It’s a funny old world. If you want to go long, go reliable, but if you want to have some fun, go risky. I dropped the Gold Rohloff bike off in Neil’s shop in the week so it could get a pre-winter MOT, more of which in a moment. While I was in there, he was telling me about Mark Beaumont, he of multiple adventuring records on a bike, including of course, the big one round the world, which he’s done twice. Everyone remembers the one where he went round in 80 days and set a mark (see what I did there?) that probably won’t be beaten for years. But the first time he did it, in 2008, he did it solo, totally unsupported, just because he wanted the challenge and the adventure. And he used a Rohloff speedhub!
This is lifted from his book: “The Rohloff was superb throughout and took less than 1,000 miles to run in smoothly, so I only used three chains throughout and had one oil change. It was incredibly low maintenance – I wouldn’t go back to a derailleur setup for long tours. The only big challenge I had was with broken wheels and that was caused by a mistake with the initial set up where the spokes were over-tensioned.“
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, switching from derailleurs to a speedhub was the best decision I ever made during LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma: it’s just a shame I didn’t know Neil back at the start because I could have saved myself about five bikes. The Gold bike has a cyclo cross frame, which means that the wheels sit on fat screw-in spindles as opposed to the thin ones that you get on regular quick release road bikes. And because the wheels sit across holes like polo mints, as opposed to half hole dropouts, the wheels retain a much truer alignment as you rattle over bumps and potholes.
Anyway, I mention all of this because Jane and I are heading off to Ireland next week – we haven’t been there as just us, a couple, since our honeymoon 23 years ago (tomorrow). So we’re revisiting some of our old haunts from that ‘96 gig – and taking bikes! Jane’s taking her tourer while I, of course, am taking the Gold Rohloff.
Depending on how much cycling we actually get done – the weather might be rubbish, for example, and there’s only so much wet stuff you can have lolloping around the floor of a hotel room, there may be an opportunity to whack a tenth 250 mile week onto the nine that will be completed this weekend. The plan will be to bag heaps of miles on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then see what’s left for the remainder of the week. We’re doing a Mouldy and staying in Stranraer the night before the early boat, just as we did five years ago on Cycling Santas. Yeah, no doubt Ireland’ll be hilly and windy, but Gairloch was like that after I did Applecross back in July, and that didn’t get in the way.
It would certainly be nice to bag ten in a row before Celtic.
Anyway, back to the bike being in Neil’s shop. The Rohloff is my workhorse bike: the one that’s designed to do humungous miles on precious little maintenance. So being without the Rohloff for a few days means that I’ve had to revert to the bike that went to Australia: that bike, a Trek Emonda ALR6, was the lightest production road frame in the Trek range when Neil specc’ed it for Australia. But it’s so light that it can get blown around like a feather when it’s stormy. That’s what caused Paul and I to abandon Stage 8 (ironically, that was tomorrow’s stage on Ride 2Cure last year [feral dog day]) after 88 miles.
Today was a stormy day. And I was out on the Oz bike at 7am. I never plan a route before I leave the house. I know that’s not PC in terms of Jane knowing exactly where I am, but I need to feel the wind direction before I decide how to use the hedgerows for shelter. I do simple stuff like stop and throw grass up in the air when I get to a fork in the road. Then I need to discover what’s available in terms of road closures, which are commonplace round here, and farmers’ hedge trimming. My plan is always, always to head out into the wind, then have some fun on the way back. And I’m telling you, the Oz bike is good for a whole load of fun. This morning I demolished three King Of The Pensioners on Strava, two of which I held already, without even getting out of the saddle: leg power and finding a comfortable gear to withstand the pain.
Now I know what this thing can do, because I never took it out on the roads round here before Australia in case something broke, I’m gonna have a wee bit of fun before the Rohloff takes over for the shitty winter weather. Those of you who’ve been with me for a long time might recall that about two years ago, I changed my Strava name from Von Schiehallion (that’s another long story…) to Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma simply so I could promote awareness of neuroblastoma research. I need to go back through Strava but I’m pretty sure that as far as KOTP’s go, I’ve got about a hundred of them.
One of those is the segment known as The Springside Dash. You Irvine AFC boys at the back: you stop larking about and take notice… See that section of the bike path that we use on a Monday night: that’s a Strava segment. Actually it’s two segments because there are separate records going opposite ways. The one you want to be interested in is the one starting at the bollard where we do our intervals. It finishes just after our 800m sign before the barriers at Springside. What makes that segment so feckin addictive now, especially since doing it in that direction is with the wind most of the time, is that our interval markers allow you to gauge your effort: lactic acid dictates that you’ll only get one shot at it on any particular day, and it takes a couple of runs to get the gearing right: too big a gear too early and you’ll totally f%ck your thighs: too granny a gear and you’re pissing time down the drain. 1,644 dudes have had a shot of that segment on Strava. I’ve yet to let the Oz bike loose at it in anger, but the 1m43s that I posted on its predecessor was good enough for 6th on the all-time list last year. That mark is top of the pensioners by a country mile. So boys… it’s over to you: let’s see what you’ve got!
I can’t finish this week without mention of two significant events: tomorrow, apart from being my wedding anniversary (I was in Australia last year, and in Liverpool on work duty the two years before that), is the last day of the second month of R2C2. It’s going to return over 1200 miles, which equates to 1200 pennies to Solving Kids Cancer for those of who are generously supporting the gig second time around.
The second significant event is that Sunday is the start of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Do not let it pass you by. Two years ago I got my nails painted gold; last year I did Oz; this year I’m just sitting in traffic wearing a gold Ride2Cure neuroblastoma jersey over my rain jacket in Stewarton, Kilwinning, Irvine, Kilmarnock, Kilmaurs, Barassie, Troon, Stevenston, Saltcoats and Ardrossan: Proof that you can still have fun while raising awareness.