Challenge #6: 12 Things I have learned as a new cyclist.

Only a few days to go now until the 200 kilometres in 2 days Coast-2-Coast challenge and thankfully my beautiful wife and son have been understanding enough to find some time to allow me to get out and about on the roads of Teesside, North Yorkshire and (occasionally) beyond.

There is still time to contribute to the cause before we set off, in fact, this whole paragraph is one giant link to Dom’s Just Giving page, where you should be able to see that we are well on course to hit our initial target but we want to push on towards £3000 and beyond. Your money will go directly to help families going through the most difficult thing I can imagine going through. Thank you.

Going cycling as a complete amateur has been a real experience. I have done 6 training runs up to press, increasing the distance on each one. But some stuff has come to my attention that I feel I have to get off my chest:

cycling and walking

People on wrong side of split pavement/paths

Going to start with a biggie. Now I noticed this as a pedestrian but my God it is annoying as a cyclist. There is a clear dividing line down the path, on most of the modern ones they are even different colours, with helpful little pictures of walkers and bikes to differentiate between them. Should be simple, if you’re on wheels you’re on the bike side, if you aren’t…get out of the chuffin’ way! Almost killed 6 dogs, 3 children and a man in a tracksuit smoking the world’s thinnest cigarette as a result of their lack of etiquette.

Barriers on cycle paths

Also a regular accompaniment to cycle paths up and down the country, these buggers come in many different forms. For your viewing pleasure I have compiled my top 3 in order of bastardness…

barrier2

Coming in at #3…Apparently called an L chicane, this one is two or three barriers put together in a way that makes you swerve around each one with the control of Ayrton Senna in his prime. At about 2mph.

barrier3

Runner-up, the u-chicane. This isn’t a great example of this one, most of the ones I have come across of this type are much, much tighter and usually the floor covered in glass from “dem der yoofs” sitting on the barrier drinking Lambrini (other cheap alcohol is available).

K barrier - not easy for bikes 600

Top of the stops, the K Frame! This one is my worst enemy. Crops up at the most unexpected of times, usually when I am doing a decent rate of knots and it’s a choice between potential loss of Strava average speed or the loss of an arm. It goes without saying that I would rather take my chances on the arm, but now I am sporting a rather unfriendly set of bruises from slight misjudgements. Also not great for those of us not quite as svelte as Chris Froome, much smaller margin for error!

 

The National Cycle Network

Organised into a semi-coherent system by the charity Sustrans, the National Cycle Pathway system is a credit to the nation. If you are an amateur cyclist and you aren’t familiar with these highways then check out this page: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map.

However, they come with a safety warning (especially if you are on a bike with road tyres), as some sections are have ‘puncture’ written all over them (like the section of NCH1 near South Hetton where I had a puncture yesterday!)

Bells

I don’t have one, but I wish I did because apparently my bike has ‘stealth-mode’ and so short of screaming ‘Get out of the way’ or singing out loud (no-one needs to hear that) I am invisible to all dawdlers.

sore bum cycling

Padded shorts

A professional’s substitute for the ‘Tea-towel down the crotch’ technique. Difficult to say which is preferable, but one or the other is necessary to avoid serious bum issues. Also belonging in this category is Sudocrem.

 

strava

Strava

Most addictive exercise app that I have come across. It took only one use to get me hooked. It can be used to track your cycling or running by GPS. On a time-stealing par with Football Manager, but a lot harder work on the legs. For those not familiar with the work of Strava, here’s a sneak peek…

As you can see, there are certain sections of road that people’s times are collated on and then ranked. It is a chastening experience for someone as unfit and terrible as myself, but at least I can try and beat my own times if I cover the same stretch. As I have done in the 2nd image. I do so love an easy way to gauge improvement…

And remember kids,

If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen.

Google Maps

Someone needs to tell Google that paths with these

Wood_step_over

on them aren’t suitable for cycling and therefore should be eliminated from their cycling option.

Reaching a drinks bottle/snacks

In theory, this is designed to be the easiest thing in the world to do but I am hopeless…Every time I reach for my drinks-bottle, I end up in the middle of the road. And as for reaching behind my back for a snack ‘conveniently’ located in the (admittedly useful) pockets in the back of cycling shirts…just, no!

Cars!

bike_lane_cartoon-300x298

Never will I ever drive so close to the kerb ever again and as for all of those people who drive around in cars with pretentiously massive wing mirrors, you are all wallies. Finally, why do cars speed up so dramatically as they overtake; I know you can go faster than me with very little effort, no need to rub it in!

Unfinished roads

Something you don’t realise when driving is that even if  road looks like it’s finished and the tarmac is smooth, there are so many roads where the outside is an absolute disgrace. I blame most of my posterior difficulties on this issue.

Grates

I understand the need to get water off our roads, but is there any need to make them so bloody dangerous to cycle over, and so frequent. I blame most of my posterior difficulties on this issue (oh wait…)

The Cycling Brotherhood

I have a sore neck from nodding at all my fellow cyclists. To be fair, they probably look at me with a mixture of disdain and pity as I struggle. However, I’ve sustained punctures and within two minutes, on each occasion, someone had offered a helping hand. In the latter example, someone actually stopped the car, popped my bike on their bike rack and gave me a lift to my destination (thank you driver!). Interestingly, my driver has also done the Coast to Coast in one day in his 40s and also held the fastest time on Strava for the hill going into Seaham (the Times Inn Bank).

That’s the 12. Some good, some not so. Hope it vaguely entertained you. You will next be reading, and hopefully viewing, the challenge itself which starts in Silverdale on Saturday at 9:30am, hopefully ending in Whitby 32 hours or so later.

lego cyclist

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