10 whole minutes.

10 whole minutes. That’s the amount of track time I got this weekend. 10.

The ratio of track time : pointless fretting in my head is somewhere in the region of 0.1 to 0.04.

I signed up for the Beyond Spring Crits 1-3, Saturday morning was interesting. There appeared to be snow coming out of the sky. Which caused me to think  “hmm. Perhaps this won’t be on. Or it will. And there won’t be many people there”. 11 am and a text message informed me that my welcome to 4th category group road racing was still warm.

Originally I planned to go to Southall. Then I changed plans to go to Feltham and ride from there. Thanks to a rail replacement service my original plan was called back into service. I was fairly nervous. So much so that I couldn’t really remember how to get from my house to Clapham Junction. I didn’t get lost, but I didn’t go the easiest way. Then I got up to Hyde Park and again, sort of forgot how to make the connection from the top of Hyde Park to Paddington. Even though I knew exactly where I should have been going. I ended up at the back of Paddington station having to cross over a metal bridge, in new road cleats, with ice and snow, and metal steps. And then ride down a cobbled back street. Seriously. Looking back on it, perhaps I should have had one of those conversations with myself.

Getting to the track, I signed on, got changed, sat down and waited patiently. While trying not to look nervous. Or too confident. Or overdressed. Or underdressed. Or with no idea what I’m doing. Remember that last one.

There were junior racers out there on Saturday. One of them was crying afterwards. I felt like that before I started. They finished. I went out to have a look at the circuit I was going to be on for 30 minutes (+5 laps). I had everything on. Sleeveless base layer (homemade), arm-warmers, race jersey, winter jersey, montane waterproof, leg warmers, fleecy shorts, 2 pairs of socks, silver overshoes, two pairs of gloves, glasses, cap, helmet. Remember that list.

I did 2 laps to warm up. I was concerned that my previous effort on Thursday was too much and so had spent Friday spinning gently on the turbo and inflicting pain via a foam roller. I felt alright. I really did. The course seemed fine. I seemed confident in my “abilities”.

All get to the line. When I signed in there were 13 names on the sheet. Which made me think “hello, this could be a nice easy introduction”. There were more than 13 people on the course. It looked a bit like this when I turned around.

A similar sight.

Off we go. And I’m at the front. Properly. No one in front. I like that. The snow’s coming down. It’s cold. It’s not slippy. But it’s cold and it feels good to be turning pedals. And I’m into corners with others, and I’m not nervous. And I’m alright with that. I’m not over confident. Perhaps I should try and, oh there go two riders off in front of me, and some more. Hmm. I’m drifting backwards here. I should probably try to get back up there. There’s a slight hill, and I’m going round people as I go up it. Through the corners well. Onto the third time round. Hmm. That was a poor choice, I’m going down the left hand side here of some riders. I don’t feel happy about that. But I’m up the front again. And back in the pack. Someone bumps me. That’s fine. Bit later on someone drifts in from my right, I move and touch my front wheel into someone’s back wheel as they come through on my left.

BANG.

Down. Bike down, head down, BANG. Bump. Second bang on the head. Hmm.

Get up. Very annoyed. Two other riders down. Sulkily get up. Sulkily walk back to club house/HQ. Moan about the rips in my overshoes. Worry silently about any damage to my bike. The front wheel sounds fucked. It’s got a slight wobble. The levers are scraped and out of alignment. Straighten them up. Apart from that everything else looks fine.

This wasn’t epic. This wasn’t Flandrian racing. This was fucking stupid. 10 whole minutes of being on a bike in a race, and I didn’t even finish.

Back next week though right?

10 whole minutes.

A continued need for mechanical skills in my life.

It has been noticed that since 2007, when I came back from Nashville and decided to use a bike in London (after being convinced I wouldn’t die by Alex just getting on and doing it), that my abilities to do anything mechanically minded are poor, weak, and/or useless.

This isn’t confined to my bike “skills”. However, bikes tend to be the thing that I balls up most frequently. And given the cost of ballsing something up, I tend to think “let someone else do it”.

Which makes me think of Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, and what a waste of time that was to read . I don’t want to be the romantic who doesn’t want to understand the way things work. I really do think about how things work. I just happen to learn by breaking things and then realising what I should have done.

I just have dicks for thumbs. Basically. Rounded bolt heads? Yep. Overtightening? Yep. Failure to remove play from headsets? Yep. Completely bewildered by the thought of recabling a bike? Yep.

Today, this post was generated while listening to this:

B-Graff (Anthony Rucker, Nashville)

A continued need for mechanical skills in my life.

Trans Europe express

What a fantastic place St Pancras train station is. Seriously.

This video from before computers could do almost everything Kraftwerk wanted them to do really resonated with me this week.

Especially the bit about 40 seconds in when the fantastically realistic train swoops through the city. And when it appears again throughout the video, but specifically at about 3 minutes.

Getting off the train from Streatham on Friday and turning right after the escalators delivered me from the basement platforms, as soon as you step out you’re right in front of the The Francis Crick Institute.

And that made me think. This new research institute is going to be on the mainline to the mainland. Potentially within an easier commute by high speed train. Within a 10 minute walk are the new UCLH buildings, the main UCL campus, the British Library, and the Bree Louise. Given that it takes approximately an hour to get from Heathrow/Gatwick to central London, by train/taxi/wishful thinking, that gives it (in my eyes) a brilliant location for a well supported/funded biomedical research institute.

I’m not a lab monkey anymore, and I wasn’t a particularly good one when I was, but the thought of being able to get from the bench to Europe for meetings etc so easily would be particularly appealing. Especially as I had history of losing posters in airports.

I’m also listening to this right now as I type:

Anthony Daly – House/Techno mix

 

I will be listening to more of that at work/tomorrow on the bike. There may even be hands in the air moments at 18 minutes.

Trans Europe express

Neil Armstrong

I believe that every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises.

This quote popped into my head today. Fortunately, the power of the interweb allowed me to check the veracity of this quote.

And apparently, it’s misattributed.

First On The Moon : A Voyage with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin E Aldrin, Jr. (1970) edited by Gene Farmer and Dora Jane Hamblin, p. 113, states of this: “Like many a quote which gets printed once and therefore enshrined in the libraries of all newspapers and magazines, this particular one was erroneous. Neil recalled having heard the quote, and he even recalled having repeated it once. He did not subscribe to its thesis, however, and he only quoted it so that he could disagree with it.”

So that sort of ruined the introduction to this post. However!

The real thought about this was, if we do have a finite number of heart beats: wouldn’t exercising help? As your stroke volume and capacity would increase, so less beats would be required. But then, would the beats you used in getting fitter increase the rate of attaining the finite number of beats you have? And then, what if it’s not the rate of your heart beat but the work that your heart is doing that is limited to a finite number?

It was a pointless diversion on a beautiful walk from dropping the tyrant at the tyrant minder.

I used to think it was a great excuse for explaining why I didn’t believe in exercise, and did smoking and drinking instead. But, I think I was kidding myself. I do love exercise, and not just in that “cycling is suffering” bollocks that goes around.

I love/d running, not massive distances. I don’t think I’ve ever covered more than 10 Km in one go. My knees tended to get sore, I got bored after so long. I think my 5 Km time was less than 25 minutes but greater than 20 minutes. I think.

What I got from running is similar to what I get from riding my bike. The state of being alone. Even when I’m with other people, when I’m on my bike I never really interact with them. They’re just there. There’ll be points to stop and chat, but mostly my head is gloriously empty of all the rubbish that populates it during the daily grind of sitting at a desk.

Anyway, I wrote this while listening to Terrence Dixon’s “Self Centred”. From “From the far future pt 2”. I couldn’t find a functioning soundcloud link to the whole album for some reason, but it’s given in this link from Fact mag. Track 1.

All this is not really more than another long (ish) ramble on the way to hiding the fact that I’ve got my first race next weekend and I’m cacking it. I’ve been ill, I’ve been off the bike, I’m not good in crowds, Hillingdon is crashy, and I’m fighting the excuses already.

Neil Armstrong

Unnnnnnghhh

Things I don’t like about commuting on my bike:

Unghhhhhhhh

 

I don’t mind being a commuter in London’s famous London. Really. It could be nicer, what with the constant stream of metal boxes right next to me. Mostly driven by people insulated from the environment in which they’re piloting their metal box of doom. Sometimes, they may even be interacting with their loved ones by mobile phone as they accelerate away from the traffic lights. 

But Gregg Wallace beaming at me from the back of bus belching exhaust fumes as it zooms past me before swinging into a bus stop, really really boils my piss.

Unnnnnnghhh

RIP

RIP

One of those “I wonder what happened to ….” moments just happened right now. 

This afternoon I was listening to some Townes Van Zandt. Which made me think of Nashville. Which made me think of the apartment block I lived in. My neighbour Tim moved in shortly after me. He was amazing. 

He moved back to Nashville from Alabama, after quitting his job in IT. He’d been in Nashville before and played on stage with all the names, or so he said. You can never be sure of what’s truth and what’s embellishment when you’re listening to a story. So you’d listen to the story, and the story of him being on a boat for years, and you’d think “yeah, yeah, sure”. 

Then, he asked if I could help move some furniture or something. Maybe I was bumming a cigarette off him. I can’t remember why I ended up in his poky apartment next to mine. Maybe Alex and I had a beer on the porch, and he’d had one with us. Anyway, this is turning into one of those stories. 

I was in Tim’s apartment. And thinking “yeah, sure, of course”. And then he picked up his guitar. I’m sorry I doubted you Tim. 

He gave me a CD which has a fantastic song on it, particularly the version on the CD he gave me, it’s called “When you’re done with California”. I love that song.

The second story has a similar vibe, in that Tim came to my house. We were drinking with Giles and Julie. He saw the door was open, knocked, came in for a beer. Asked if he could sing. Giles and Julie were pulling the same face I must have been pulling when I first experienced Tim reaching for his guitar. 

He nailed it. Nailed it. 

By his own admission, he blew most of his original contract up his nose. And then got into trouble again. 

We left Nashville in 2006. He gave us a coconut monkey. 

Anyway. 

He passed in July 2007. 

This is the best, in my opinion, of his 5 songs on his myspace page. 

Link

Dreamland

My head is full of thoughts. Thoughts that aren’t often resolved.

Take today. My commuter bike needs some attention, the tyres definitely need more air in there, the chain is too slack, the headset probably needs tightening (there’s a lovely knocking sensation when I pull the front brake), the front brake rubs and is probably indicative that something is wrong with the cable, it needs a clean, the chain could do with an oil probably, there’s a creaking noise from the seatpost somewhere, and finally (or at least as far as I’m aware) the bars make an odd clicking noise.

It’s probably about an hours work to sort out the headset, the chain and the brake. I’ve been thinking about the seatpost and what to do. The saddle’s too nice for the bike. as well.

Then I get distracted and start thinking about the nice bike. And how that needs to have the steerer chopped down and the spacers sorted out and the headset bearing cover replaced by something a little racier. And the crack of doom that was sounding from the bottom bracket last time I rode it. (Catford and Bec HC. So some time ago). Which was serviced. And the pedals appear to be  tightened beyond the strength in my arms and I now can’t swap them over. Which raises the concern of fused pedals to crank arms. And should I ride this in my first race in the crash happy cat 4s at Hillingdon?

Which then makes me think of the winter bike and it’s failing brake lever. And it’s bottom bracket that needs some attention. And the wheels that may or may not need some love with a spoke key and a qualified expert. And the mudguard that was snapped when I failed with a headset fiddle while I was waiting for someone to turn up to a ride on a lovely day in the sunshine. And how I had to walk in full kit and cleats from Richmond Park to Barnes to get  a train via Clapham to then walk down Streatham High Road in full kit.

Finally, my thoughts turn to the nice fixed bike. With it’s paint job that makes me feel self-conscious and it’s lack of bottle mounts which mean I have to fudge an ugly bottle cage on there if I want to do longer fixed rides. And how it never comes out of the shed now, but I love it and want to ride it more. Only I haven’t got any pedals on it at the moment, and my nice pedals are apparently fused to the nice bike.

These are some of the thoughts that go through my head when I open the shed.

Dreamland