Strava baiting

On the bank holiday weekend and for the first time in 147 days i rode a bike outside…and it was glorious, I had forgotten the sense of freedom bestowed upon you being on two wheels.

It was so enjoyable, that barely an hour later with some more suitable cycling attire on I went out for the second time. In fact it’s been a part of every single day since….the weather has contributed in no small part to that.

Although I’ve kept it low distance and local it means I’m riding the same segments again and again and by the very nature of Strava ended up comparing it to pre-injury. Thankfully I’m sanguine enough about my recovery to know that I’m going to be slower, although as it’s turning out over some short distances not that much slower, which is quite satisfying.

I try not to take Strava too seriously, segments are a bit of fun competition to spice up the odd ride, compete against myself or just enjoy some free speed from stonking tailwind. But there are some that their segment trophy case is their pride and joy…it’s a matter of reputation to keep that number 1 spot. There’s a local legend around my area who’s gone out and claimed as many segments as he can…much to the chagrin of a few. You could say he’s possibly taken it a bit too far and is rumoured to have broken a bone or two in that quest and since cut back on the devil-May-care attitude. That gap has now been filled by riders claiming a moment of pride to take one back.

Now the key to taking a segment isn’t just in choosing the ride conditions (hands up who knows where the nearest flag is to check wind direction) it’s about attitude, The snappy ride title that sets the scene, you weren’t really trying and it’s almost surprise “oh was there a segment there..”

It’s hard to tell who means it sincerely and who means it ironically, and a dangerous path to walk to the full “Strava wanker”.

From personal experience, ignoring a few accidental ones, I tried damn hard for any segment I’ve claimed and know that with the data on Strava there’s no hiding it so don’t even try.

So i thought I’d try a little experiment and see who the really competitive riders are near me.

I’ve found the most obscure road possible can that doesn’t have a segment already and create one, with the least effort possible and leave the bait and see who bites. The cruel plan is hopefully they only claim it by a few seconds so that I can take it back and see how many times it changes hand.

Given it’s a dead end anyone riding it is going to have to make a special detour…let the baiting begin…

Baby steps….literally

The primary care i received after my accident was second to none, I can’t speak highly enough of the paramedics and the nursing staff. The surgical team had a little less face time with, I think there was about 30s of conversation with anaesthetists (which is probably enough of a indication of quality) and the x-rays as proof of 8 hours of quality work from them.

The mission of the staff, nurses, doctors and the physios was to get me well enough to survive outside of the hospital. For the physios that meant standing up, using crutches well enough to get about (mostly to get to the loo as no-one enjoys a bed pan) and make it up and down a flight of stairs.

Being able to function for the necessities of day to day life was not going to be enough for me. Having started New Year’s Eve and with almost 300 miles notched up on the saddle for just that week, my activity level took a substantial nose dive.

While the morphine was flowing and I couldn’t even get out of bed this was fairly easy to accept.

Half way in at 6 weeks in is a very different mind set and requires more resilience than being in a hospital bed letting the body do its thing. There’s an eye on 12 weeks when I can start putting weight on it and in the intervening 6 weeks trying to minimise the loss of condition, strength or fitness ready for that.

Not for the first time I’m grateful of my education, doing a physiology degree means not only having some knowledge myself but also having friends I can count on for knowledge I don’t have…and some abuse when my training ethic takes a knock.

While i am not a professional athlete I certainly aspire to be competitive so thought I’d find some comparison. I crossed Geraint Thomas off as he got back on his bike and finished the Tour de France, that’s not an option. So the closest I knew of was Chris Froome and looked to see how long it took to return from his crash. He managed to notch up a few more broken bones and definitely did more damage to his bike. Either way seeing him back and racing in less than a year gives hope.

The first scary thing to come to terms with is probably learning to walk again, learning to trust a leg that hasn’t been used for 3 months, it will literally be one baby step at a time.

Hopefully like the bike riding I intend to get back to I won’t have forgotten!

When the saddle is your happy place…dealing with recovery

Everyone has their hobbies, the activities they fill their free time with, however much or little of it they have. Its those things that make them happy or transports them to a place that makes them happy. Previously i have written about one of my happy places, a beautiful place just outside Maastricht in Valkenburg, a quiet loop with some beautiful ups and downs and flat and the tarmac dedicated to cycling and not the car.

Getting there requires two things that i can’t do at the moment, driving and cycling, ignoring the fact I cant walk without crutches. Being able to go abroad is a privilege and although there are plenty of local roads that have more than enough appeal, if i constrained to the UK, i’d go back to to the Mendips, not sure what it was about Cheddar Gorge but it was beautiful, the ride up, the ride down, soaking in the history those rocks have seen. It reminded me of a favourite Terry Pratchett book that was set in a valley that I imagined was much like Cheddar. Mostly though, it was probably the sheep and goats that kept me doing loops round it.

Getting on a bike would be enough, that simple pleasure of being outside and pedalling my way to peace and quiet, feeling sun and the wind on my face. The sense of freedom from everything that it gives is unmatched for me.

Exercise addiction, to some degree, is not the worst thing to suffer from because in general it should keep you fit, healthy and active which can’t be a bad thing. Although when injury or sickness strikes, whether it be a sniffle or something more serious like my shattered pelvis, the urge to exercise is hard to temper. Through many years and many miles I have pushed on occasionally or tried to get back to it as quickly as possible. Never have I come close to the heroics of some athletes. Tyler Hamilton grinding his teeth down while riding a Tour De France stage with a fractured collar bone but in contrast I’ve not earned my living from home it. Probably more appropriately is Geraint Thomas jumping back on his bike after a crash only for a post stage X-ray to show a small fracture (he continued and finished that tour almost 2 weeks of riding later).

There was definitely a few mins post crash where I thought I was going to shake it off, jump back on the bike and ride home. The frankly physically debilitating pain quickly dispelled that thought and it wasn’t long before acceptance set in, when the excellent paramedics asked if I could get in the gurney and I had to be the proverbial sack of potatoes and allow myself to be lift on.

The first 8 days post crash didn’t exactly sail by, but the complexity of my operation meant I had blood transfusions and recovering sufficiently to be let home was the only goal. This focused the mind, rather than think about the next 12 weeks and what that might entail.

My life is filled with cycling, drawers of clothing, photos…bikes in the house, not relegated to a shed or garage, which means a constant reminder of something I can’t do. In an attempt to curb this longing I have backed away from a things and let them rumble on without me, or with as little involvement as possible. Realising that watching the Pro’s races is abstracted enough I could live vicariously through others without envy. Although come April when I might normally be riding or even photographing (which despite its proximity to a given race is the worst way of spectating) it might be harder. Next year I will definitely trying to go to some Cyclocross races (assuming it’s not too rainy…)

The weather is also doing me a massive favour, my magic triangle of cycling is still flashing on 2 sides, although I might change “dark” or “cold” for “dangerously windy”. While the timing means no fitness for racing, the silver lining is that as it hopefully gets sunny and warm I’ll be ready for something, even if it’s slow and short.

All this has forced me to find some form of tranquility, an acceptance of what is, at this point in time, I can save that frustration for when I can ride properly again and mash the pedals till I am out of breath.

Since committing the first paragraphs of this post I had my six week check up, denoting the half way point of recovery. While they vehemently reinforced the “non weight bearing” conditions of the next 6 weeks, using my CT scan and the word “shattered” several times, they did say if I was careful I could do some pedalling. It’s probably been the most alien kind of cycling I’ve done, a foot on each pedal but only one doing anything, and pedalling at such a slow cadence that outside it would see me in the ditch.

The Group ride of one…necessity, choice or just the new standard

Cycling is an odd juxtaposition, it’s mostly a team sport that very seldom looks like one and in general it encourages groups of people to be around each other. The counterweight to this is that the key components of exceeding are generally best executed alone following a precisely measured training plan. Or if you follow a more laissez faire approach and do it anti-socially together, the breathless blood pumping and generally painful experience of the chain gang where there isn’t the spare moment to have a natter.

It might be difficult for those outside the sport to understand how the team work contributes to one rider crossing the line on their own. Even In stage races where its hard to even spot the team work, especially those stages that don’t end in a bunch sprint. You could compare to the scoring of a goal, only one person actually scores the goal but the buildup would not have been possible without a team. This analogy is flawed as you can see the build up, the similarity ends, you can’t really play something like football on your own but you can certainly ride a bike on your own and you can definitely compete on your own.

So this prompts the questions is cycling really a social sport, are the soloists among us the exception or the rule.

My initial start in the sport was with my local club where my uncle and cousin rode and i joined the club run, which involved some long slow miles, some important lessons in Group etiquette and a lot of tea and toast (i don’t remember much cake on the little chef menu). As i progressed to racing i joined up with a group of fellow racers and a regular routine of sunday morning riding.

This was also true of my days at University, i was on a sports science course so the odds were in favour of at least being a few people who also rode a bike. There was a great group to spin away the sports afternoons while others were off playing football or rugby.

The same could not be said for post university, the work environment is not quite so convenient for meeting people who share the same hobbies, or even if they do the chance of them actually living close enough to join you. That was a situation my group riding didn’t really survive, the absence of routine became my routine, mostly going out when i was free, when the weather was good or just when i felt like it.

Life for me has taken quite a turn in the last 8 months and its led me to look back and wonder about my habits…”the group ride of one” suddenly seemed less of a joke. Was my lone riding a victim of circumstances or something else so i went through my reasoning, trying to work out if i was antisocial or just out of step with other peoples routine.

A part of me would like to put it down to simple geography, living too far away from fellow club riders and when you combine with timing, motivation all but vanishes. If you work the timing back…the meeting point was 7 miles away, while not an inconceivable distance by any means, still 25-30 mins riding at starting pace. Add to that at least 30 mins to get ready and that’s almost an hour before you’ve even seen another rider. Now all of that doesn’t sound too bad but when you stick the start time at 7am all of a sudden your first day of the weekend you’re getting up at 5:30am. Then we you chuck in winter, its cold and its dark, does anyone really enjoy that? Isn’t it nicer to wait until the sun has come up, you haven’t put extra layers on for those few extra degree’s of cold. It was interesting to chat this over with some of the 7am regulars over a few beers and realise that they go through the same thoughts, They live a bit closer but the pain is still the same they drag themselves out at an ungodly hour, layer up and somehow manage it time and again, probably pushing through the less enjoyable darkness and cold until the sun comes out.

So to try and set my mind to rest i thought i would try some data mining and as its that time of year it coincided with Strava’s annual year in sport. Lets assume for a minute the mantra of “if its not on strava it didn’t happen” is true, although to be impartial there are other platforms and some people don’t even record them (oh the horror) . If that’s the case then for 2019 49% of all rides are group rides but i don’t think that gives the whole story. There are some details you could assume are missing or at least list out as questions…

How many of those rides are races,,,,i’d exclude them, i don’t count virtual rides as group rides, even though it could be with 100’s of others, lets exclude them. it would be nice to get a look and see some more details.

What i’ve come to realise is that i want a bit of everything, its nice do a group ride occasionally, although i would prefer to be in charge, but i probably prefer the quiet time and spontaneity of the group ride of one going when and where i want.

When i get back on my feet again from injury i’m probably going to do a lot of solo rides…not having walked or ridden for 3 months will have seriously reduced my fitness not sure i want to inflict those first rides on anyone 🙂

Falling Leaves and time for mud?

Its that time of year again…once my birthday is out that way i feel like it time to say goodbye to summer as only a few short weeks separate it from the Autumnal equinox on 23rd September.

In cycling terms this means its time to start thinking about the winter bike, if you are lucky enough to have one, and tucking the best bike up for hibernation.

Its time for the obligatory mud guards, unless like me you eschew them and accept being lambasted by your group or using it as an excuse to ride on the back, which is obviously not my reasoning, honest ;). Its time to get the extra front and rear lights ready and charged, if you are commuting for normal office hours, its not just needed “to get you home” they are on before you leave.

The traditional lines for racing are now very blurred, when i soley rode road races i’d still be swinging into September and October in race mode, in fact my palmares has the one solitary, very lonely win on it from September and on my birthday no less. The Kent Road race league (SERRL of a previous incarnation) had a “race of the falling leaves” and given the circuit round some lovely kent backroads it usually was covered in leaves. In those days i was vaguely aware of time trials, mainly that they took place, my home club “San Fairy Ann CC” had a strong contingent of very good testers.

While the cross season already seems to have been going for a few months the road season, or at least the professional road season, is winding down to its final races.

The final monument of the season takes in the beautiful northern lakes of Italy is often seen as the end of the season and is the pinnacle of a week of Italian races.

The autumnal weather can be cruel or kind, my previous visit to Lombardia ended with some very damp clothes as I stood on the final climb in the pouring rain. This year was the antithesis of that, warm sunshine and blue skies

The Peloton winding up the corners of the Collle Gallo

The racing action matched the weather with some Grand Tour winners duking it out for the win

Egan Bernal followed by Valverde and Roglic

Having seen the pros do it Sunday was my chance to finally ride some of those famous climbs, the temperatures were a bit colder but I did set off at 7:30

Muro Di Sormano “bastard steep”

While it was probably one of the hardest roads I’ve climbs, simple for the fact I had to grind out my lowest gear the whole way up, the view was worth it.

With that done it’s time to break out the winter kit, clean the race bike and make sure my Zwift Memhership is paid up!

Strava Scenting and other sins of the modern age

Having moved house recently i have had to say goodbye some some local roads that were my “go to” for a quick spin round the block. Its not that i’ve moved that far, its not even like i won’t ride them ever again or even very irregularly, they are on my commute and they aren’t actually that far away just not close enough for a quick spin if the wind is right (some people know what i mean).

Now i would like to tell myself that i have honourable intentions, and its probably mostly correct. There is definitely a collecting mentality to my cycling, collecting memories of places i have been and sights to be seen.

Valkenburg worlds circuit

The one feature that i prize on strava, that doesn’t have a directly competitive element, is the the Heat maps, its a great record of the places i have been and ridden, run, skied, basically anywhere i’ve recorded an activity, While i haven’t taken the opportunity to have my bike with me on many of my bike race photographic adventures there are still some reasonable miles logged

The darker the blue, turning into red, the more times those roads have been ridden and i love looking back at the thin blue lines and working out where and when those rides happened and remembering the fun times i had in those places.

This is probably not an uncommon occurrence but for slightly different reasons, for those with the right kind of competitive spirit and also the legs to back it up there will be a lot of “Strava Scenting” but almost always combined with “Segment Hunting”. Depending on how sociable you are will depend on how familiar the names in the top 10 of any given Stava segment are to you. You can take a good guess at the circumstances. Quite a few of the segments on my rides often have names and places on the same date, which only jumps to one conclusion…a team ride.

Some may argue that technology is ruining cycling, with governing bodies writing regulations stipulating weight, geometry and general shape of a bike, even the height ones socks should be. Power meters provide plenty of column inches and how they are ruining cycling with professional riders deemed to be competing like robots, not riding to the race but riding to the numbers.

Given the trickle down effect the same could be said for ameuter cycling although maybe not in the same way, the battle ground is a lot wider and the playing field less level.

Take a look at yourself or the cycling loved one in your life and check off some of the following.

Aero socks

Aero jersey

Aero Helmet

Leaving bottles, tool kit and any other ballast behind…or at least in a compact package ready to ditch in a safe place

the final sin….checking the wind direction before setting out…this is the final and most cardinal sin…and yes there are web sites which will help you plan the best day to “attack that KOM..”

Childhood Memories seen from two wheels

i didn’t start riding seriously until i was about 17, well i say seriously it was serious enough to be half arsed at ametuer racing. at some point between then and now, that i can’t quite place, i started viewing every road from a cycling point of view.

Anytime i’m not on a bike there is a sense of longing to be on the bike and enjoying the joy that any particular stretch of tarmac had to offer.

I’m hoping a lot of cyclists do this, as they drive up, down and round this country and other counties, look at glorious pictures in magazines they imagine themselves cruising up or down them on two wheels.

Lacets are probably the best example of this, whether you are going up or downhill, hairpins are the best road cycling the mountains has to offer

Tour de France 2018 Stage 17 Bagneres de Luchon – Saint Lary Soulan (Col de Portet) – Yellow Jersey wearer Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) climbing the lacets of Col de Portet

I remember one Skiing holiday boring my travelling party with tales of Alpe D’huez,as the coach took us up the 21 hairpins of the snowy climb. To be fair to them not sharing the same passion for cycling me wittering on about how hot my rims had gotten braking late into corners that i popped my tyre off is probably the height of tedium, i’ve avoid asking other cyclists if that applies to them as well.

But its hard not to reminisce about the excitement of an awesome stage of a bike race.

Tour de France 2018 Stage 11 Bourg St Maurice Les Arcs – Alpe D’huez – The dutch fans go crazy are the race hit hairpin 7 or “Dutch corner” as its known

While being able to tie iconic climbs or roads to some unique tale of cycling might keep fellow cyclists interested (maybe) taking a ride down memory lane of your own childhood is probably only interesting to yourself. For me the bike offers a unique experience when riding solo and disengage the brain a little bit and to ride round an area that i’ve spent a lot of time in to bring back some happy memories.

For nigh on 10 years my family camped in the south of Devon, tucked away in the peninsular town of Salcombe. A beautiful town sat at the mouth of an estuary surrounded by the rolling hills typical of Devon…the terrain being either up or down with very little flat at the top or the bottom.

As the roads were quiet and very narrow driving a car was impractical at times and my dad being an ex scout master, on foot was the primary means of travel. Now i am sure that for most of the walks to and from the campsite and in and around Salcombe i was not silent about the amount of walking we were doing. The tactic was to mollify me slightly with supplies of clotted cream fudge or coconut ice rationed out suitably like a proverbial carrot in front of a donkey.

The joy of entering this shop is almost indescribable, in the same way Vega casinos pump higher quality air around to keep people awake, i’d swear sugar vapour is floating around this sweet shop as you are presented with more fudge than you could possibly eat.

On some level i do remember that the walk to and from the campsite and the rest of Salcombe were not what you might call flat but i am not sure i ever really realised quite how brutally hilly they were. I certainly didn’t accurately remember how narrow and twisty they were.

Riding alongside Batson creek probably has a different appeal to walking along side it, The flat quiet road is crying out for a full on sprint along it round some gentle curves in the road, if only to enjoy some speed before you are well and truly reminded that Devon is not flat and any speed you may have is gone in a heartbeat.

As i struggled up this little beauty i figured out why i hadn’t quite remembered it being so steep or narrow . As i got to the top and it flattened out slightly a flush of memories came back, this was usually the point at which the pink and white sweet bag rustled and my parents would offer the reward as we were probably halfway back to the campsite. It was also a stretch of road where i remember signing Ging Gang Goolie while glow worms fluttered around us on the warm summer night.

If i had brought a mountain bike with me i’m sure i could probably find the long cliff top path between two places called Bolt Head and Bolt Tail but mostly in the hope of finding a different sweet shop that sold some very fine Turkish Delight.

If anyone was wondering where i got my sweet tooth from it was probably childhood holiday in devon…thankfully i am riding a bike so i can afford to indulge in a few delicious calories

Do Zwifters dream of electric bikes

Indoor training isn’t new but indoor training that is bearable for more than
10 minutes certainly is. This is something we should all be grateful for but 
apparently this is does not fit with the general consensus of opinion in the
cycling community.

For those that know me would probably describe me as a fussy fair weather
cyclist and to some extend i would happily agree with them but there is some
logic behind this, and maybe a bit of laziness.

                    cycling triangle

This is not to say that i haven’t braved all sorts of conditions to ride my bike and that’s probably just to prove, at least to myself, that i can ride in any weather, to appropriate the unofficial creed of the US posties (and yes i do appreciate the irony of this) ” Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…”

If you are trying to do a structured training plan then why not take the stress out of it and concentrate on the goal of completing the session. Anyone who could do an hour and a half of Over Unders on the open roads of west sussex has my upmost respect and if you could “kudos” a ride more than once i would definitely go into double figures. i can’t imagine watching the training plan flit between intervals while avoiding potholes, junctions, cars and other road hazard you can think of.

During this winter i could probably count on the fingers of one hand how many times i rode outside (ignoring a little winter sun break). While i may have been depriving myself of some company i wasn’t depriving myself of vitamin d. The wet and miserable British winter was probably a contributing factor to any increase in sales of smart trainers and Zwift subscriptions. Not everyone can spend their winter in the warmth of Canaries or Calpe and i don’t hear anyone foolish enough to tell the pro’s to HTFU when they spend as much time in sunshine as possible,.

This year i have definitely seen pro’s on training camps riding their turbos to avoid some horrendous conditions

So this summer, autumn and winter i won’t be cancelling my Zwift subscription and i may even ride indoors on nice days…you never know i might even do some E-Racing. Every time i do this i will be dreaming of the open road, the freedom of spirit that cycling gifts me as that’s the purpose of training for me, so I’ll sign of with some words of wisdom (although possibly bending his words to my own purpose)

Ride as much or as little, as long or as short as you feel. But ride
Eddy Merckx


Pavé-ing the way for some good photos (better late than never)

(***i honestly thought I had published this, clearly I hadn’t finished writing it…so here it is well after the fact***)

So the cobbles classics are now done, with less time this year I only had time for Paris Roubaix and had to confine myself to a TV spectator for some fantastic races.

With only one viable trip to the cobbles Roubaix is always my default choice, the sheer volume of photo opportunities make the return too great to pass up.

The Flanders route of the last 4 or 5 years lend themselves to a great race, to moto riders and the fans on the road side in hospitality tents. When you have to cover it by car you end up with limited scope for variation. That’s not to malign the importance of the kwaremont or the paterberg it’s just running between them with camera gear is exhausting and the chance to get something unique is greatly reduced.

Roubaix is a different proposition altogether, the course design lends itself to a great race and facilitates photographers in cars and on bikes alike. This is not to be taken for granted to paraphrase or potentially misquote Helmuth van Moltke (Yeap i did have to look him up) “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”!

As I sat in the busy La Brasserie Parisienne in Compiègne, regretting not reading the menu more carefully as I had ordered a burger with avocado in (oh the shame) I planned out the next day.

Even in a car double figure stops is possible, but at the point you can be swapping quality for quantity so I set a reasonably ambitious 8 stop plan, of which 5 are on the cobbles along with the start and the finish.

The first chink in the plan came at stop 2, we barely made it out in front of the race…a little squeeze on the right foot to get us onto the pavé and Lady Luck smiled…a parking space right next to a beautiful field of yellow. Having eyed up the crops on my ride the previous day and knowing the route was going to have crops along side,these cobbles are farm roads after all. The urgency to park and the amount of space left me with s bit of a challenge, a car door that I couldn’t get open, so I was stuck only getting one camera body out. On the plus side it removed the need for deciding what shot to take. Camera in hand I dashed into the field…with just enough time to capture the race

From this point on the plan is wholly dependent on how the race plays out…and a big measure of luck. Sadly the next stop barely worked…only one of us made it close enough, barely enough time to see that tail end of the race turn around and run back to the car.

The next stop should be an important part of the race, with the Trouée d’Arenberg looming straight after the Haveluy\Wallers section the pace tends to pick up. Sadly for us this also means that the race is spread out and we lose too much time waiting, the planned stops 5 and 6 are immediately at risk…and when I say “at risk” I mean they are on the editing floor and not making the final cut.

At this point the replay of the navigation only leaves us with one choice, the one thing I usually avoid, we ended up on the autoroute. Over the last 5 or 6 years security has got s bit tighter, or maybe just general crowd control and motorway junctions that lead near to the race routes are blocked off. It used to be a few cones in the way and if you followed a team car they’d already be moving them but now it’s giant blocks that need a forklift to move. As that disappointment of the road block flashes by the flash of opportunity strikes…some spectators seem to have created a car park on the motorway, so we take advantage and get something better than the plan.

A good stop is all well and good but doesn’t help with getting back into the bubble of the race, on the outer fringe of the race route you are much more likely to get caught behind normal traffic and all too common now impassable road blocks.

Sacrificing a proper cobbled stop always leaves a bitter taste and so late in the race it’s the possibility of race winning moves as well so popping back onto the route of Cysoing for the last shot out on course feels a bit empty. As we walk from the car to route we realise we are far enough ahead for a cheeky chip snack so I take solace in enjoying some frites and 5mins of live coverage before getting back to work.

This stop is usually a chance to catch the lead group only, run like hell back to the car and drive a very straight line to the Carrefour de l’Arbre, quite literally the carrefour part and you join the race route on its second half and drive to the finish. For some reason the photo gods smiled on us, although it took a moment to have that realisation. Instead of letting us onto the route we were waved over it, a bread discussion with Pete to weigh up the risk of this shot vs the finish we decided to roll the dice, I think it was worth it.

Having seen the leaders all that was left between us and the finish was a run across a field full of stinging nettles, some questionable driving,some even more questionable parking and a run to the famous velodrome.

All in all a great day and while I can’t claim to be quite this dead I wasn’t far off…

Happy Places for the bike

Sometimes life isn’t all that you would like it to be and when that happens its important to find ways to counteract that. Its at these times i have to remind myself that i am lucky, the ability to travel and feed my habit of exercise addiction and hold back the demons at least for a little while.

Its a worry that when you talk about riding the bike as a potentially spiritual experience that you sound just the tiniest bit pompous but everyone can choose how they manage to escape the world for a little while. Some may do it via movies, music or books i choose to do it on two wheels powered by my legs and the focus of the mind.

Riding in the UK is often not a tranquil experience, angry drivers, potholes and all manner of things to threatening to bring you back with thump…sometime literally. This is not the experience in the Netherlands…the Dutch really know how to do cycling, proper bike lanes, traffic light controls specifically for bikes and a plethora of quiet back roads that take you away to another world. If you happen to find yourself near a canal there are beautiful paths along side but beware the wind, they haven’t found a way to make it always a tailwind…yet.

My first trip to this specific place involved almost all of those things, a trip up the canal from Liege, navigating round the outskirts of Maastricht and finally onto the 2012 World Championship circuit. It was a done deal there and then, the first climb that just stretched away not to steep, just as hard as you wanted to make it and the famous Amstel finish of the Cauberg. The entire loop is lined with bike lanes and is so quiet you’ll see more cyclists than cars, apart from one year when i came across a Truck rally, that was a lot of trucks.

That one anomaly aside its a nice place to be…enough peace and quiet to catch a deer grazing.

This isn’t a place with a cafe stop (at least for me), its not a place that’s always easy to ride, today was an un-shinning (60 miles in the cold, wind and rain as Storm Hannah blew through) its just to me its the epitome of what road cycling means to me…if you get the chance i encourage you to ride it.

i can’t promise it will hold the same magic for you as it does for me but then happy places in general are a very personal affair.