Write a Bike

April 27, 2007

Not dead; still riding

Filed under: Admin,General — Rockjaw @ 10:29 pm

Well hey. Umm, so.

Thanks to Leon for reminding me this blog exists. I hadn’t forgotten, really, but I’d certainly let it lie fallow. Quite a lot happened, too, in the biking sense, and in a small way I feel a little bad about it. But let’s review.

When I last wrote it was October – October 4th, to be precise. Right then I’d clocked up 186.9 miles total on the bike since I bought it. As of today I’ve amassed 461.7 miles, so 274.8 more miles than last time I checked. So yeah. Still riding.

Truth is I kind of got bored writing about the same ride almost every day, but after I got out of the habit of posting, I just figured I didn’t need to post. When I read back over some of these entries though, I can see that there’s a style of writing here that I don’t normally do. So, perhaps not such a bad idea for me to continue to post, on occasion.

Last six months though, in a choppy, stream-of-consciousness sentence: puncture, pump, winter, New Year’s resolutions, new lights, night riding, broken spokes, new wheels, Undercliff Walk, biking partner (occasional).

Oh, and I didn’t enter the London to Brighton bike ride this year. I’m so not ready. Next year? Maybe.

Reading all that back I know there were definitely tales to tell, so I promise I’ll try and tell them a bit more often. Just don’t expect a daily version of the same “I biked to Hove and back for 30 minutes of exercise” story… ta.

October 4, 2006

A bad dream

Filed under: Rides — Rockjaw @ 8:12 am

Fairly average ride this morning, started early thanks to a buzzsaw waking me up at 6:30am (when it’s actually still dark, surprisingly…). The person using that saw better have been cutting a mother and child loose from a burning car, instead of – say – constructing shelves, that’s all I can say.

Anyway, average enough ride, same morning route down the seafront, but this time I pushed out a little further just to ensure I made five miles total (I’ve been a little under recently). I was listening to Keane’s Under the Iron Sea at the time, specifically a track called ‘A Bad Dream’ which is a fairly melodic, soothing sort of tune – the kind of stuff I like, thangyew – but it has a nice soaring orchestral ending.

As I stopped to swig some water I turned back to look at Brighton centre, facing east, and on cue a fantastic sunrise stopped me cold. Various clouds were strewn across the sun, which was bursting through at the edges, leaving a multi-coloured orange sky below it. With Brighton’s seafront skyline below it, the sea to one side, and foreground details like wheeling gulls and of course, other bikers… plus my musical accompaniment… it was a sunrise to remember.

Of course,  I didn’t have the camera with me….

October 2, 2006

It doesn’t always feel great

Filed under: Rides — Rockjaw @ 8:31 am

After my near-existential pep talk to myself yesterday, naturally I don’t go out on the bike. I did get other stuff done, stuff I’ve been putting off (It’s remarkable how prevaricating over one thing you don’t want to do will get your priorities straight) but I didn’t go out.

I told myself it was because it was too windy, and I wasn’t entirely wrong – hearing the wind shriek around the flat, and then having difficulty remaining upright as we walked down Middle Street towards the front, with the wind threatening to flatten us, made me think I’d made a wise choice.

Regardless, last night I told myself I was going to have no excuse this morning. So when the alarm went off and I slapped it quiet, wondering if I’d really slept for eight hours, I quickly dismissed the naysaying part of me and went out before I persuaded myself otherwise.

The first inkling that this was going to be a tough ride happened when I hit the first street, and felt a gust that was much stronger than normal. By the time I got to the seafront though, that’s when I knew I was in trouble. Whitecaps were surging past each other in an effort to reach the shore, jostling for position as I sat at the lights waiting to cross, then seeing the green man and wondering if I should. I got across, turned right… and rode into a wall of wind.

(more…)

October 1, 2006

Meta-exercise

Filed under: General — Rockjaw @ 9:38 am

I should be on the bike instead of writing this post. Should. Okay, so I choose not to be on the bike… and I choose to write this, instead.

I went on an internal training course a month or so ago that emphasised one very good point – that everything we do is a personal choice, and that everything we don’t do is a choice, too. The thinking is that you have to take responsibility for your actions, and ‘own’ them. This (in theory) breaks you out of a value-based cycle of “I should do this” and “I suck because I didn’t do that”. Which is how I feel right now.

Two reasons:

  1. I haven’t been out on the bike since Tuesday.
  2. I just looked at my log of cycling for September, and saw I’d ‘only’ done four hours total.

I can justify all this in my mind. But I choose, instead, to feel shit about it. This is my life, ladies and gents. A long slow process of internal criticism. It gets tiresome.

The one thing I will say – mostly to myself – is that I have to remember that the longer I leave it, the harder it is to get back on the bike. But when I get back on, you have always remembered immediately that it feels great. Always.

Go. Ride the bike.

September 26, 2006

Minimalist

Filed under: Rides — Rockjaw @ 8:30 am

Asleep

Road closed

Freshly shampooed hair on the wind

Biking in formation; a bike ballet?

Let’s all break the law

Down to the promenade

A smile from an old man

Fenced-in seating

A sun through misty clouds

Tattoos on both legs, camo shorts above

Grim-faced bikers

Pissing off a Land Rover at the lights

Home again, time to spare

September 24, 2006

Flying with flies

Filed under: Rides — Rockjaw @ 6:00 pm

The average speed of a fly – which variety, I can’t begin to tell you – is apparently somewhere around 16mph. I know this because I was overtaking them on my ride yesterday, and boy did it feel good.

On my ride last Saturday (the first since I’d gotten back in the country) I had my first encounter with the flies of late summer. While I’d love to tell you the entomological reason for their sudden and proliferous apperance, all I know is they were all intent on flying into me like little kamikaze pilots. Maybe it had something to do with the white t-shirt I had on, maybe I was biking upstream through some seaside fly convention; all I know is I was slapping them away, shooing them off my person and at least once, spitting them out as I rode. Pfooie.

Yesterday though, I was burning past them like a drag racer with his eyes on the finish line.

I’d skipped Thursday and Friday’s morning rides, as you might have seen,so I was determined I was going to make up for it on Saturday. Having negotiated a later start for our outing to the Duke of York’s Picturehouse, I saddled up around 12 and headed out. Fantastic day for it. Regardless of the subject matter of that afternoon’s movie, you can’t deny we’re getting fine weather these days… let’s just enjoy it before we all end up cooked to a crisp.

Last week, as I totally failed to tell you, I rode the entire length of the Undercliff Walk, going from Madeira Drive down past the Marina, on to Rottingdean and then beyond. It’s a few miles (nope, I don’t watch the mileometer from point to point, generally) and it’s a great ride. Pretty much entirely flat, with wide open paths. It’s quickly become my new favourite place to ride in Brighton, so I headed for it again yesterday.

Uneventful enough ride on the way out, although as luck would have it I was generally heading into the wind, which meant I knew I was in for an easy return journey. I finally remembered to take my camera with me, so took some shots on the way out that I’ll present in another post.

When the walk finally gave out I paused, took a few swigs of squash, took a few photos and then headed back. The weird thing I noticed was that with the wind at my back, it really didn’t even feel like there was a wind there. But I could sure see it on my speedo. With a little effort I clicked up through the gears and actually cracked 20mph at one point – a record for me on flat.

That was when I noticed the flies. At first it felt like I had an escort, as these things were buzzing along right beside me; but then as I passed through 16mph and beyond they fell away, one after the other. It was sort of surreal keeping pace with the same things that had been randomly colliding with me last week, but it made me feel a bit ‘one with nature’ all the same.

I ended up behind two female bikers back along the walk, one of whom could really have done with investing in mudguards, judging by the chalky mud all over her back. I had plenty on the bike too, but thankfully pretty much none on me.

With the wind behind me I was home soon, and happy I went out.

September 22, 2006

Dagnabit weather

Filed under: General — Rockjaw @ 8:31 am

I feel like a chump. Yesterday morning was glorious sunshine, and I didn’t go out because on Wednesday night, I felt knackered enough that I figured I deserved a lie-in.

Last night? Rainstorms. This morning? Still raining and still cold. So no riding, after I told myself that I would go out. I am a wuss. But I am a dry, warm wuss….

September 20, 2006

Third time’s the charm

Filed under: Rides — Rockjaw @ 8:40 am

I really felt like lying in today. Just because I could.

Now that I’ve almost established a routine with this morning ride thing, my natural inclination is to break that routine; I am the greatest saboteur of anything good for me. So when I woke, I almost went straight back to sleep, reasoning that, you know… sleep feels good. I stumbled out of bed, telling myself I was just taking a piss. Then I looked out the window, checking for any sign – at all – that the weather would make riding unpleasant. Damn those blue Brighton skies.

I guess it’s a toss up between good weather and my immense personal character as to which got me outside today.

No music this morning, just the remainder of a podcast I was listening to last night, and a solemn compromise to myself – take it easy. No headlong struggles into the wind, no frantic, devil-may-care spurts of speed. It worked, too; gave me time to think, which became very self-reflective – I distinctly remember thinking about writing about the process of writing about what I was doing, which tied me into a mental knot for a second. And does even now.

I was slow and steady heading down to the beach, and quite happy to bunch up behind another rider, matching his relaxed pace on the first stretch towards Hove. Eventually I decided to vary my route, and be a bit naughty (along with half-a-dozen other riders ignoring the ‘No Cycling’ signs on the promenade). That’s when I really woke up, as I crossed paths with a leash strung between a lean greyhound lookalike and its bright red haired owner.

Apart from that, it was an unremarkable ride on a pleasant morning. Back home inside 30 minutes, to find a construction crew who started tearing up our street with pneumatic drills before I could finish this. Probably a blessing that I didn’t lie in, after all.

September 19, 2006

Tuesday morning, feeling groovy

Filed under: Rides — Rockjaw @ 8:35 am

I didn’t expect to be able to get out of bed to go for a ride today. That’ll be because last night, in what can only be described as ‘the most exercise I’ve had in a single day for a long time’ I ended up playing five-a-side football for two hours.

(Aside: for about a year, a group of fairly regular attendees at work have been playing five-a-side footie indoors at BHASVIC every Monday night. Some of us are totally crap (me), some of us are pretty darn good, but overall we field reasonably balanced teams, and have a good laugh. That’s the only reason I go; if anyone started to take it too seriously, I wouldn’t bother. End aside.)

After hoofing around the pitch and gaining two shiny blisters on my feet for my trouble, I was barely able to walk home. (Amanda attributes this to a lack of stretching, which might be true, but I like to think the five mile ride had something to do with it; I was creaky before I left the office to play.) Long story short, I figured I’d wake up this morning feeling like a plank of wood.

Long story shorter, I didn’t, and I ended up doing 7.6 miles, instead of my expected five.

Cold morning, at least until I warmed up, and I kicked off with Jimmy Eat World’s A Praise Chorus, which is about as religious as rock ‘n’ roll gets. It was cold enough and I was tired enough that I ended up blinking sleep tears out of my eyes, which would have made me a sight to see if anyone had been around. It did also make me a rolling traffic hazard as I couldn’t see, but a surreptitious wipe helped that.

Yesterday I cycled right, so today I went left along the seafront – Madeira Drive, which was surprisingly busy with cyclists and peds. I only realised why a little later; if you’re cycling along the clifftop (mad with cars) Madeira Drive must seem like paradise. It was such an easy ride down to the Marina I figured I’d keep going, considering my clock was only at eight minutes or so… kind of a mistake.

I continued on past the Marina and out onto the Undercliff Walk, which thanks to persistent mud and some sort of chalky residue, is about the closest I get to off-road biking. The ride was remarkably easy, and I opened up on the flat, by-the-sea section, getting past 18mph. At one point I passed a guy cycling in the opposite direction who looked damn tired and fairly pissed off, but I paid him no mind. Then I turned around.

Of course. I’d been riding with a tailwind behind me. Shit.

That early ‘lead’ I’d had on my projected 30 minutes riding time evaporated as I rode into the wind all the way back to the pier, struggling to get above 12mph and usually hovering around 11. Surprisingly I overtook the same cyclist on the way back, who probably really hated me by now.

Apart from a near miss with another cyclist (Sorry lady, I was looking at traffic) the rest of the ride was uneventful, and not as taxing as all that when I got out of the wind. Nevertheless… next time? Check the wind, Stephen.

September 18, 2006

In the morning

Filed under: Rides — Rockjaw @ 8:11 am

It’s getting darker in the evenings. I don’t want to become a night biker (although at some point, I will buy myself some lights). I need to get out on the bike more. I can’t leave work early. Hence, the decision to get up early and do some riding.

Wasn’t exactly all my idea, to be honest; Amanda said it first. Of course just because someone suggests something doesn’t mean you immediately do it. I think it was only when I started looking outside at 6pm and seeing the sun was down, and on weekends realising I’d have to get onto the bike pre-4pm for the chance of getting a ride in before dusk… that’s when I sighed and realised I had no choice.

So, alarm goes off at 7am this morning, I roll out of bed and peer out the window. It looks kinda grey, and feels kinda cold, so I pull out a long-sleeved t-shirt (that I really didn’t want to sweat in, to be honest) and put it on with everything else. Keep 50p in my pocket for any potential nightmare scenario phonecalls (“Hon? I got sideswiped and the bike’s totalled… I’m okay… just send a cab for me, okay?”) and nip downstairs. I’m on the road at 7:15, with Razorlight’s In the Morning making me smile, in a why-the-hell-am-I-doing-this way.

First thing to realise… Brighton streets certainly aren’t empty at 7am. They’re quiet, but there’s a steady stream of folks walking up our street to the station; London commuters, on the way to the station, I guess. I’m blinking sleep out of my eyes and avoiding dogwalkers, questioning myself all the way to the seafront, but then I hit a series of good curves and small downhill stretches and feel the way anyone does when they let gravity work for you; great.

The sea’s a little choppy this morning, grey with white caps, and the wind feels strong but I manage to keep up a good pace. At least, what I feel like is a good pace for 20 minutes out of bed. There’s a steady string of bikes passing me in the opposite direction, and I even go past a girl looking like she’s struggling more than me. But she’s smiling.

Interesting mix of bikers, though. Most of them look like commuters, judging by dress, and I wonder if they’re on their way to a really distant office (Rottingdean?) or if they’re just early starters. (One of our office biking types is always in before 8:30am.) I see a few training types; one pensioner in full-on racing gear, and one other guy who could be my identikit twin – shorts, t-shirt, bike helmet, glasses, pained expression on his labouring face. Add a ginger-ish beard and we’d be separated at birth.

In my mind I’ve told myself that ten miles is out of the question this early in the day. For one thing I know that my usual hour-long round trip will take another hour to cool down from, and that’s not time I can afford. I figure that five miles will do it, so I pause at the bandstand near the Leisure Centre, turn and look back at the seafront. Light is breaking through the clouds in a sunburst, not only warming me for the first time but again reminding me that I really do need to take a camera when riding.

I watch it become less spectacular for a few minutes, then head home. Razorlight are singing Back to the Start on my headphones as I round the last couple of corners.

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