Let’s talk cobbles. Why oh why would anyone think riding over gap strewn paving would be fun? It’s pure evil I tell you!
I went cycling in Flanders recently, heading to Belgium to ride the famous climbs and routes from the Tour of Flanders, or Ronde van Vlaanderen, as it’s known to the cycling mad locals, or simply The Ronde. Here’s my routes, along with an insight into cycling in Belgium, riding the cobbles, bergs (hills), and wind, plus a certain type of cyclist.
Cobbles and cycling. Belgium right? The Classics of the early season calendar. Moules et frites. Passionate fans, grim weather, steep climbs. Not Halifax, England. Pie and chips, bleak post-industrial landscapes and well, cobbles, steep climbs and the desolate moorland.
This is the scene for the Ronde Van Calderdale route, a tribute to the Spring Classic races in Belgium but most definitely British. The route climbs a whopping 3,000 metres over 75 miles, many of which are up very, very steep cobbled climbs.
Is a time trial a race? A race of truth say some. No wheel sucking, no team to power you to the line. Was I racing others? Yes and no. I was very pleased with my position in the race and the er, first prize money of my budding career, he says, just shy of veteran age!
Yet I wasn’t really racing others. How could I, riding a TT on a road bike, loaded with two water bottles, a saddle bag, and a full loaf of Soreen bulging out of my jersey pocket. What? Some of us were heading off for a proper ride after the TT.
Brutal. Coast to coast, sea to sea, and back again, in two days. 224 miles. Easy. 5,800 metres of climbing. Ouch. Heavy rain and riding into a 43 mph headwind hour after hour. Eugh. What the hell was I thinking?
Truth is, I have no idea why I attempted a double C2C ride in March, the tailend of the UK winter. The classic sea to sea route doubled as I figured it was logistically easier to drive to the centre of the route and ride each way and back. A lot of effort to avoid taking panniers or catching a train!
Yet once an idea forms, it becomes difficult to shake, even with the daunting prospect of howling headwinds and more rain than Noah’s nightmares.
Paris. An empty day. Two wheels. Ahead only joy. Time to indulge, a cycleur with a city to discover, unknown streets to aimlessly meander by bike. Turn left or maybe right, whimsy my guide, seeking new sights and sounds and smells, new moments that will form long standing memories and will come to define the city.
“To err is human. To loaf is Parisian.”
Which way? You can’t get lost if you’ve nowhere to go and you can’t be late if you’ve no place to be. Time is unimportant, so too location, for everything is about the here and the now.
Buying a new road bike. It begins as a vague idea, quickly turns into excitement and then snowballs into a major headache before becoming a lesson in the art of procrastination. We turn what should be a pleasurable activity into pure torture. Why?
The paradox of choice. We’re overwhelmed. Marginal differences between groupsets, between colour schemes. Is this the lightest bike I can afford, are these the best wheels, is it aero enough, should I get electric gears, will it fit me? A series of questions which we will over analyse, doubts that will preoccupy our minds more than life itself.
Want to be a faster rider? Of course you do. What if I told you that for around £9 a month you could be quicker, stronger and better looking? Well, that last one’s a stretch, but many cycling services promise to make you a better cyclist. Are they true?
Yes and no. Truth be told, nobody needs these programmes, not if they are highly motivated and have all the time in the world. Yet this isn’t always the case. It’s like exercise and weight loss videos. Of course you could exercise and eat better without the videos, but for some training videos add structure, motivation and a basic education. Cycle training services do the same.
Not today. It’s Sunday. Rest day. No work, no nothing. Two horrible hill climb races in one day? No thanks, not for me. I awoke rested but still sleepy, my body refusing to wake as if it knew what was ahead. Eugh.
Where the hell was my inner chimp when I needed him? Any other time he’s roaring me on, daring me to ride harder, to hurt more. Only he chooses today to disappear, perhaps finally committing to his long overdue visit to the vets for some rabies inoculations. Continue reading
Climber’s cough plagues me. My lungs burn. It is six hours since I raced up Swains Lane in the brilliant Rollapaluza Urban Hill Climb race. Regrets? Sure, but only my tactics!
Hosted on my local hill, Swains Lane, a short sharp lung buster I’ve had an on-off relationship with for many a year. I’ve climbed it 94 times in 4 years, a tiny amount considering I think of this as my local hill. Why? Mentally Swains Lane has gotten into my psyche. It is the hill I think about when I talk about hill climbing, the hill I think about when I imagine pain. Lots of pain.
We cyclists lie to ourselves. A lot. Like most of the human race we rely on perception rather than reality. We are our own marketing managers and spin doctors, massaging reality to tell ourselves that all is well in the world. We are not mental. Well, just a little.
Little mind tricks are what keep us pedalling on cold wet rides or slogging through an interval or headwind. They make us better riders or enable us to hold our heads a little higher when we realise that yes actually, we do look a little ridiculous wearing Lycra and hobbling and slipping on our cleats in supermarket aisles whilst searching for cheap energy!