Bike maintenance for LADIES

April 20, 2016 at 9:12 am | Posted in advice, cycling | 1 Comment
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girl bike tyreGood morning, and welcome to Bike Maintenance For Ladies, episode 37 in an occasional series. Observe the picture above*. There’s a lot we can learn from this neat demonstration of how to change a bicycle puncture.

First, note that the bicycle has been removed from the road, away from passing traffic, and leant gently up against a rock or tree stump. Do not lie your bicycle on its side, especially with the chainset downwards; you risk scratching the paintwork and damaging your derailleur. NEVER balance your bicycle upside down to effect repairs, as this will scuff the saddle and ruin your handlebar tape.

Protective sheeting has been put down to protect the floor from dirt and debris – although if you keep your bicycle scrupulously clean, as in the picture, you’ll find less maintenance is required overall.

Always carry spares and tools. If, like this rider, you prefer to ride without mudguards, you may feel a seatpack detracts from the clean lines of your machine. Simply use your spare inner tube as a hair scrunchie until required.

The rider has removed the front wheel carefully and propped it against her knee, saving the spindle from potential damage caused by contact with the tarmac. Observe how she lines up the valve on the replacement tube with the hole in the rim. Tyre levers are not always necessary: a good strong set of gel fingernails makes a perfectly acceptable substitute.

There are, however, some points for improvement in this demonstration. Firstly, the rider does not appear to be wearing socks. This is unhygienic, allowing the bacteria naturally present in sweat to propagate unfettered in your trainers. Secondly, road riders should always wear a helmet.

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* Thanks to @JEmptyloo on twitter for sharing the picture.

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I learn some CHOREO

September 12, 2015 at 5:37 pm | Posted in barbershop, music | Leave a comment
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The White Rosettes, not content with being utterly marvellous musicians and the loveliest people on the planet, are also pretty nippy on their feet. My friend Sarah: “I can’t believe you have to do all those MOVES as well as singing!” Me: “Not moves. CHOREO.”

Choreography is VERY important for barbershop choruses. The 220-page Barbershop Harmony Society Contest And Judging Handbook defines Presentation as ‘communication via the transformation of a song into an entertaining experience for an audience.’ The judging criteria talk about ‘believability’ and singing ‘from the heart’ and creating ‘rapport with the audience’. (You aren’t actually allowed to look at the audience most of the time – glancing away from the director is called ‘eyeballing’ and is a Distraction for the judges, which loses you points.) You create this connection with your audience by a) picking a song you can sing well b) singing it well and c) using your faces and bodies to reinforce and amplify the emotions of the song.

Some songs need delicate handling. You really can bring people to tears by standing and singing, not just beautifully, but like you mean it. But others cry out for a bit of The Treatment. Done well, choreography turns a good performance into a showstopper. Here the Rosettes are, doing Cruella De Vil:

And while you’re here, you should have a look at The Westminster Chorus doing Mardi Gras Parade:

It’s the kind of thing that makes sane people suddenly remember an urgent appointment at the other end of the country. Something about being on the risers warps your judgement, though. Perhaps it’s the altitude. You find yourself going, “Cartwheels? Of course. And I can hide those rabbits up my jumper, no bother.”

It’s the end of August. LABBS Convention, the big competition for British ladies’ barbershop choruses, is a suddenly-very-countable eight weeks away. The songs I was struggling to learn a few weeks ago are now embedded in my brain. I know my bums from my dums, and my oohs from my ohs. In fact, it’s all so automatised that Sally can sing any bit of the lead line and I can come in with the bass, without even thinking. This would be kind of impressive, if I didn’t have so much else to worry about. You know the rubbing-your-stomach-and-patting-your-head thing? Try rubbing your stomach and patting your head while reciting key quotations from Hamlet, converting cake mix ingredients for an 8” round tin into a 9” square one in your head, and doing the Charleston. Backwards. In heels. Ginger Rogers, you didn’t know the half of it.

There’s a palpable sense of ‘Right, then!’ in the air. As someone with a background in dodgy amateur dramatics and terrible orchestral playing, I’ve done a fair bit of rehearsing in my time, but I’ve never experienced anything LIKE the pace and intensity of these White Rosettes rehearsals. It’s terrifying and exhilarating and completely exhausting.

Even with seventy-something of us on the risers, there’s nowhere to hide. Sally sees everything. She throws out little reminders to people between takes: “Hands lower down. Right, not left. It’s up in the air, not in front of your face.” Predictably, she catches my eye just as I smack Hannah round the chops. Damn. Damn. Sally: “Welcome back, everyone who’s been on holiday. I Hope You’ve Had A Nice Time.” She’s kind of joking. We laugh, shiftily. It’s not just me looking a bit scared.

Jane’s answering questions. “The first time, the arm goes down behind the person in front of you. The next time, it goes between the two people in front.” Ah. Okay. I put my arm out and down. If I stretch a tiny bit, I can reach the singers two rows forward. I wonder if this is a Distraction I’ll get marked down for (‘Please address the problem of freakily long limbs on the fourth row’), or whether it can be put to use in some Mr Tickle-themed comedy moment.

white rosettes banner

NOT choreo, just a bit of fun in a warm-up. Spot the Distractions. Yup, that would be me

Sally’s cracking the whip. “LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME KEEP LOOKING AT ME I DON’T CARE IF YOU FALL OFF THE RISERS DON’T TAKE YOUR EYES OFF ME.”

Jane, unperturbed, is adding new bits. “Right, do this, starting on the left. Hmm. Now do it the other way round. Okay, now do it the first way again.” She videos us. I immediately do absolutely everything wrong.

Now we’re going through a different song. YES. I’ve been practising this one at home. BRING IT ON. Right. All good so far. Yes, that’s right. Oh. That move. Oh yeah. Too late. Argh. Sally: “Don’t go on autopilot. NEVER go on autopilot.”

Yup. My mistakes come when I allow myself a nanosecond to think, “I got that RIGHT!” I spiral gloomily into meta-meta-meta-awareness, trying to stop myself worrying about trying to stop myself critiquing my own performance as I go along.

In the break, Karen must have noticed my air of abject terror. “It’ll come together. It always comes together.”

Back at home, I watch tonight’s video. In between absently thinking, “Gosh, I’m so ridiculously tall,” it hits me how Rachel is right when she says every single person matters. We’ve all got our homework to do, and our small but crucial contribution to make. And when we all get it right, it gathers you up and sweeps you along, and it’s completely thrilling to watch.

I run through it in my socks in the kitchen, cracking my head on a light fitting and knocking over a bottle of wine. But the final chord makes me well up every time. Blimey. This is going to be AWESOME.

labbs convention hall

Convention. IT IS COMING

I learn some songs

July 9, 2015 at 9:39 am | Posted in barbershop, music | 2 Comments
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The Retreat has been and gone, but life is in no way back to normal. The juggernaut of Convention is rumbling towards us, and rehearsals are a whirlwind of dress-fitting, shoe-swapping, lipstick-testing and furtive questioning about whether we really need MAC primer, or will the stuff from B&Q do?

On top of all this, trainee life continues, a learning curve that sometimes feels more like a climbing wall. It is UTTERLY MARVELLOUS being a White Rosettes trainee. Don’t get me wrong. I wake up every day and think, ‘Is it Wednesday yet?’ I stand on the risers, and the pure thrill of the sound lifts me off my feet. I can’t do the warmup exercises where your lips have to go ‘brrrr’ because I’m too busy grinning my face off. But MY, is there a lot of work to do.

Okay, part of this is my fault. You can take traineeship at your own pace. There’s no pressure. Spend a while learning a song, then learn another one. But I want to know them all, right now. At the moment, Sally lifts her arms and names a tune, and I either think ‘Damn!’ or ‘YES! I know this one!’ The sooner it can be all YESes and no DAMNs, the better.

2 OLD MEN ON MUPPET SHOW

DON’T. SING. WRONG. NOTES.

No-one uses sheet music performing barbershop – it’s all done from memory. So, I’m learning repertoire. The cycling podcasts and cheesy salsa on my ipod have been replaced by tracks called things like Orange_Bass_Words. I walk down the street going ‘Dum dum dum dum dum dum BUSINESS!’ and ‘Gah, NO! It’s ‘ba-da, ba-da, da, da!’ Not ‘ba-da, ba-da, ba, ba!’’. Luckily, I live in Hebden Bridge, where this kind of carrying-on is regarded as normal.

It’s harder than you’d think to learn songs without many words. Basses get a lot of dums. And dooms. And ooohs, and aaaahs, and dooohs. In desperation, I write myself a crib sheet for the latest song. It says things like “Doom-bah, doom-bah, doom, (stay down) bah bah bah (up) doo-wah (down) doo-wah”.

At this point, Liz looks over my shoulder and offers me her special baritone highlighters. I gaze at her in awe as she produces eerie strings of perfectly-tuned double-flatted thirds and augmented seconds. At least basses don’t normally have fiendish notes to worry about (although one teach track goes down to a bottom A, which I can manage, but only if I have a tot of whisky first).

typical baritone part

Typical baritone line

Remembering which order the notes go in is a challenge, though, especially as barbershop arrangements specialise in doing the same thing several times in slightly different ways. I have an impressively geeky mental map for Lift Up My Head, which counts off three different kinds of repeats. Sadly, I’ve not managed to replicate this for any other song. I start Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho like a vaguely-familiar car journey, unable to visualise it but daftly optimistic I will remember what to do when I get to each roundabout.

And, unexpectedly, the words give me their own problems. If I know the song, I’m stuffed: one of the warmups is I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, and every time, I JUST manage to stop myself singing ‘Then like West Ham, they fade and die…’ Meanwhile, my brain regards learning song lyrics as the perfect opportunity to have a bit of a laugh. ‘Great big polka-dot sky’ comes out reliably as ‘Great big coconut sky’. ‘The lamb ram sheep horns began to blow, and the trumpets began to sound’? Lamb ham sheep horns. Crumpets. I’m not even kidding. My ten-year-old points out the food theme running through these errors, so maybe I should start having some lunch before I practise.

I used to be a linguist, so part of me is busy going, ‘Ooh, well that’s JOLLY interesting, because ‘coconut’ and ‘polka-dot’ have a lot in common phonologically, and…’ But mostly I’m just trying to find a way of remembering that it’s FLASH! and then WHAM! and then FLASH! again, and not the other way round. And stopping my boys from singing ‘COCONUT SKY!!’ and guffawing. It’s NOT funny, you two. Cut that out. I’ll pop your sprocket money.

crumpets

Joshua fit the battle of… oooh

Beyond beginnerism: building an inclusive cycling culture

March 12, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Posted in cycling | 23 Comments
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I read Collyn Ahart’s piece on beginnerism, and got a bit confused. I found things I agreed with, and things I didn’t, and things I didn’t understand. I may have the wrong end of the stick entirely but I wanted to respond.

I agree that a lot of stuff that’s aimed at women is aimed at beginners. This seems to be to be because there’s a genuine appetite for it. Women want it. Not all women, of course. But the success of Breeze rides and women-only initiatives of all sorts suggests that there’s a substantial number of women who *do* want this kind of stuff. I know women who want to ride without feeling that they are holding everyone up, who’d like to learn to adjust their gears without feeling patronised by the blokey atmosphere of most bike shops, who feel more comfortable taking what are to them challenging steps in the company of other women. This is how they feel. How can we tell them that’s wrong?

Personally, I’m not tempted to go out riding by the promise of cupcakes and girls-only giggles and a glimpse of Vicky Pendleton. Here in Yorkshire, the women scare me more than the men do. In ‘cross races, I’m generally battling it out with Mesh Insert Man at the back of the field; my female competitors have left me for dead in the first lap. Going out riding with a bunch of women here doesn’t generally involve much gossiping.

Me on the start line

The author, about to watch the rest of the women’s field disappear in a cloud of dust

So I’m not the target market, maybe. But there are beginners, and beginners. What about the next steps? What if you think you might like to race, for example?

If you read cycling magazine advice, they tell you to go out on the club run to develop bunch riding skills. I know women who do this, who go out with their local club, but they are very strong and very fast, fast enough to keep up with the lads sprinting for signs. I’m not that fast, and my self-belief is fragile; what doesn’t kill me, instead of making me stronger, mostly makes me weep and think I’ll just give up biking and take up crochet instead. I don’t seek out women-only events; I like men, I like racing and training for ‘cross with men, and some of the most helpful, encouraging and unpatronising advice I’ve had has been from men.

But I went to women-only road race training, and it was brilliant. The reason it was brilliant was not because it was full of women; it was because I was among peers. People at roughly my level. People who were a bit better than me at some stuff, and not as good as me at other stuff. I fitted in. I’m sure there are men out there who are at the same level as me, who I could ride with happily. But, just as ‘men who think they might like to have a go at racing’ are probably at a similar level to each other, so are ‘women who think they might like to have a go at racing’. We all need to find our level, and this is a simple way of judging it.

I’m bothered by the lack of opportunities to progress beyond the Breeze rides-and-cupcakes stage. I’m bothered by how difficult it still seems to be to find support and training for women in a sport that is so dominated by men’s racing. But I can see the green shoots appearing. The first CDNW women’s cat 2/3/4 road race this year had 64 finishers. SIXTY-FOUR. That’s nearly twice as many as last year, mostly because of road race training events like the one I attended. Last year I attended a BC women’s velodrome session that was bursting at the seams with good road riders keen to have a go at something new. Where were all these women the year before? What were they doing? Perhaps it does take a women-only session to make people think ‘Well, maybe I WILL have a bash at that’. At the moment, the culture of cycling is overwhelmingly male. Paying attention to women’s participation at all levels of the sport – not just beginners, and not just elites – will help to build a cycling culture that’s about all of us. But I don’t think this will happen without a clear focus on opportunities for women to progress, and this means (almost by default) that we end up defining ‘women’s cycling’ as something separate, something different.

In order to create a cycling culture that is inclusive of men and women, we need to define what is missing. Otherwise we are just assimilating women into the existing culture. That’s where people like @_pigeons_ and @Cyclopunk and @festinagirl come in, detailing and documenting and ranting and raving about the inequalities that still exist, and the fantastic, thrilling contribution that women’s cycling can make to cycling culture in general. We need to rewrite cycling culture, and to do that we need to recognise clearly what is absent from it. Then (I’ve argued this before) we can progress to a place where women’s-specific magazines and advice and events are redundant, and we define ourselves by the kinds of bikers we are. And our newsstands will be filled with these publications instead:

alt mags

Your help needed with my highly scientific road racing poll

February 5, 2014 at 11:16 am | Posted in cycling | 2 Comments
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So, after going road race training and having a ball, I’ve entered my first ever road race. It’s in March. 2/3/4 cat women only. Fifty-seven of us so far. (I KNOW. 57!) Traffic-free circuit, mostly flat.

I tweeted about this last night; responses fell into two broadly opposing groups. Please improve the objectivitical scientificness of my research by answering the poll below, which summarises these two viewpoints. If you’d like to add any further points of view/ advice/ tips/ warnings/ jokes, please do, in the comments section. Merci!

Race ya

January 12, 2014 at 7:02 pm | Posted in cycling | 6 Comments
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The fifth of January sounded perfectly reasonable when I signed up for a women-only road race skills session a couple of months ago. But Christmas came and went in a blur of port, crisps and Junior Monopoly, and suddenly I was getting up at improbable o’clock in the DARK on a freezing Sunday morning, struggling into sixteen layers of cycling kit and packing sandwiches, snacks, and any other warm clothing I could find into the car. I nearly left without my bidons as (in an uncharacteristic fit of organised-ness) I’d stashed them in the fridge the night before. Off to pick up @VicandLib and @1fishonabike. F-f-f-f-f-f-f.

It was good to be the designated driver, as otherwise I’m almost certain post-Christmas torpor would have set in and I’d have decided I didn’t want to go. I’m extremely happy this didn’t happen, as we had the most excellent time. Heather Bamforth had sent us a comprehensive set of instructions on what to bring (helmet, food, helmet, extra clothes, helmet, bike, don’t forget your helmet) and the structure of the day. We rolled up to see lots of young, athletic-looking chicks getting dropped off by their Dads, and resigned ourselves to representin’ the Old Crox wing [complicated handshake, followed by muttering about arthritis in fingers]. But when we got down on to the circuit, it was clear that the group were a happy mixture of ages, experience and fitness. In a few minutes, Huw Williams was trying to get thirty (thirty!) excitable women to calm down and listen.

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‘AWRIGHT TAMESIDE!’ Huw needs a Madonna mike

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Hastily-grown beards protect us from the cold

Tameside is a purpose-built traffic-free circuit, about a kilometre long, with corners and little inclines and a bit of grass (should you overshoot a corner and find yourself doing some impromptu cyclocross). It’s great fun to zip around. We spent three hours practising all kinds of skills, with Huw, Hannah Walker (from Epic Cycles-Scott Contessa Womens Race Team), Carley Brierley and Heather offering their expert advice. Some highlights:

  1. Riding in little groups and changing position (front rider goes to the back and so on). Avid readers will remember I am incapable of riding on someone’s wheel without grumbling HELPHELPHELPHELPHELP the whole time. I was still doing this to start with, but gradually it got easier, and I learned to look up and through the rider in front, which is a lot less panic-inducing than staring at their back tyre. (It also means you see corners coming, which is useful.)
  2. Cornering. I was hoping I’d be all right at this, having spent the summer practising for ‘cross. YESSS! Can’t tell you how terrific it feels to be good at something, and to get complimented on it (thanks Carley).
  3. Riding around in a big group being paced by Carley at 15mph, then 18mph. This came near the end, and I was thrilled to find myself riding in a bunch at speed, spotting gaps, trying to pick through the crowd, within elbowing distance of everybody. Never thought I’d have the courage to do this, and it felt so utterly PRO I could hardly speak for excitement.
  4. Mini-races (about 15 mins long). Yup, you know it’s serious when I finally take off my zippy cyclocross warmup trousers. Overtaking people on corners! Being overtaken again on the straights (damn)! Shouting ON YOUR RIGHT! Still haven’t really got the working-with-people bit sorted out, but golly, this was fun.
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l-r Carley (foreground), Hannah and Heather dispense #protips

We did a lot of other things, but these are the bits that stick in my head and make me grin to think of them. I made such a lot of progress in three hours. All the same, it was quite a relief to get into the relative warmth of the classroom. Freddie made us all a cuppa (life saver) and Huw did the Science Bit: what we need to know to improve our fitness and prepare for racing. There was LOADS to think about here, particularly as Carley and Heather were giving examples from their own experience of training, coaching and racing. Invaluable stuff, and plenty of lightbulb moments.

I came away keen to have a go. CDNW are organising several races just for 2/3/4 cat women this year, and Heather, with her irresistible enthusiasm, insisted we’re all capable of racing. One thing she said to the group sticks in my mind: ‘If YOU all show up to a race, you ARE the race.’ Of course. How simple. So come on, fellow hopeless people. Show up with me, and we’ll have a go together.

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Grinning is not part of the training but it’s hard to resist

There are two more sessions: Rhyl on 19 Jan 2014 and Blackpool on 02 Feb 2014. They’re filling up fast, but if you’re interested, you can read about them and sign up here.

Pictures by very kind permission of Fred Bamforth.

A bit more about the coaches here:

Huw Williams

Heather Bamforth

Carley Brierley

I come over all velodramatic

October 15, 2013 at 8:10 pm | Posted in cycling | 1 Comment
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I was sad to miss the Ashton Hoyle CSP CX, as we had such a terrific time last year, but a wet Sunday saw me heading off to the nice dry velodrome with @1fishonabike for a British Cycling women-only Rider Development session.

This was my fifth time riding the Hallowed Boards™. I’m not sure why I felt so scared. Absolutely ready to cry, leave, be sick, or possibly all three. Maybe it was getting to reception and realising the session really WAS three hours long, and it wasn’t a misprint as we’d been assuming.

velodrome fear tweet

But we were there, with our kit on and our hire bikes and our silver shoes, and hordes of people a LOT younger than us were whizzing round the boards, so sloping off wasn’t really an option. We fortified ourselves with flapjack and hoped for the best.

Coach appeared, looking like a ginger David Cassidy, and talked us through the afternoon. Our group were sharing the track with another group, so we had 15 mins on the boards, then a break, then another 15 mins, and so on. He had a detailed plan and moved us through a set of activities, building our confidence and skills.

David-Cassidy

Your coach for today

We warmed up with a few laps and tried to get out of the saddle. (HEEEELP.) (I did it eventually, though*.) The rest was pair work, riding side by side. We practised changing position so the person on the outside was on the inside, and back again; we rode low down on the track then high up; we moved up and down the boards (ride round by the handrail** then SWOOOOP down to the bottom trying to stay next to each other***, then up again); we rode closely behind another pair, changing positions so the front pair was at the back and vice versa. Then at the end, because ‘you’re not looking tired enough’, we rode in pairs up above the blue line and waited for our number to appear on the lap board. When it did, we ZOOMED down to the black line and rode a lap flat out. WHEEEEE.

On the boards

It was great working with Hannah; we encouraged and supported each other through the wobbles. David Cassidy was pleased with our progress, so much that he amended his plan halfway through because we were doing so well. I was struck by how every time he described the next activity, I thought, ‘Oh, no. I’m not sure I can do that.’ And then I managed it, and of course this felt fantastic. Terrific teaching. At the end, he told us we should be proud of ourselves. I think we all were; I can’t speak for anyone else but I came away feeling completely different about track riding. Beforehand, I’d loved it but been terrified the whole time, and grimly aware of my limitations. Afterwards, I felt like anything was possible. We covered a lot of the skills necessary for track accreditation, so working towards this is the next step. I still need to practise riding close behind someone else (in the two-pairs exercise, I spent the whole time going OHGODOHGODOHGODOHGOD) but if I can do all that other stuff, I must be able to crack that too, right? Right?

There’s another women-only session, on 22 December. I won’t be going, because it’s Heptonstall Charity Fancy Dress Cyclocross day, but I can’t recommend it enough. Sign up. Go on. You know you want to.

women's track session

Happy participants

* GO ME

** eeeeep

*** shouting WOOOHOOO as you do this is not compulsory, but it’s hard to resist

‘Cross diary 30: I plan my racing season

September 11, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Posted in cycling | 3 Comments
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So. This summer I’ve been Trying A Bit Harder, riding a (little) bit further and getting ever-so-slightly faster (downhill, at least). I’ve had 2-3 weeks of, er, tapering, due to a sudden bout of CBA*. But ‘cross season has started, so like all Proper Athletes, I’m formulating a structured, methodical plan of attack.

While I may have been busy PODIUMING over the summer, my sights are set somewhat more realistically for ‘cross. Last year, I was a newbie. My goals for the season were:

  1. Learn to remount (and, crucially, do it in an actual race);
  2. Come not-last at least once.

Avid readers will recall that I met both these goals, overhauling a 73-year-old in the final yards of one race and only getting my shorts caught on my saddle during one other. Therefore, throughout the season I set myself new, ongoing goals, including the following:

Rooty singletrack

  1. Overtake someone;
  2. Ride up steep banks without getting off;
  3. Get round corners without foot-dabbing;
  4. Stop falling off on the DAMN singletrack.

I’m still working on no. 4, but can report definite progress on the others. So this year my goals are more specific. I’m looking at the races I rode last year, and tailoring my plans to the individual courses. (I’ve provided handy links to the race reports from last year, so you can remind yourself of how utterly hopeless I was, for perspective.)

Keighley: Ride the water crossing instead of getting off. Ride up and down the banks without getting off. Ditto the steep descent with a 90 degree bend at the bottom. And the muddy bits. And the off-camber sections. Basically, try and stay on the bike more than 17% of the time.

Wakefield: Stop falling off on the DAMN singletrack.

Brighouse: Arrange lovely, relaxing family day trip to somewhere at the other end of the country.

Temple Newsam: Didn’t do this one last year. From looking at other people’s race reports, mostly SFOOTDS**. And get round the corners. And don’t knock anybody off.

Rapha Super Cross, Skipton: pray fervently that they have changed the course. If not, remember to remove clods of mud from back brakes while toiling over soggy grass. Try not to fall asleep on ground before having chance to hobnob with lovely delightful twitter people.

Alexandra PalaceRapha Super Cross, Ally Pally: Another new one. Steps: shoulder bike without concussing fellow competitors. Practise too-cool-for-school Laahndan raceface. See Skipton re. falling asleep.

Sheffield: Another new one. Find out where Sheffield is.

Heptonstall Fancy Dress: Never actually raced this one as always ill. Wash hands obsessively and refuse to breathe in for a week beforehand. Think up mind-blowingly ACE costume.

Todmorden: See Heptonstall, minus the fancy dress. No, sod it. I’ve missed this race 4 times due to illness (2 x winter, 2 x summer). If I actually get to race, I’ll wear the fancy dress to celebrate.

Sounds achievable, doesn’t it? Not too ambitious? True to form, I’m already hopelessly overexcited. This year I’ll be racing proudly in Here Come The Belgians colours, hoping I won’t be excommunicated for getting off and weeping on the cobbled climbs. The 8yo is an old hand, now, but this year marks the 5yo’s racing debut. @spandelles will reprise his role as pit crew-slash-supernanny-slash-psychotherapist. We’re going to smash it. Hup hup!

* Can’t Be Arsed

** Stop Falling Off On The Damn Singletrack

An A-Z of cycling terminology

August 24, 2013 at 11:20 am | Posted in cycling | Leave a comment
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As you know, this blog has become quite the go-to destination for the nervous newbie. Here, you can ask the daftest of questions, safe in the knowledge that I probably don’t know the answer either. This time, I’m turning my attention to cycling terminology.

Like any hobby, cycling has its secret handshakes and obscure rituals. Many of these are reflected in arcane language. This creates a feeling of smugness in participants, and baffles outsiders, who slink out of bike shops ashamed at their inability to distinguish Rego from Ergo. Ever happy to help, I present here a dictionary of common cycling terms, so that you can approach your next bike-related conversation with confidence.

Aero: Sadly, this has nothing to do with chocolate, and won’t help you with bonking. Aero positioning is trying to minimise your frontal area so that you are less affected by wind resistance while riding. Popular aero tricks for everyday cyclists include doing your jacket up.

Bonking: This isn’t as delightful as it sounds, either. ‘The bonk’ is what happens when you don’t eat or drink enough and suddenly decide, half way up a hill, that you hate cycling. And sunshine. And cheery people. Cures for the bonk include the café stop.

Café stop: This is an opportunity to refuel and rehydrate on long rides, and get out of the freezing rain while secretly wondering if there is a bus from here that goes anywhere near home.

rainy shot of a bike near a cafe in kew, London, England

Frontal area: This isn’t as exciting as you might imagine (you may sense a theme developing, here). Your frontal area is the bit of you that there is more of when you sit up, and less of when you lean over on your bike. Maximising your frontal area is recommended when wearing hi-vis, and is easiest to achieve on a hybrid.

Hi-vis: Short for ‘Hi, I’m a visiting student!’ Refers to any clothing that is fluorescent (in the day) or reflective (at night). Mostly worn so that daydreaming motorists can’t claim SMIDSY.

Hybrid: Although it’s tempting to graft bits of washing machine on to your tubes, this is best left to the professionals. A hybrid is a bike that’s a bit of both: frame and wheels like a road bike, but with handlebars like an MTB. Therefore, hybrids are the teenagers of the cycling world, prone to identity confusion and writing bad poetry.

Giant hybrid bicycle set up for touring (Tsukigata, Hokkaido, Japan)

Hybrid bicycle, musing on the fragility of life

MTB: Multi-Terrain Bike. Or maybe Moun-Tain Bike. Perhaps it’s My Terrific Bike. Nobody seems to be sure. It’s the one with the flat handlebars and the knobbly tyres, anyway.

Road bike: This is what your Dad used to call a ‘racer’. Drop handlebars, narrow tyres. Modern road bikes come with pre-installed race face.

Race face: Serious expression, compulsory on road bikes. Best employed when chasing down retired schoolteachers on three-speeds.

The author, demonstrating how *not* to do race face

SMIDSY: Sorry, Mate, I Didn’t See You. An abbreviation of the more accurate SMIDSYBIWTTCTCDWEASCTASWMK (Sorry, Mate, I Didn’t See You Because I Was Trying To Change The CD While Eating A Sandwich, Checking Twitter And Steering With My Knees).

Tubes: Every bike has several tubes. These are easily distinguished through clear naming. The top tube is the one at the top. The down tube is the one that goes down. The seat tube is the other one that goes down. The tubes that hold the wheel on are called forks, unless they’re the other ones, which are called stays. You should always carry a spare inner tube, unless you’re riding tubular tyres, in which case you should always carry a spare wheel.

Wheels: You need two of these, ideally the same size. Both should be kept on the ground at all times.

Well! I hope that’s cleared a few things up. Cheerio for now, or, as we say in cycling circles, ‘Is that your back tyre hissing?’

Are you road race ready?

August 5, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Posted in cycling | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

After I raced and MEDALLED and PODIUMED last weekend, curious readers have inundated* me with requests for advice. If no-hopers like me can race, maybe they can, too! What do they need to know? Do I have any tips? I’ve put together this handy questionnaire, so you can test your understanding of race etiquette and tactics. Consider your answers carefully.

1. What is through and off?

a. Something that happens if you don’t pay attention while you’re knitting
b. Working with other riders in a line, taking turns on the front
c. That thing where you jump your skateboard up and slide along the edge of a bench

2. If someone shouts ‘Get on my wheel!’ what do they mean?

a. Ride closely behind me, to shelter from the wind!
b. Here! You can have a go on the unicycle, now
c. Let me win, and I’ll leave you my fortune!

3. When you’ve taken a turn on the front, you should swing off. What does this mean?

a. Do a little slalom through the dotted lines, to demonstrate your bike handling skillz
b. Throw a punch at the nearest spectator
c. Move to the side to let the next person come to the front

Bernard-Hinault-punch-1024x674

4. When riding into the wind, you should adopt an aero position. What does this mean?

a. Sit up straight, so you can eat your chocolate without choking
b. Get right down over the handlebars so there’s less of you in the wind
c. Ride along with your arms sticking out going NNEEEAAAOOOW

5. In long races, you may need to refuel. Does this mean:

a. Ride no-hands and boss your gel like a PRO
b. Get someone to hand you up a Subway every three laps
c. Pick up a couple of bags of charcoal for the post-race barbie

6. Before racing, you should make sure you are adequately hydrated. Does this mean:

a. Take on isotonic fluids in small but regular quantities
b. Have a couple of shandies, and a Berocca chaser for the vitamins
c. Get someone to tip a bucket of water over your head

Beret Baguette_39

7. In sprints, you should always hold your line. What does this mean?

a. Don’t let go of the bungee attaching you to that fast guy
b. Mid-race coke-snorting is inadvisable, and best left for the after-party
c. Don’t veer all over the road

8. If you win, which is the correct podium arrangement?

a. 1st puts two arms up, 2nd puts right arm up, 3rd puts left arm up
b. All jump up and down waving excitedly, kissing medals etc.
c. 1st looks ecstatic, 2nd looks murderous, 3rd looks confused

9. If you win, which is the best podium speech?

a. I’d like to thank God, my agent, my mother, my mechanic, my tyre sponsor, my hairdresser and that person who comes to all my races but never says hello
b. You like me [sob]. You really like me!
c. Mum! MUM! Press the button on the top! No, the big button! The other one! Did it make a noise? No, that’s just it focusing. Press it harder! Did I have my eyes closed?

10. If you lose, which is the best excuse?

a. The sun was in my eyes
b. Knew I should have run tubs instead of clinchers
c. Oh! Were we racing?

podium cake 3

* One person asked me, anyway

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