Gripes, Gripes and Some More Gripes

Before I start here’s a date for your diaries… On Saturday 12 July, at the Colliton Club, Dorchester, I’m organising a Back to School Disco. The event includes a disco, games and raffle – school uniform to be worn. Tickets are £4 and are available from the Colliton Club – all proceeds go to Julia’s House. Please check out the event page on the Tour Challenge website.

Anyhow less of that…

It’s been a long week, with 425km covered over the weekend, two 170km rides during the week before work; I’ve also been to a 21st birthday party, missed most of fathers day, had a trip to watch the Eagles in London which includes the obligatory late night plus all the palaver that comes with my job. I’ve also been actively busy organising fundraising activities. But it’s not all that bad, it’s time to recover so I’ve got 2 light weeks of training to come before the intensity ramps up throughout July.

So while I’m in a moaning mood, I feel it’s right that I get some of the things that wind me up on the bike off my chest.

I suppose the place to start is the pot hole – they’re everywhere and are often difficult to spot. There’s 3 options to deal with them: swerve (after checking its safe), try and jump them or take the hit. The later can be quite painful, particularly  you don’t see them as there’s no chance to raise the derriere off the saddle and in some cases I’ve needed to check to see if my bits are still intact. For any of you new to cycling in the wet – one rule for you, if you don’t have to,  never ride through a puddle as you don’t know what might be lurking beneath it!

Gravel and general debris on the road is something I’m wary of, if you’re turning and go over loose material then the chances of losing control of the bike are increased. I generally tend to bike around this, but if I have to go over it  I will try and slow down in advance and hit the material with the bike as upright as feasible. The exact same principles apply to drain covers in the wet.

Living in a rural county I do encounter a lot of farm vehicles, the vast majority of farmers are generous and give me plenty of space. However I was unfortunate on one ride to encounter the annual muck spreading –  it seems that just as muck is spread on the roads as the fields. In essence, unbeknown to myself, I turned from a sweaty cyclist into a high speed cow turd.  It wasn’t until I got home and popped the bike in the house, and came back downstairs after a shower that I caught whiff of the bike – and the missus wasn’t to happy with me.  It took a week to remove the smell off the bike and since I’d been drinking from my bottles over the course of the ride – I ended up on dry rations for a few days!

Crosswinds can be challenging, particularly when riding along ridge lines. Having been out on the road throughout the winter, there have been occasions when I’ve had to bike on the wrong side of the road, so when the crosswind hits I’ve plenty of room to manoeuvre. Quick tip: if you’re out in similar conditions be wary of any gaps in hedgerows as this is when you can get a real blast from the weather.

I’m really aware of pedestrians, as many don’t look but only listen when crossing the road and I’ve had many near misses – in Cerne Abbas on one ride I had 3 different groups walk out in front of me in less than 500 yards.

The vast majority of drivers on the road are respectful to cyclists and leave plenty of space when overtaking, although I do believe that some underestimate the speed of cyclists. My favourite worst encounter with a driver, which I now look on with fondness, involved a near collision on a roundabout in Dorchester. Having made my way onto the roundabout, a driver of a van decided to pull out in front of me, I slammed on the brakes and stopped about 20cms from the driver side door – incredibly he also had a trailer on the back. My real admiration for the driver was his ability to multi-task by navigating the roundabout and simultaneously wind down his window to fire some insults at me.  It is a good insomnia topic for me to determine the rational used by said driver to think he was entitled to fire back some insults – if you’re out there please feel free to get in touch as it’s still nagging me!

As you’ll see from above, cycling involves a lot of concentration – I won’t ride no handed as if you hit a pot hole, wet drain cover, debris or a cross wind chances are you’ll come off. With my history of shoulder injuries it’s a risk I’m not prepared to take – more on that in my next blog!

Cheers for reading.

Justin

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