Give ‘Em Both Barrels

This has been a really weird week. I’ve found myself trying to find a reference point back to this time last year, not necessarily to compare now to a year ago, but basically to be able to interpret the seasons, the weather, the darkness and the fading daylight: the whole damned shooting match. What I know is that I didn’t start the blog until early November so it’ll be another six weeks before I’ve got that to fall back on. I remember writing about the seasonal influences back in the late winter, or was it early spring, I can’t quite remember, but the seasons really do make a big difference in my planning.

What seems really remarkable, looking back those twelve months, is that this time last year I was still on a folding mountain bike. I mean, come on, did I really plan to attempt 25,000 miles on a folding bike? The answer, of course is no but I have to remember where all of this came from. I bought the folding bike to take on the bus but because it has full size 26” wheels, I had to cycle far enough out of Glasgow to make sure the bus was empty before I got on. That in turn led to those trips all the way home in the summer and that led ultimately to me having this idea that I could just keep going. I think it was around the time the clocks changed that I swapped over onto my proper mountain bike because I know for sure that I was on that when I hit a shopping trolley in the dark and that was November 1st, the Friday morning after Halloween.

Always looking back: always looking forward: always planning this: always planning that: always looking to seek out miles where miles exist, but within the bounds of what’s possible. You’ll remember that I promised myself that I’d cut back on the miles, because my body needs it. Last week was a four day week so that was a no brainer: I could basically carry on as normal knowing that I would get a 3 day rest. Next week’s also a 4 day week, or it might even be a 3 dayer as I might need to be in Hamilton by 5 o’clock on Wednesday. But I’m definitely off on Monday as it’s the Glasgow holiday weekend so legs, you’re in luck again. That left this week as the problem week. I suspect Fridays have been the source of a lot of my problems because I’ve been banging in 60’s on top of what’s gone before. But this week I’ve been very measured in my approach and the result of that planning is that I don’t need to, and won’t be seeking anything tomorrow that I haven’t already done every other day this week.

I’m definitely moving into winter mode. I can feel it in my preparation, my planning, my determination, and basically my bloody mindedness that I’m going to come out of the other side of the next five months still in one piece. I’m defending big miles. I’m definitely reluctant to drop back from the numbers that I have been banging in, because I really don’t want to return to a scenario where it takes six or seven weeks to bang in a thousand. That’s a sore one to take when you’ve been used to doing it in four or five. So I’m using the weather: I’m going to play Michael Fish at his own game. ..

A year ago, I was taking the shortest route in and out of work. I suppose that made sense when I wasn’t that fit and I was on a folding bike but 15-16 each way was the norm. Over the summer I’ve been jollying all over the place, adding miles here, taking a scenic route there. And I’m going to use that thinking over the coming months to consolidate what I’ve got so that I can still bang in 200 miles a week but not get too stressed, too depressed or too tired. And it’s going to work like this…

Stewarton lies south west of Glasgow and the prevailing wind is south westerly. In the summer it blows a bit but in the winter it blows a lot. Today for instance, it blew a fair amount, but there’s worse, much worse to come. So my reasoning goes like this: take a meandering route into work over the winter, using the prevailing wind as a driving force, then take a more direct route home and just hang in there. This morning, for example, I was down the road in no time and was able to stick an extra big loop on the ride by the time I got to Glasgow: no point in going into work early when those precious minutes can be converted into two or three extra miles. So I bagged 25 where last week and the week before, while we were sitting under a north easterly airflow, I was only getting 22 at a push. The route home is a right pain of course, because not only is it into the teeth of the gale, but it’s also over an 1100ft climb. So again, you use your head. Take a slightly meandering route before leaving Glasgow in order to diminish the effect of the wind, then drop a couple of gears and just turn the pedals over the moor road. Takes longer but gets there just the same. Gone of course are the days when you get overtaken by fast guys in lycra: their bikes have been garaged for the winter. I like this routine: 22, 23, 24 into work and only 20 or 21 coming home. On a five day week, that returns a healthy 215 without breaking the bank, or more importantly breaking my aging body.

As I’m sitting here typing this, I glance across at the mileage chart for September: 828 with two LifeCycle days to go. So I can add 90 to that and we’re talking 910 to 920. The most I’ve ever booked in a month was 940 back in May but that included the 165 mile overnighter of Highland Bike so it was a bit of a one off. But let’s look at it another way: I took last Friday off because I stayed up all night to watch the Referendum result and I’m also on Monday because of the Glasgow holiday: so that could have been another 90 miles. September could have a one thousand mile month and there’s never been thousand mile month since I started. Unfeckingbelievable!

So, comparison time. Last September versus this: Last September 534 miles, this September 910+. That’s one hell of a difference, and it’s counting, month on month. On Tuesday, which of course is the last day of the month, I’ll bag my 7,000th LifeCycle mile of the year. In reality I’ve already done 7,000 actual miles because I biked on holiday but they don’t count here: they were just for fun.

But before I turn the blog in for the week, I can’t ignore what happened yesterday morning, and the aftermath. I usually fall out of bed at 5am to a re-enactment of a scene from The Wrong Trousers: stuff all laid out, LifeCycle Man falling into it and straight out the door, no questions asked, grabbing cake on the way out (there’s always cake in the LifeCycle house; Mrs LifeCycle does cake). We’re talking 5:15am…

Sometimes I see another guy on the A77 but he’s on a fast road bike whereas I’m on a heavy tourer. When I joined the 77 yesterday, he was about 400m ahead of me and as I’m learning not to chase everything on two wheels, I let him go. But three miles up the road, he punctured. The first thing I saw was the flicker of a white lighter interspersed with a red and it was getting closer all the time so I guessed something was up. We’re talking the middle of nowhere here: it’s 6am on the top of the Fenwick Muir, it’s exposed and it’s dark. I stopped briefly but by this time the old tube was out and the new one was getting fitted: by torchlight. Happy that my early morning friend was in control, I moved on. But a further four miles up the road, still out of street light territory, I felt a click, click, click coming from somewhere. Then it was replaced by that awful bouncing sensation as the air escapes from your back tyre. It was my turn! In an instant I vowed to keep going the extra three quarters of a mile or so until I could get under a street light at the top of Newton Mearns. Sure enough, I extracted a 2” nail from the back tyre. The impact was such that it had pierced the inner tube on both sides. But hang on a minute: I’ve got a Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyre on the back and they’re meant to be bomb proof. Er… no they’re not: epic advert fail.

Now… I have a theory why two cyclists got early morning punctures on the A77 within three miles of each other and it appeared on Twitter not two hours later: East Renfrewshire Council got both barrels.

@VonSchiehallion: @EastRenCouncil Two cyclists – two separate punctures this morning: both in the dark.
Get it swept!!!

@VonSchiehallion: @EastRenCouncil I raised a ticket on your Council website THREE MONTHS AGO.
You ignored it.
Your service is a joke.

You see, I’ve been on East Renfrewshire Council ‘s case for the past three months to get the cycle lane cleaned up and they’ve just blanked me. So from next week, seeing as it’s dark and you can’t see the nails, the glass, the bottles, the cans, the sticks and the leaves, I’m on the road. The cycle lane can look after itself.

And every day on Twitter, I’ll be on their case: both barrels until it’s sorted.

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