Sock it to them

What’s happened to white cycle socks, the epitome of one-size-fits-all sporting apparel?

The humble cycling sock served us well, all in white, just touching the ankle bone, just enough to show off a tanned leg if you were lucky. All the same and living quite happily in colonies in kit bags.

And now look what’s happening. They’ve gone the same way as the poor old casquette cloth cap, and cycling is much the worse for it.

From plain white socks, trade teams started to brand their kit. Fair enough, sponsorship pays the bills. But socks were still white, still ankle-bone length, with plain branding added. Replicas became a badge of honour and a show of support for your favourites. We could live with that.

Then Lance landed. In American sporting parlance, Lance “went long” and ‘ankle’ socks were now mid-calf length.

Anyone who wears calf-length white socks usually pairs them with checked-pattern shorts in rather large sizes. And they we were watching the peloton whizz past in long socks. Bad enough on professionals, absolutely vile on amateurs.

Designers gained encouragement and eyed an opportunity to add more branding as socks got longer and colours became bolder. Brands, messages, stripes, stars, logos, novelties, personalisation, neon colours, where would it all stop?

From the ‘1980s Madness reunion gig’ vibe of long whites socks, cycling even survived the quirky Argyle socks of the Garmin team. They were different, they had their fans, they provided a talking point. And they were generally patterned on white socks.

But then we came to a new low as (proper) cycling embraced the ‘back to school’ look and black socks arrived. Blame mountain bikers, they’d been doing it for years.

Grudgingly tolerated on a pro (you can always ignore the feet and concentrate on the bike, the gearing or the scenery), black socks did not do justice to the light-blue legs of amateurs.

What next, knee-highs? Then over-the-knee like a la-di-da European footballer? Let’s get back to basics, ankle-bone only, in any colour you like so long as it’s white.

#cycling #cyclingblog #bike #bikeblog

The only way is up

There’s no beating Cornwall in the summer. Sun, sand, surf and Sharp’s Doom Bar in equal measure. But next year I’ll have to think about timing a trip in the weeks leading up to a club hill climb.

Five months into a riding comeback after 14 years of climbing over bikes in the shed, I gamely decided to keep up the good work and take a bike on holiday for the first time in many-a-moon.

This was not a training camp, just a way of ticking over with an hour or two out on four or five mornings a week, making the most of the sun and the impetus of trying out some new roads.

From our coastal holiday, there are three roads inland: a savage ‘S’ bend upwards which narrows and twists further up; a gruelling ‘Z’ bend upwards which narrows and twists and then twists again further up; and a narrow road upwards which allows you to pop up and down out of the saddle for around 20 minutes.

Taking the third option on my opening trek, I added some loops, a brief break on to a main road, then back through the lanes. Every one of them narrow and every one of them uphill. It seemed my 25-mile loop featured around 20 minutes of ‘up’.

On my normal routes, I take on a hill, take a deep breath at the top, then enjoy breaking the summit and easing off on the way down. In Cornwall, there is no down. It seemed every time I crested a hill there was another standing in front, then another after that, in every direction, all sharp but not necessarily short.

It was a shock, and it hurt, though it is gratifying to take them on and win. Or at least take them on and not lose badly.

The stonking great ‘S’ bend, I tackled the following day and the only consolation to take from the experience was that it came in the opening mile and I didn’t have to tackle it on the way back.

The 20-minute ‘up’ became a bit of a favourite. Just doing it, seeing the feet spin in respectable time, managing to sit and spin in lower gears in parts, stand and attack in others, or grovel and defend on some more, it all became part of the game.

The ‘Z’ road is the biggest of all and by the end of my holiday I could take it all on in one go, in both directions. Smug satisfaction guaranteed, as well as breathing difficulties.

Pity it isn’t hill-climb season, not because I’d be a contender, but because I’d be better than I’ve been before. Sounds as good a reason as any to find an autumn break in the South-West.

#cyclingblog #cycling #hillclimb

Got to keep on moving

A recently retired professional sporting acquaintance of mine says his body feels dreadful this year as it has finally realises it is able to take it easy and even shut down from time to time.

No more batterings in training sessions or matches, no more trying to disguise or ignore the knocks, no more physio or massage, no more adrenlin pulsing through to act as a camouflage. And, most important of all, no more ‘buzz’ to build up to, live through and then recover from.

Left to its own devices, his body appears to be getting its own back.

It is a warning I should have taken more seriously.

I came back to cycling after a 14-year for no other reason than I like to ride my bike and it seems I have finally found the time again to do so. Now, after a few months back in the saddle, it seems I have to keep getting back on the bike.

The only way to remove the aches and pains from yesterday’s time on the bike is to get back out on the bike today. Tomorrow I know I will be riding to remove the after-effects of today. The day after I will do my best to remove tomorrow’s stresses and strains. And this is just from me riding alone, without competition, without targets, and without any raceday ‘buzz’.

Miss a day and suddenly the hands, wrists, shoulders, neck, thighs and calf muscles take turns in reminding me that I need my fix. By late evening they come together with a more orchestrated reminder, especially when attempting to negotiate stairs.

Everything aches, except when I’m actually putting them under stress on the bike.

No one said it would actually be like this. But it’s the best way, surely, of ensuring you get back out on the road.

#cyclingblog #bikeblog #cycling #bike #fitness 

Music to my ears

The sound of cycling is a joy to the ears:

Grooooooaaaaaannnn

Grooooaaann

Click

Whir

Click

Whirrrrrr

Click

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrr

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrr

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrr

Shout (Sunday driver)

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrr

Hi (Sunday rider)

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrr

Aye aye (everyday rider)

Click

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrr

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrr

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrr

Whoosh

Whooooosh

Cllllllick

Whirrrrrr

Grooooaaaaann

Ooooooosh

Click

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrr

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrr

Rattle

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrr

Slurp

Aye aye

Screech

Clllick

Whirrrrrrrrrr

Clllick

Whirrrrrrrrrr

Click

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrr

Whooooosh

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrr

Whirrrrrr

Whir

Click

Hi, I’m home

#cyclingblog #bikeblog #bike #cycling

Side by side

After more than 25 years as a cyclist, I have now ridden my first
Madison. It wasn’t as accomplished as the ones I’ve watched, but then again it wasn’t on the track and my partner was a delivery truck.

Using the narrow cycle lane at a roundabout, I came out of the curve on the exit just ahead of a blue truck (I think from Argos, though the driver was definitely cut price).

The truck travelled in a straight line right in front of me, closing off my wheel space to a matter of inches. At that point I had to ‘hold off’ the vehicle with a sprinter’s elbow and shout. Not exactly a fair contest, but it was all I could think of in the circumstances.

I stayed upright, yelled to attract the driver’s attention, and squeezed through to daylight at the other end with nothing worse than a ‘burn’ mark on my right elbow where the van and my bony extremity had met and been stuck together for 20-30 yards.

Without the elbow, I was either into to the kerb and who knows what else, or worse.

As traffic flow slowed a further 100 yards ahead, I came past and yelled some advice on looking out for the cycle lane, while driver and his mate looked vacantly in my direction. They turned off the main road a few yards later and I didn’t see them again.

It was an escape, and it is the closest I’ve come to being taken out by traffic. I could have easily been flicked the extra couple of inches into the kerb and,
still attached to the bike by clipless pedals, what would have happened
then?

At least I’ve now discovered I have the elbow of a sprinter. All I need
now is a sprint.

#cyclingblog #bikeblog #bike

Never a smooth ride

Cards on the table, I’ve never been one for backing campaigns for better roads, more cycling routes and restraints on traffic. To be brutally honest, it all bores me to tears.

The whole thing smells of bohemia, academia, worthies, local councillors, and appears to be located at a reasonable distance from the rest of us living in the real world.

Hey, newsflash, we do not live in an ideal world. If we did, every road would be flat, downhill, slick, with a soft verge to absorb any fall and with a pub on each corner serving cracking grub and real beer with a total ban on cheap Aussie lager and the kind of people who drink it.

Sadly, until the next Election at least, that is not the world we live in. We live in a dog-eat-dog world. Roads are used heavily, we all compete for our part of a finite amount of space, and something has to give.

Now, though, I am perfectly willing to say it is time to show support for anyone prepared to campaign for something to be done on our roads.

What on earth has happened? Every surface, whether urban or rural, looks like we’ve emerged from an Ice Age, a volcanic eruption or major earthquake. Cracks, holes, disappearing verges, badly-fitting patchworks, multi-layered teeth-rattling pie-crusts, our roads are an utter disgrace.

Cycling is not a cheap hobby, we all spend as much as we possibly can on our kit. And we take our pride and joy out on to roads which are not fit for the purpose.

The roads provide the same challenge for our cars and trucks too, but their insulated shells, sprung seats, shock-absorbing technologies and wide tyres negate much of the juddering. Bikes offer almost none of this.

Traffic volumes increase constantly and the roads just cannot take it. And nothing is being done to help.

As a cyclist, all approaches to junctions and roundabouts involve an unfair amount of bouncing, rattling and discomfort. Major roads have exposed metalwork and patchy ridges to previous repairs, while guessing what comes round the next bend on rural roads would keep Bletchley busy.

Governments, at national and local level, have their budgets and their associated problems, we surely accept that, but these roads are crumbling before our very eyes and repairs are only going to get more expensive the longer they are left.

It’s time for the do-gooders to get their way and for something to be done before we all disappear into the cracks. Just let me have first go on the new smoother version, I need to get my 10-mile times down!

#cyclingblog #bikeblog #bike