Regular training for the Paris to Sapperton ride sets out from the village hall at 2pm on Sundays. Last Sunday the forecast was vile and I had suggested that it was time to give in to the rain and have a turbo session indoors! But it was not to be and a brave group of six met up and after some nervous inflation of tyres set out on a circuit Rob had devised for the previous weekend taking in the notorious double u’s – a fierce hill up from Nailsworth onto Minchinhampton Common. The route then descended into Stroud only to have to go up further ridiculously steep roads.

All went well along the lanes to Cherington and I was feeling rather proud if my efforts on the trike as I demonstrated the unique cornering technique needed to stay upright. Descending was even more exciting but then we hit the hill and the main drawback of a three wheeler was clear to all. Dropping to the back I hoped they would be gentlemanly enough to wait at the top! Experience tells me there is no point in overdoing it so I rode steadily to the summit and made a sprint for the waiting group as I noticed Rob had the camera out. Unfortunately I timed my sprint too early and ran out of steam 50 metres from the line.

I then noticed that we were missing our Wellington booted friend and thought perhaps I was not last after all. However, he had apparently beaten me to the top and was very sensibly on his way home with a slow puncture.

 

Realising that I would only hold up the young riders I decided to take the sensible course and return home myself. By now the darkening skies made lights a necessity and off I set at a good pace despite the headwind. Leaving Minchinhampton, I could see Keith in the distance and fairly soon caught him up. His rear tyre was pretty nearly flat so we decided to put my spare tube in even though it was not the right size. All went well, having removed the largest thorn I have ever seen! But then Keith was a bit over enthusiastic with my Zefal frame pump (50p from the Holdsworth shop in Putney) which decided to fold up. So poor Keith was left with no alternative but to leg it home – some 7 miles.

Taking the back road through the deepest flood I have ridden through for a long time I arrived home. Once I had revived my hands which had fallen prey to Raynauds (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Raynauds-phenomenon/Pages/Introduction.aspx),  I got the car out to rescue Keith who I assumed was walking back on the main road. Not sure where I would meet him, I drove all the way back to where I had left him and still no sign of him. Returning home I thought I had better try the back road and swapped to the RDA  pickup as I know my car would not make it through the flooded road. Much to my relief I met him just coming up the hill to Coates from the railway bridge looking very wet and cold. We threw the bike in the back and I returned him to a rather worried looking but now relieved Susannah.

Moral of the ride – winter training must be good for you but take a mobile phone! 

For the video go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoyfqFvbZtw

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Cambridge training day Friday 8 February

I felt it was time to break the news to Emmanuel College that the Master’s husband is a trike rider. So, on a beautiful frosty but sunny Friday morning, dressed in Lycra I walked my Longstaff through the college grounds – although apparently I can ride it legitimately anywhere cars are allowed to drive. The plan was to put in a few miles on fenland roads taking advantage of the cold easterly to speed my return journey.

As I set out from the city I thought what a difference it is to cycle in a city where the bike is given recognition on the roads. Cycle paths work and are not just paths covered in the detritus from cars. I took the Huntingdon road out of town intending to do a circuit taking in Wicken Fen, a National Trust property I had not been to for many years.

Passing all the developments near the airport I noticed a sign for Ranier and immediately recognised the name as that of a company set up by someone who I worked with on the Science Park making the thinnest condoms the world has ever experienced. I turned back and called in, on the off chance that I was right and he was there.

Unfortunately he was away on business but the girl at reception, unfazed by my Lycra, asked, did I know about my friend’s accident? It turned out that he had been the victim of a horrific, incident when he was hit by a coach on a road in the city and, being dragged underneath the vehicle, had lost an arm. He ended up spending three months in a wheel chair once he got out of hospital. As so often seems to happen in these dreadful accidents the driver was acquitted of a charge of driving without due car and attention. The ‘good’ news is that, a year after the accident my friend, who was always someone who never shirked a challenge, is back on the bike with a special prosthetic arm allowing him to hold on to the bars. I look forward to going out on a ride with him.

I guess the moral of this story is that despite the good design of cycle paths and the integration of bikes into the transport plans in Cambridge you cannot account for drivers who do not respect cyclists.

You may wonder. A group of riders, partners and children gathered outside Coates village hall on a cold Sunday in January. The children were more excited than the ‘real’ riders who nervously assembled on a variety of machines. Gleaming carbon fibre recently unwrapped through to the 30 year old lovingly cared for George Longstaff trike (guess who owns that!).

Once the official photograph was taken we had a pep talk on riding in a group by the only one of us who has real experience and competes in triathlons. Hand signals learned, it was time for the off. Not a good start as we rolled out and one of the group rolled over – needs more time to get used to his clipless pedals! One of the few benefits of a trike.

To cut a long story short (always a good idea) we had a great ride doing about 30 miles at a fair pace, getting to know each other. Steve the triathlete peeled off just before half way (probably needed to go faster and get more miles in) while the rest of us carried on.

As we passed through Somerford Keynes on the return we had a welcome cup of tea at Richard’s house. The remaining Coates riders got home just before dark – everyone was dazzled (literally) by Alun’s fantastic front light. He must be doing some secret night time training.

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Windrush Winter Warm Up

This is a 100k easy (!) early season ride so no problem. I cycled to the start in Ashton Keynes and signed on then got to the front of the pack to get away with the fast group. First mistake. After 5 miles with Performance Cycling gang I realised I would have to find a more modest bunch. But it was great fun speeding through the narrow lanes with bikes everywhere.

Things were going well and I held my own for some way. Fell into talking with a guy who was my age – well maybe even older. He had ridden the PBP a number of times and each time he rode on an eccentric machine. I thought a trike was eccentric but his machines were even more so. Last PBP he rode on a restored bike he found in a French barn which had a back pedalling brake and a spoon brake on the front. He made the time with 1 second to spare!

Anyway back to the ride. All went well to the first control at 47k where I needed refuelling. Feeling pretty good as I had got there at 25kph average. However………

After the control we turned into the wind and hat had seemed just a light breeze turned into a sharp wind. I just had no legs and thought this was it. A phone call home would be needed to get the recovery vehicle. Anyway I decided to make my own way home and sent a text to the organiser to let him know. Second mistake.

I spent the next hour getting utterly lost in Witney ending up in Sainsbury’s using their internet to look at Google maps. Third mistake was not bringing a map to cover the complete route. (I must buy a smart phone!).

Anyway having decided that the easy way to get on the right route I joined the A40 dual carriageway. Cars were thundering by and I thought yes this is like the old days – time trialling on lethal roads. After half a mile I realised that I was going too well. Fourth mistake – I was heading for Oxford. So I stopped and at serious risk to life and limb crossed the carriageway haling the r=trike over the crash barriers and headed west.

Taking the first exit things were looking up. Carterton loomed and it was on my map so no problems with navigation any more. Maybe not with navigation but I had not catered for irate scousers. All I did was overtook him on the inside while he was stationary at a mini roundabout. Not a problem – well he thought it was. Next think I know he overtakes me with inches to spare. So a gentle slap on the side of his car to remind him I am there. Fifth mistake – he slams on the brakes and I am left sitting on my trike with him shouting at me and definitely invading my personal space. Last time I was in this situation was in Tottenham 20 years ago and I took the correct course of action disappearing in the opposite direction. This time, now wiser and older (!) I stood my ground and waited for him to hit me. Anyway to my great fortune a kind female motorist stopped and defused the situation!

Surely nothing else could go wrong now s I seemed to be feeling fresher. But concentration was suffering and on a nice straight road the rear inside wheel left the road. I could see it all happening in slow motion – front wheel followed rear (?) and I was heading for the 4 foot deep ditch alongside the road. Practising my best tuck and roll technique I landed gracefully in the mud with trike on top if me. I tried to look as if it was all intentional as a kindly van driver pulled up to help. “No I’m fine thank you very much – the mud is just for effect.” No harm was done so I climbed out of the ditch and with a cheery wave set off.

All that was left now was the slog home into that sharp wind. The rest of the journey was relatively uneventful. The beautiful village of Southrop is to be recommended for its architecturally interesting bus shelter which served as a temporary bedroom. Sunday newspapers under my head made a good pillow as I stretched out on the bench for forty winks.

Finally got home after 7 hours in the saddle and 125km. The irony was that looking at my new Garmin Edge 200 I realise that I have cycled more than the distance of the event and would have been better off sticking to their route and getting the card stamped.

Moral of the tale – keep going even when you feel knackered. It’s easier with the bunch!