Wednesday, 23 May 2012


As of late, I've noticed quite a trend towards the use of GPS based pseudo-racing social websites such as Strava. I recently got  anew telephone and joined Strava, i have lots of followers, and 3 rides logged. This isn't because i don't ride very much, i ride every day. For me, there are several reasons why i don't use Strava:
1) it EATS batteries, not an issue if you only ride for 2 hours but if you're out for 6 hours and you want to (god forbid) use your telephone to actually telephone someone in the event of an emergency, it doesn't make sense. Obviously this isn't an issue for the people who have GPS based cycling computers.

2) it encourages irresponsible behavior, if there's a red light on your segment, and you shoot it in order to get a personal best, nobody else know's you're "racing" (mainly because you aren't racing) and they aren't going to get out of your way. When you pay to race, you pay for closed roads, marshals and an ambulance. I'd wager you don't train with any of the above.

3) it encourages douchebaggery of the highest order. I saw somebody on a group ride today spring out of the group on a pretty insignificant climb, having used the speed and draft of the other riders to claim a KOM. Not only is this dishonest, we have a sprint at  the end of the ride, we can all see who wins it.No need to take it to the internet.

4) this is my final, and most salient onbjection; ride's aren't about meters ascended, kjs burned, kilometers covered or average wattages. they're about the story, about the epic. nobody talks about that time Contador rode at 7 w/kg up alpe d'huez or how many Kilojoules pe rhour Eddy Merckx could burn. but everybody recalls Merckx riding people of his wheel at roubaix, the time Cancellara rode past the field like a group of cyclotourists at e3 or when Bettini won a race,sobbing, in his new rainbow jersey, just days after the loss of his brother . What makes a ride epic isn't the statistic it's the story, and a picture speaks a thousand words, right? To that end, i'm posting a picture for every ride i do on instagram. I find this a far less battery hungry application which tends to reward an eye for the beautiful in the mundane, not an ability to run red lights and draft buses. You can find my photographic musings here i'm going to start using a hashtag as well, i'm open to suggestions.

keep riding, stay safe and capture the stories, not the stats

Saturday, 19 May 2012

going down

climbing is hard, we know that. t hurts and you want it to stop hurting. from the ends of your toes to the depths of your bowels, everything hurts. On a long hot climb, you experience every kind of pain, dull aches, sharp peaks,  gasping thirst, burning lungs and pounding head pain. But you have to suffer, everyone does and if you don't you can't win, so you get on with it. When you reach the top of a climb you can breathe, you can let off the pedals and move forward on your saddle, you can throw water on your head and in your mouth, you cam move your hands and, just for a second you can pause, take in the scene and briefly just be where you are.

One of the main differences between racing and training is that, at the top of the climb, things don't stop, or slow down. As soon as the terrain flattens out you hear the thunk of front deraillieurs, the slap and ring  of chains bouncing  onto 11 tooth cogs and the woosh of carbon wheels gaining speed. Because on the other side of climbs are descents, and descents hurt just as much as climbs.

going down hills in training is fun; you swoosh around the corners, you don't have to pedal, you wave at guys climbing and you stretch your back. you eat something, drink something and enjoy riding fast without tying hard.

Descending in races is far from fun. Every corner is a gamble, you always seem to be going to fast, but any slower and you'll lose the place that you've suffered for on the way up. You want to break, you need to break, it would be stupid not to break, to go into the corner at this speed would be suicide. But you don't break, you keep pedaling. You watch the guy in front of you go into the turn, you look into the corner for a line and focus on the exit, you lift up your inside leg and press on your outside pedal, you put your hands in the drops and catch a glimpse of the st christopher's medal on your top tube and then you say a little prayer, resign yourself to fate and you come through the corner.

Through the shade and into the sunlight on the other side, there's no time to give thanks,t o reflect on how stupid what you just did was because the guy in front is on the 53x11 and he's going hard, so you sprint, you get to his wheel and your mouth hangs open with oxygen debt, your pupils dilate with fear and yet your shoulders and hands must stay relaxed. And so it continues, every corner seems like the last one you'll take, and you tell yourself you've got to let this guy go, he's going to crash. But you don't let him go, you just get on with it, and you don't crash, . Then you hit a longer, straight section, you hope for a rest as you sprint out of the corner but no, now a new form of lunacy enters the sway, this is stupid, how can anyone claim to be in control on your bike when you can't touch your brakes? Next thing you know, you can't touch your brakes. you feel the saddle rub your sternum, you hold the bars either side of the stem and you stick your backside up in the air, hoping to approximate the spoiler on a Porsche, and hoping not to lose any skin. More corners, more risks, more breathless, intuitive physics; how far can i lean, when can is tart pedaling without burying my pedal? You have more doubts too; how good is my helmet anyway? why on earth didn't i wear gloves, if i crash, i'll never play my guitar again, i hope these tubulars hold out it's been a while since i glued them, I can't hear the motorbike any more, i hope he's not lying on the road out of this corner. You tell yourself you don't mind clibing, it hurts but it's safe, you pray for a climb, a nice,slow, safe climb.

All the while your mind is on a highlights reel, the guy you saw hit a truck in Venezuela. The time when you came around a corner and found a landslide, and crashed, hard. The time you rode off the edge of a mountain. the guy you saw hit a dog, a goat, or a toad. You can't block out these images, but a firend of mine once told me he sees them, plays them through and then puts them away. so that's what I do, i play them through and then put them aside and get on with getting on.

Then, after being scared, after telling yourself you're not going to do this again and cursing the guy in front and cursing the road builder and cursing yourself for being and the race promoter for putting you there. You hit the flat, and then, for a second you breathe and you drink. and then someone attacks, and it hurts again. but this is the pain you were praying for minutes ago, so you get on with it.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

learning to live

It's been a hectic few weeks with a dramatic lack of tweets/ blog posts. The combination of my (delightful) mother and maternal grandmother's visit. Stupid amounts of time behind the wheel of the car getting to/from races and of course a paper mountain of marking to do has transpired to keep my little fingers occupied with something other than blogging.

anyway the purpose for my posting today is to inform you of a new and exciting project which i will be taking part in. I'm working alongside Ayuda (whom i mentioned in my last post) andt heir partners aprendiendo a vivir (here's a cool article) on a project promoting exercise in the dominican republic. It is reckoned that about 25% of the population are diabetic with roughly half of those people being undiagnosed. Whilst insulin is readily avaliable education,and test strips, are not. Whilst insulin may be the drug which helps one manage one's diabetes it is meaningless without the knowledge of how and when to use it. Think about flying a plane with no training, and in thick fog. If you don't know your bloodglucose level corrections can't be made, if you can't calculate your bolus because you don't know how many carbs there are in your food or then insulin isn't that useful . In a  country where the average wage is less than 2,500 US dollars a year, test strips at 0.65 USD a pop are a pretty huge expense.
Combine the difficulty of accessing the information and testing supplies with the fact that 70% of the population is classified as doing "zero" exercise and we get a situation where it's unlikely that diabetic people are getting out, getting active and getting healthy because of it.

The education part of the issue is what i hope to help with, along with providing something of an example (or at least sometimes being an example). I've been working on using different insulins, in order to be able to speak from experience and help more people. Anyone who's seen my facebook page will know i have had mixed results but this doesn't speak to the insulin being "better" or "worse" but merely the learning curve of finding out how the insulin works and when it acts during exercise. I'll be going over to the DR, racing and riding bikes, trying to share my experiences with diabetes and give any help or advice that i can.

The test strips part, i need your help with: anyone with any spare strips can donate them (i'll take them across myself and ensure they go to people in need) I'll be going over at the end of the month, an most likely again for world diabetes day in November. Our event (linked above) will have a huge presence in the media and the capital city but one event, with lots of "high profile" diabetics isn't a solution it's just the start of one. What we need to move towards is support for aprendiendo a vivir so that they can continue to do the good they are doing and to expand their influence into other areas. we're using this page to raise funds. Please consider giving what you can to help, strips, money or even your time (AYUDA accept a limited number of volunteers). You will be doing something personally to solve a real problem; nobody asked to be born without a working pancreas, nobody did anything to deserve it and, in a world where i can race bikes with diabetes nobody should lose limbs because of it.