I’ve probably said this before, but if I haven’t, then I just want to say that I’m one lucky guy. Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma wouldn’t be where it is today – if at all – without my mate Neil Kinnaird up at Fast Rider Cycles. I apologise if your bike is in there for a service when I rock up, but when my mechanicals happen, they’re usually urgent in the grand scheme of things, and if they can, they get sorted. At times it’s like driving into the pits for a new front wing then heading back out again, brand new, a few minutes later.
Today was one such day…
The year’s started with a bit of a bang – new attitude and a bag of miles – so today I decided to head out and do a loop at the top end of Ardrossan: 18ish each way for a bog standard three hour gig with a thousand feet of climbing. I got a couple a soakings along the way – standard fare for January – and despite having freezing cold hands and feet for much of the return leg, I was in pretty good spirits…
Until I went over a speed bump back in Stewarton and the long 2” threaded screw that holds the back wheel under tension jumped free of it’s mounting, lodging itself against the disk brake and getting itself bent in the process. To quote Neil “This is a specialist part”, as in it’s not supposed to be bent.
I was only half a mile from the pits: the Lord was clearly looking favourably upon me because if that had happened in a pothole in Saltcoats, it might have been goodnight Vienna.
So picture the scene: I rode into the pits, reported that we have a problem (note the collective we) and the bike that was on the stand getting fixed, came off: a bit like Mercedes stacking their motors when there’s a safety car in F1.
I had the offending part in my pocket, whereupon Neil uttered the immortal phrase about it being a specialist part before heading over to the vice with a hammer and a pair of pliers. Five minutes later, it was straight enough to give it a go.
This screw’s important because the Gold R2CN bike has a cyclo cross frame that doesn’t have drop out wheels like a normal road bike. That’s because the Rohloff Speedhub uses a single chain ring on the front, unlike normal road or mountain bikes, and what happens over time is that the chain stretches with use. When it starts jumping off, as it’s done a few times of late, it’s time to unscrew a few things and move the wheel back a quarter of an inch: that’s usually enough to take up the slack.
The screw that freed itself and got bent is supposed to hold the back wheel secure, in place under tension. There’s one on each side. If you ride for any significant distance with one screw missing, then you risk the wheel shifting in its mounting and that causes the brake disk to rub at an angle: that’s not good news. What had happened was that the mounting screw had unmounted itself from the frame, in which case it was only a matter of time before it became completely dislodged: cue the speedbump.
So basically, at three o’clock, with another stage scheduled for 8am tomorrow morning, the bike was fucked. By half past, it was back out on the road. I apologise here and now to the dude whose bike was on the stand when I arrived, but R2CN is a serious gig. Giving up is not something that I do, and I said to Jane when I got home that if it wasn’t for Neil, I wouldn’t have achieved half of what I have for Solving Kids Cancer and Neuroblastoma Australia. Neil’s built my last four bikes, and he sorts them when they’re sick with tender loving care: and a hammer and a pair of pliers.
Oh, and he bled the hydraulic brakes back and front while he was at it. It’s always nice when the bike slows down when you pull on the levers in winter.
To 2020 and my vision.
I have a goal, short term though it is. By hook or by crook, coupled with a decent dose of attitude, I bagged over a thousand miles in December – that’s a first by a very long way – which delivered 6000 miles in six months: and that’s what’s kickstarted the goal of keeping the x000 miles in x months thing going for as long as possible. Let me put this into perspective: it’s collectively way more than anything that’s gone before. I did manage 6000 in six months in the lead up to Ride2Cure in Australia, but that never extended to seven. Or eight. Or nine.
The most I’m going to manage is nine because Jane and I fly out to Australia at the end of March and the bike isn’t going. This one is strictly pleasure, with three weeks in New Zealand thrown in for good measure. I’ll pick up where I left off on our return: there should still be enough time left before July to bag 10,000 miles in twelve months – something else that I never managed at all on LCFN.
There would be no point in doing Ride2Cure2 – from my perspective – if I couldn’t push the boundaries. It was that very scenario was nearly my undoing back in October when I started thinking “What’s the point?” I get the point again now, big time in fact.
And talking of getting the point, you may recall from last week that I visited Vanessa’s memorial bench on Christmas morning. I could think of no better way of kickstarting 2020 than by going back again, albeit that this time, with Jane and I having been out on the razzle till the wee small hours, I didn’t get out the door until noon.
But I felt decent, maybe it was the classic Scottish breakfast that soaked up the alcohol – but I was well up for a roundabout route to Troon sea front via the golf club that they use for the Open.
The seafront was mobbed, and I found myself having to weave in and out of meandering wanderers along with random kids on bikes and scooters, plus dogs.
I parked the bike behind the seat and had a wee sit down. V’s bench is so incredibly comfy and well supportive of an old man’s back. Folk were giving me a bit of a strange look, as in “Who is this guy?” Troon people know the Vannessa story only too well, so when a stranger rocks up in a Neuroblastoma Australia jersey, I guess it does kind of stand out.
But Vanessa got my new year started, and it’s so much easier to get a focus with those miles in the bank, along with yesterday’s and today’s for company. This will be the 11th 200 mile week in a row, a run only bettered in 2015/16 that was ended by an early morning crash on black ice.
One hundred and eighty seven stages in a row at an average of 33 miles.
Almost a quarter of a million feet of climbing.
Three hundred thousand calories burnt out on the road.
Five hundred hours on the bike.
In six months.
The Daily Express may have predicted the worst winter for a hundred years back in November, but right now I’m ready to take on anything that winter is prepared to throw at R2CN. There’s feck all snow on the horizon before the middle of the month, and by then the run of consecutive stages will be through 200. I thought 150 was big: 200 means that I can enforce the follow-on when the innings eventually comes to an end.
It’s dangerous to start thinking that you’re invincible, but after today, I’m probably a wee step closer, courtesy of that emergency pit stop.