Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Gadget overload

So after my disasterous ride of the other day, I needed to get back on my bike for a short, feelgood ride, you know the sort where you fly along and feel as if you could go on for days pedaling at the same cadence (rate of pedaling).  I decided to go wherever the wind blew me so to speak but also to combine it with picking up my new gadget from my mum's house.
So with an unloaded bike (no panniers) I set off and was going at a reasonable rate. The roads were good, reasonably quiet, but with enough traffic so I didn't freak out and think somehow the world had ended whilst I was merrily going along.  Some nice coutryside with the odd slope to stretch my legs and the miles flew by.
Being tested on this ride was my new baselayer, as it wasn't too hot, and my cheap version camelback.  The good think about the camelback is , being able to drink while continuing on, meaning no frequent stops, scrabling for your water bottle whilst trying to balance yur loaded bike, or worse reaching down to your frame, whilst trying to keep an eye on the road for traffic, bumps and suicidal animals (see south to north wales bike ride blog to explain that one).
That's not to say that the camelback comes without it's own challenges.  Occasionally the water tube comes loose from its holder, threatening to disturb bike equilibrium, then have you ever tried to unfasten a drinking tube, open the catch, and bike and suck at the same time whilst pedaling along? Let me tell you it takes practice. I now like to think I have this down to a fine art, at least I no longer wobble furiously, scaring oncoming traffic, pedestrians and myself.
Thebaselayer did its job, I never got cold, I didn't overheat, tho this might be a different matter in the mojave desert and if I did feel more on the warm side (unusual for me), I just rolled up the sleeves, perfect.
Believe it or not, I havent yet had the chance to test out my new rain jacket.  Lightweight and hopefully waterproof, it will also be another layer and serve as windproofing if necessary. However I haven't felt the need to unfurl it as yet, but when I do, you guys wil be the first to know about it!
So this brings me to my final gadget. I stopped at my mums to oick up a device that will allow me to put my tablet on my bike therfore allowing easy access to maps, enabling me to navigate from the saddle without stopping to check the route every 10 mins.  Immediately fixed it to my bike and in due course set off the 2 or so miles back home.  Now english roads being what they are, it wasn't too long before I hit my first bump, not pothole you understand, this wouldnt have qualified or got anywhere close to that description.  This was a small bump in the road. My tabket promptly flew off its mounting and landed face down in the middle of the road. Dont think I've ever stoped so fast, dismounted and barely checking for oncoming traffic, dashed into the road to retrieve my surely broken tablet.
Pausing for effect. ..........
miracles clearly do happen cos not only did no car run over my expensive item, the screen was barely scratched, and it stil worked! Well done samsung, you have made a good product in my opinon.  Ok so the edges are dented but apart from being slightly miffed that my squeaky clean toy is no longer such, im very happy I havent got to fork out another 200 quid to buy another one. 
So what did I learn from this.?
Well ....
1. You can go one gadget too far
2. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
3. Its not the end of the world if I have to stop to check the map, it will provide an excuse to take a photo, take a breather and possibly eat something. 
So that's my ride for today. More lessons learned, more miles on the legs and one happier lid
Finally, just to take the time to plug my justgiving page.  Www.justgiving.com/Route66LHS.
I am cycling Route 66 to raise money for Love Hope Strength Foundation.  This challenge is by no means going to be easy for me.  I have no doubt that I am going to suffer  on a daily basis for 4 weeks. And you get to enjoy the suffering every day of the ride with this blog.
So please could you share this blog, share my just giving page, tell your friends about the nutter on a bike and if you can, sponsor me to help raise money for this great cause.  Thankyou and LHS.

Sunday, 16 June 2013


So yup its true, I went to Colorado for the weekend. So what does that have to do with Route 66 cycle ride you may ask. Colorado isnt anywhere near Route 66 right? Okay it kinda doesn't and was really just an excuse for going to see Big Country play, twice as luck would have it, and to walk up the spectacular vail mountain trail.

However there are several good excuses I have come up with which will reveal themselves if you want to read on.

I was lucky enough to have a voucher for delta airlines and it seemed rude not to use it.  So Colorado bound I was on Thursday.  I arrived, via detroit and a particularly horrible security and customs ordeal (apparently when there are loads of people waiting to get into your country its a good idea to remove some of the people behind the counters), at a reasonable hour and found myself once again in a car, on the 'passenger' side, with no clutch and saying out loud to myself at every junction "drive on the right"! REASON NUMBER 1: Driving practice!
Oh and as a footnote to the airport ordeal, they have signs greeting you and signs directing you to the tornado shelters. Well it struck me as a bit unusual....

I crawled (and I'm not joking) to my hotel, conveniently situated at the airport, and promptly got texted with an offer of a drink at the hotel by beki hemmingway, a person  have only met once, at the Gathering (Alarm fans will know what I mean). How nice is that! Fortunately I didn't have to drive anywhere as we went to a real American diner, with a neon 'diner' sign above the door. How cool!

Then collapsed in my bed, slept for what felt like 10 mins, woke up at 5am and trying to make the most of my day got ready sharpish and set off for the zoo, yup I know it was early but didnt have long as beki and kelley dooley creek were going to take me to Red Rocks park, and I refer back to the previous paragraph re my snail's pace driving!

The zoo, well I wanted to go to the zoo mainly because I knew they had a polar bear and we don't have any in the zoos in the uk.  I wasn't disappointed because they did have one, but it was kinda, "wow that's cool" , followed by unease because this lovely animal was in captivity and not in the wild.  I did get some lovely pictures of it tho ( found on my facebook photos.) A quick whizz round the rest of the zoo and then off to meet beki and kelly for a walk around the stunning Red Rocks and the amphitheatre there. You will have to look at my pics on facebook ( when I finally get home and post them) to fully appreciate how cool this place is. Highlight of the walk. .... me : "if you see a rattlesnake let me know! Kelly: don't worry, you will know about it from my screaming! Lol!
oh and I RAN up all the steps at the amphitheatre!

So then a brief pause, and off to the Big Country gig and a quick drink beforehand.  Mike Peters popped in for a quick chat, got to watch soundcheck and met up with the ever cool Rob Rushing, who was patient with me in explaining the differences in the swabbing process between the usa and the uk . REASON NO 2: 'helping' to swab people at the gig for Love Hope Strength Foundation. I met some real cool people who were doing the swabbing that night (yes im deliberately sounding american) who have it down to a fine art and didn't need my hinderance!

Then Big Country were on the stage, nuff said, and a cracking gig it was too! Mike and the boys did a fine job but (and maybe I do the americans an injustice) people were more sedate here, no jumping in the mosh pit for me, here wasn't really one.  Nonetheless once again the lyrics of The Journey, Hurt, broken promised land et al were blaring out into my eardrums making me one happy person.

Gigs in the us start later, well this one did, and as a consequence, I didn't start the drive to vail till gone midnight! Well I say I , but actually the very nice Rick/Rich drove me up there, following Rob in his car to arrive safely in time to get a whole 2 hours of sleep before we were up, ready to face the day, and a hike up Vail mountain, at altitude, for VAIL ROCKS!

REASON NUMBER 3: Fitness training (okay okay poor reason) really walking up a beautiful mountain with Mike Peters, James Chippendale, Cy Curnin, Brett Dennon and a few hundred fantastic people who have raised a bundle for Love Hope Strength Foundation! The walk is difficult to describe in one long narrative so here are some snap shots!

People signing Mike's guitar with their names
Chatting to many different people along the trail, making new friends along the way.
Realising that the altitude was suddenly noticable half way up, but using the wonderful scenery as an excuse to take a photo
Music breaks along the way
Mike making it to the top a week after treatment
Breathing fresh mountain air
A couple getting engaged at the top of the mountain , lovely people both and congratulations
The sense of cameraderie
Following the above : a restored faith in the basic goodness of many people
Sunshine ( no not burnt this time) and complaining about the heat ( lol)

And so many other little bits and pieces to mention, hopefully the photos on my facebook site will tell the story more eloquently than I ever could. Those who climbed with Lhs uk up Snowdon and Ben Nevis in the uk or have participated in any rocks events will know what I am trying and failing to adequately describe. Not only have Mike Peters and James Chippendale founded a charity that has already saved many lives but one that has its own . ...... (insert the word you think is appropriate)

So walk over ( sorry I admit, I took the gondola down, with 5 very cool people) ( photos on fb, please tag yourselves!), it was down to the lhs stall to set up and begin the swabbing. Damn it was a laugh and so great to talk to all the people who came over and spared 5 mins of their day , having already walked up a mountain, to swab, GET ON THE LIST, and potentially help save a life.  It didn't harm that the booth was in the perfect position to see the stage, and for me that Mike and James kindly signed my Vail Rocks t shirt, giving me the perfect souvenir! 225, yes that's 225 swabs later, BIG COUNTRY came on stage (lol twice in 2 days, cant get better than that!)  And now for the highlight of my weekend.  I was so lucky and got not only to sing (OR SHOUT) from the side of the stage but got to join mike and the boys on the stage along with some of the other volunteers for a rendition of Love Hope And Strength!

Yet another highlight to add to the memory bank.

Then it was all hands on deck to pack up, Including the stage Lol , which for me was the perfect ending to this perfect weekend.

So it is at this point in the post where I shamelessly self promote my bike ride and say thank you soooo much to all the people who have kindly offered help, emergency contacts, places to stay, tour guiding on my odd day off, said they would folow my ride with interest, said they would help set up donor drives along the way, said that they would join my bike ride for a day ( or more commonly volunteer someone else to join my ride for a day) And offer friendship and help to a total stranger! It is at times like this that I am reminded how lucky I am (without descending into sentimentality) to be a part of the wonderful cause that is LHS, and to have these opportunities to experience all that goes with it.  I think I have already thanked everyone I could think of and if you are still reading this, fair play, I thought you would have given up reading long ago.


Monday, 3 June 2013

New Bike... 1st ride.....

New bike.. 

So for all those of you that have been kindly keeping an eye on my progress you will know that i have bought my bike for Route 66.  It was a struggle deciding whether to go for the dependable but heavier and possibly slower touring cycle - specifically made for long distance rides or the fast sleek, lovely road bike!  

Head ruled heart and I went for a Dawes Touring Galaxy AL13 - picked it up Sunday and today I took it out properly for the first time.  I haven't yet fitted a cycle computer to it so had no idea how fast I was going or how far i had gone so that left me with just how I felt about it to worry about.  Map my ride was tracking my progress which I have also posted up on my facebook page! www.facebook.com/Route66LHSCycle  This is my workout on Map my Ride : 

So initial impressions....

Well first I had to get used to changing gears all over again as on my old Dawes they are located on the frame.  These were located (as with all modern bikes) on the handlebars.  Getting used to this wasn't too bad, although did result in one hairy moment where I was trying to change gear and brake whilst coming up to a roundabout and unclipping from my pedal...  Didn't fall off though it was a close run thing!

Initially the bike felt heavier and more unwieldy than my old Dawes, which considering my old bike is steel framed was a surprise.  The bike is built for a more upright position but i spent most of my time on the drops (the part of the handlebars that curves round on a road bike) which is what i am used to doing - only problem is on long rides - riding with your hands on the hoods, (on the top of the bars) is considered to be a better position for all day riding.  this means that you are less aerodynamic but unless you are racing or going into a particularly bad headwind, this shouldn't be a huge consideration.

By the end of the ride, i still felt a bit disappointed in the handling of the bike and how it felt.  Now i know I'm not racing across America, but I've still got to cover a fair amount of distance and a lot of the mental positivity for me is convincing yourself you are going along at a decent speed so the mental consideration of this bike is a big one.  

The bike is a bit rattly which is due to the mudguards - considering the weather throughout USA at the time i am going is supposed to be good all the way along - i could risk removing them.  Why you ask??  Well it's all very well rattling along for an hour or two but this could very well grate endlessly on my nerves by week 4-  another mental positivity thing to consider - when I'm already broken I won't need something else to piss me off!!

Now it may seem as though I'm concentrating on the negatives, picking holes in the details... yes I am, I agree.  so now for the positives.

1st up.... the gears shifted well and when i got the hang of it, i like the new positioning of the gears.  Going uphill didn't seem very bad.  The pedaling action is smooth and lends itself to spinning up hills - usually with a couple of flicks of the gears down though!!  This might not mean much to non- bike-riders.  It rode the bumps of the Wokingham road in Reading well - no mean feat, and the saddle was reasonably comfortable - though I will probably swop it for my old one (the one i have 'broken' in.)

It might just be a case of getting used to the feel of a different bike and then i will be happy as larry again - or I might have to load it up with kit and then I will feel how good it is at what it is made for... or i might have to go on a very long day or two ride and then feel how well i and it cope with that before I'm sold on it.

The trouble is... in my heart of hearts ... I wanted the sleek shiny, lovely fast road bike.  But that wouldn't be sensible would it????

So I got home and after a slight delay, stopped the tracking on the Map my Ride app and looked at the data.  i was pleasantly surprised.  I had managed 13 miles without mishap, the speeds weren't as dire as I thought they were and total ride time (including stops for traffic lights/trains crossing and getting my bike back into the shed) was reasonable.  So maybe the bike isn't as bad as it feels and maybe it's just my head wishing I was on the other bike.

So maybe the sensible choice was a good one after all..... or maybe you will find me back at the bike shop ordering the other one :)