t be for any other reason, even if i have unfortunately   shown a bit of talent for this branch of the sport.320474_10151223090501061_904188052_n  i say unfortunately  because although hill climbs in cycle racing terms are quite short events they must rank amongst one of the more brutal both   mentally and physically. on average around four or so minutes of absolute pain  and suffering. this is now going through my mind as i wait at the bottom of the hill to start my accent  knowing whats about to come. trying to get ready to launch myself up what appears to be the side of a house in 5,4,3,2,1 GO

well the next four or so minutes just confirms my fears. its taken up with burning pain in my legs arms and lungs, a metallic taste in my mouth and  me just wanting it all to stop as i  repeatedly  ask   myself “why the hell am i doing this??” . i am now slumped over my handlebars at the top of some windswept godforsaken hill and as i wait for the waves of nausea to subside i cant  think of a good answer to my question but i know i will be doing it all  again in the not too distant future, well in this case in the next hour. yes i am  stupid enough to sometimes do two of these things in one day.

just don’t ask me why.

 

the season dribbled to its end and the “off season” cakes and beers have been consumed and weight has been gained.its now time to shake off the beer belly blues and” get back on it” for the forthcoming season of new starts and beginnings.
once again i will have my faithful companion “Belinda ballast bottle” to keep me company during them hard winter rides up hill and down dale. saddle up belinda.