The Bike Hospital

Even by LifeCycle standards, this has been a remarkable week: a broken bike, a borrowed bike, mega hills, a new King Of The Mountains record, a milestone of miles, loads of soakings and a new athlete to coach all add up to a frantic few days on LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma. So let’s dig into the detail…

I started the week 173/208 (@ 1m 35s) on The Graveyard Getaway on Strava, basically because I hadn’t given it any attention. Where I come from (competitive dad) 173rd is embarrassing, so it was imperative that I do something about it. It’s a bit like Sebastian Vettel languishing in 17th place with a minute left on the clock in Q1.

Let me set the scene: The Graveyard Getaway is in Newton Mearns. It’s a third of a mile long with a downhill start, a dip in the middle and an uphill finish. Over the piece, the road drops 15ft from start to finish: but you don’t notice that: all you remember is that 5% gradient when your legs are falling off. The challenge is to get the power on at the right time, whenever that is. My wee legs can’t/won’t generate max power for the minute or so that it takes to deliver the time so I have to think about my strategy. Put the power on too soon (going downhill) and I pay for it bigtime in the last fifty. Don’t put enough gas on downhill and I’m playing catchup heading into the steepest part of the climb. Whatever way I look at it, it’s a challenge: short, sharp and brutal.

So Monday it was… Despite being weighed down with a 2.5lb loaf of bread, fruit and tins of fish, I wound the bike up to max speed and set sail down the hill to the bottom of the dip. I thought it has to be Monday because that’s when my legs are at their best (more of which later): a minute and two seconds for 16th place. Nice! But hang on: one minute exactly is 8th. Surely I can get two seconds… Cue Tuesday: 1m03s, Wednesday 1:04s. Do you see a trend developing here? Tired legs…. L But hey ho, let’s have one more go and bang all the power on at the foot of the hill: Thursday 1m01s for 14th place. Well, it’s a start! Roll on Monday. Sod 8th, the target now is 59s for 5th.

Staying on Strava segments for a minute, you may recall that last week I bagged a KOM (King Of (the) Mountains on the Broom Up Zoom leg (also) in Newton Mearns. That was a 1m25s on my way home on the Wednesday. On the Friday, I lowered it to 1m21s but Strava refused to show it at the top of the leaderboard and I presumed it was because I was already in first place and their software was flawed. Anyway, roll the story forward to this Friday. Despite the fact that my legs were already falling off, I decided to have a square go on the way home. Winding up the speed as I turned off the Ayr Road, I selected a high gear that I thought I could handle over the bumpy ascent. Flying past a woman with a pushchair in the middle of the road, I managed to keep the hammer down on the left hander at the T junction (total bummer if there’s a motor coming) and legged it to a point where I could do no more: legs totally gone.  Then I had to wait till I got home to upload the file and see the time: 1m16s!!! OMG, where did that come from? Now I really need to get hold of a lightweight bike instead of my heavily laden oil tanker and convert that into a 1-10.

One of the things that Strava has done for me is bring back the competition into my riding (in case you hadn’t noticed). The SPX chaps over in the Netherlands are big, big cycling nuts and they clock up some seriously impressive stats. I don’t see me beating Wouter’s 282 miles in a week anytime soon, nor Peter’s 20+ mph average speed over the week. But Holland is flat whereas my commute is anything but. So this week, I laid down a marker for climbing: By Friday morning, I’d racked up 8,100ft of ascent and whilst I reckoned that left 10Kft of climbing out of reach, I did select just about every decent hill I could think of on the way home. The usual 1,000ft of climbing became 1600ft and the final total of 9,753ft means that next week, there is a new objective in the KOM stakes and it’s a big one.

I know it’s still the middle of August and the summer is still kind of with us, but there has been a hell of a lot of rain about this week. I reckon I must have been soaked about 50% of the time and the heavy downpour that descended from the sky 2 miles from work on Friday (and I’d left the house in lovely conditions too) left me no option but to put on wet stuff five hours later. Deep joy! Maybe that’s what prompted the attempt on Zoom Up Broom. Here, take that Michael Fish.

Wednesday was a Cake Day at work. They crop up whenever a thousand mile(stone) looms (going into or home from work on that day). Wednesday was the 8,000 mile Cake Day. The idea is that Cake reminds the people in my office that I haven’t given up  and by the way, why not bang some money into the LifeCycle account. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but hey, you never give up trying. 8,000 miles on a bike in under a year is a long, long way. It’s over 37 miles for every working day. And every one of those working days has had 1800ft of climbing in it too. And surprisingly enough, I’ve still been 100% switched on at my desk. It’s a record I’m immensely proud of and it’s taught me an awful lot about myself. However next week, there’s going to be an even bigger Cake Day, because on Tuesday, LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma will be one year old. Cake, Cake, Cake!!!

A great motivator in this game is knowing that other people around you are working as hard, or possibly even harder than you are. One of the friends of our family is Katie, who we’ve known for a very long time. Katie ran the Edinburgh Marathon in May and while we were on holiday on Tiree, I spotted on Facebook that she had entered the Glencoe Marathon. Now hang on a minute, this is an adventure, off road marathon! I didn’t know Katie was into that extreme racing stuff. Cue instant messenger and we met up at the start of the week to discuss some objectives, the result of which is that the Omega 4 stable now has a new athlete. Wellbeing, anaerobic threshold training and good, old fashioned “how was that run” messaging will hopefully make this a prosperous and rewarding partnership.

And finally this week, we come to the sad tale of the broken bike. My Dawes Karakum tourer, a sturdy, comfortable, heavy old beast is only five months old but it’s racked up 4,000 miles in that time. Well on Tuesday going into work, the chain jumped off the front chain ring twice and got stuck between the rings. And it was chucking it down. After I’d freed it up the second time, the chain was rubbing bigtime on the rings in just about every gear I selected. It was so noisy that I felt a right twat cycling along: “look at that bloke, his bike’s knackered”. I know, I know. Well all of Tuesday evening was spent with the bike on the stand, adjusting this, tweaking that, and whilst I thought I had it a couple of times, there wasn’t a single setting I could find that didn’t rub on something. So reluctantly, at midnight, ready to chuck the bike out into the garden (I jest) I thought better of my attempts: this is a job for the Bike Doctor. There’s a chap we’ve been using for the past few months up in Dunlop. A one man show, Neil is a bike builder and bike fixer. I gave him a call on Wednesday morning, explained what had happened and I took the bike up to the Bike Hospital after I got home. One of the great advantages of knowing someone like Neil is that he’s not just a 9-5 sort of a guy. There was one time that I was going to take a bike up to him but his car broke down on his way home and he called me to say he would be late. I jumped in my motor, picked him up and drove him home. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. It’s the community spirit that bonds society together.

Anyway, while my Karakum was off the road, Jane benevolently offered me the use of hers. It’s an identical bike, same frame size, same panniers and everything, except that she has longer legs and shorter arms. I wanted to change the setup as little as possible so I took pictures of everything before I changed a thing. The seat had to come down. Experience has taught me that riding a bike with the seat at the wrong height is a seriously bad idea. I also changed the handlebar angles, but not to the extent that I normally ride on mine. I was prepared to put up with that for a few days. Apart from that, it was pretty much business as usual, save for that fact that Jane’s handlebars don’t have bar tape so they’re a little too thin and grippy for my liking. But hey ho, I’m very grateful to be able to jump straight onto a spare bike so Jane “thank you, you dug me out of a rather depressing hole”.

I got a call from Neil on Friday afternoon to say that the procedure had been a complete success and that I could pop up to the Bike Hospital to visit the patient. I was there like a shot (out of hours of course) and sure enough, he’d done the business: new chain, new cable and a great setup across the whole range of gears.

So if you live around Stewarton and you need your bike fixed, Fast Rider Cycles in Dunlop is the Bike Hospital.

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