Saturday 14 February 2015

Velodrome/Cycling blind/Skip/Retro/Specialized BG Comp shoes/Run/Rapha Festive 500

Saturday was great. I had my first experience of velodrome cycling and I had my daughter Lunar with me. This wasn't overly energetic at all. We were racing using a Scalextric velodrome cycling set! My buddy Chris had given this set to me as a gift during Christmas 2013 - it had taken me till now to open it! Wasn't sure who was having more fun out of the 2 of us. Lunar kept shouting 'Daddy's bike' as the cycle flew around the track. Great stuff!
Monday was an awesome day. I met up with my new found friend - 'Roger'. Roger was a top guy who happened to be totally blind but that didn't stop him from being a keen cyclist. Better yet, Roger owned his own tandem - 'The Beast'. Roger and I had spoke via phone and communicated via text and email but this day was our first meet. Not only did I meet Roger, I was also greeted by his adorable guide dog 'Ollie' and his lovely wife 'Margaret'. After a quick chat, I got to meet The Beast - a beautiful red coloured custom built Longstaff tandem (with Reynolds 531 tubing no less).
Now this wasn't the first time I had ever been on a tandem. When SJ and I were on honeymoon in Xi'an, we cycled tandem along the city walls. The tandem we rode in China was a real doodle to operate and had flat bars and wide tyres. Aww, how nice to look back on those days...
The Beast had relatively fat tyres for a cycle but skinny compared to the Chinese tandem and this bike had drop bars too. It was almost as if The Beast was waiting for me because I didn't need to change saddle height or anything, it was set up just perfect for me. Roger gave me a quick briefing and off we went. I can't really describe the first 5 or so minutes on this bike. It was terrifying but exhilarating at the same time. Steering was so difficult and the bike didn't respond like expected or how I wanted it to. I felt I had a duty to keep Roger, bike and myself safe. This bike felt (and was) real heavy and cycling with such a load behind me was certainly a new experience. Cycling this tandem was like learning to drive!

After a while, basic principles were adhered to and cycling became less terrifying and dare I say, a little easier. Such principles (or rules) included things like counting 1-2-3 when we 'took' off or stopped, remembering left foot down when stopping and right foot up to take off. Turning was difficult and the turning arc was much larger than my solo bikes. Gear shifting was initially hard but became easier. The gear shifters were located on the bar ends. It took me a while to comfortably take my hand off the bars but once I was able, changing gears went relatively ok. I only changed gears on the rear cassette (right shifter) and remembered it was up for a lower gear and down for a higher (strange logic). I never used the left shifter for the triple chain ring on the front - maybe next time?! The Beast had 27 gears in all and 2 very long chains. My chain (i.e. the front chain) was to my left which felt somewhat unusual. Equally unusual were the brakes. I had control of front and rear v-type brakes. Roger had control of another rear v-brake (so 2 sets of rear v-brakes in all) and a rear disc brake too. Roger would not use his brakes unless I needed him to (not required on this adventure). Between us we decided that it was best for Roger to indicate left or right.
Track log of our first tandem adventure
We cycled just over 60k on this, our first outing together. Confidence grew the further we pedalled. On route we spoke largely about cycling related stuff, particularly our adventures or events and spoke about people we had met. We had both participated in some of the same audax events (including 400k epics) and had both cycled Land's End to John O'Groats (Roger having rode these adventures on a tandem). I thought about my friend 'Gary the Cobbler' who also rides a tandem with a blind friend of his. Of course we spoke about our families too. We also spoke about ourselves. Roger was registered blind at the age of 16, back in 1976. His story is quite wonderful, I don't think I could do it justice enough recounting it here. I'm sure the more I ride with Roger, the more I'll learn and the more I'll share here on this blog. Both Roger and I seemed to have got the cycling bug whilst we were in our mid to late 30's. We also spoke about food and sure enough our (just over) half-way stop was at a lovely cafe. I think this cafe was called 'The Grande Olde Cafe' or something similar.
Roger and The Beast
Roger had spoilt me so much during this day - he let me steer his tandem and now he insisted he buy me breakfast. His wife Margaret gave me a gift at the start (for my baby) which was a pleasant surprise too. These 'Greens' were such a lovely family. The bacon and eggs and cup of tea at this stop were quite lovely also!

After fuelling up we headed back. Roger was like a living GPS unit and despite being blind, knew the roads well. Rogers headspace could be likened to a huge map which really blew me away. My friend Jamie said 'with your navigational skills Tim, it really was the blind leading the blind'. We made a few navigational errors on route but this was largely down to communication - I would take a turn at the Y-junction rather than the T-junction or similar. A few of the roads we travelled were familiar (and included part of my commute), Roger appeared to be familiar with them all. Oh, except for a short 'extra value' section when I attempted to take us to Knowle.

It felt strange when we finished. Strange because it felt de-real. I could not believe I had cycled over 60k on a tandem with a blind friend. Is rare I even spot a tandem around Birmingham and yet here I was this day, cycling one. I felt truly blessed to have met Roger and felt very privileged to lead him out on his tandem into a great adventure. So very nice to meet Rogers wife too. At then end of journey we spent a period of time discussing our day with Margaret over a cup of tea. I can't wait to meet up with Roger, Margaret, Ollie and The Beast again!

Despite being off work for the week, I only managed to skip on 2 occasions. I would liked to have skipped at least 3 times throughout the week but that didn't happen. Continued to have rope troubles, despite having a new rope. Will discuss more in a future blog post.

Skip = 2 x (4 x 90)

Took my MTB out for a spin on Wednesday. Ron accompanied me on his road bike. It had been a while since I had last pedalled with Ron and longer still since I had used this bike. In fact, this was the first time I had cycled my MTB this year!
With so many bikes, I need to think about storage options...
On Thursday, I cycled another bike for the first time this year. 'Ryley', my retro Raleigh build had her debut cycle. Ok, so she had been around the block before but not a proper spin out. I cycled only a short trip, about 20k, but that gave me long enough to get a 'feel' for the bike. It also allowed me to complete my minimum cycling distance for the week, in line with my PBP training plans.
Not being one to get my knickers frame in a knot, but within the first 1k disaster struck and I kinda panicked! I reached the first junction, applied my brakes and the handle-bars fell off! They didn't completely fall off, obviously, but the drops dropped! I didn't stop at the junction as I couldn't find the brake levers and pulled out in front of a car. I wiped the sweat from my brow and took the bike back home. After a quick tighten up, I was off again with no real further menace.

Ryley rode quite smoothly. It felt strange using gear shifters that were attached to the down tube. These shifters reminded me of The Beast as they too were indexed and 'different to the norm'. The gearing on this bike appeared to be more race orientated as there were no real low gears. Maybe that's how bikes were back in the 80's?!
Ryley was fitted with a new saddle - a Brooks Cambium. I have not cycled long and far enough to give a proper review as yet. However, the saddle looked amazing! The saddle was made with vulcanized natural rubber which made it sound like it was from a Start Trek set. An organic cotton canvas covered the saddle. Watch this space for a more in-depth review.
A further new addition this week was my shoes. Since my decision to equip my audax bike(s) with SPD's, I required new shoes. For that purpose, I purchased a pair of Specialized MTB Competition shoes. Is not-so strange to use MTB shoes on a road bike and  that was a deliberate intention of mine. My shoes were tested on my adventure with Roger and on my Ryley ride. The shoes were comfy as soon as they were placed on my feet and required no 'breaking in' or 'settling in' period. The shoes were considered by some to be a wide fit, to me they were a fine fit. Cycling shoes are generally on the narrow side in my humble opinion. Shoes look great and the locking system worked fine too.
Completed the week with a run. One of my more irregular runs, up the Slough and back. Am pleased my running has continued into February and hopefully it will continue into next month too.
The above was the reverse side of a rather funky postcard that Rapha had sent out to me for completing the Rapha Festive 500 challenge last year. I liked this challenge and now that I had received a small woven roundel and a lovely postcard to match, it made those cold winter treks worthwhile. Have now completed this challenge twice to date.
My lovely roundel
A side of post card

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