Playing catch up 3

Tim can’t get the day off, but is likely to let the team up by being the only fit member, so this is not really an issue. Henry is also busy, so I set off on the Brompton from Sailing Barge Cabby almost on time having cleared the decks (no pun intended) of the work I needed to do.

Grey weather, threatening rain, and a headwind making the most of the non-aero-dynamic front bag that Brompton’s sport. I am knackered by the time I get to Streatham with Brixton Hill sapping any strength I may have had. Chris arrives and he too is without a map. 66 miles to Brighton and the two people with the worst sense of direction I know are having to work from memory – I mean, the Marrakech Atlas Etape is a single road up and down and we struggle not to get lost on that – what could go wrong.

I struggled. Rose Hill, that dreadful slog past Sutton, Mitcham or somewhere. Main roads eventually stop as we turn onto the Dorking road, cross the M25 and pass the Pfeiffer factory. Christ this is hard (pun intended). Chris feeds me a bar of some sticky muck and the liquid foulness of a gell – as he describes below, I am in dire need of food.

Beyond Box Hill, the staff at the small post office, general store combo we stopped at looked shocked as I purchase Lucazades, greasy bacon and cheese number, 4 snickers and a couple of packets of jelly babies, however, it hit the spot and around 30 miles in I had warmed up.

The Brompton, while making me look like a bear on  clown bike, felt twitchily responsive. The handlebars of the P-type, while looking like an exercise bike, providing the variety of positions required for distance, climbs and the like. This is the bike I want to ride this year. I want to get a Brompton up the Ouka Monster for the third time – how to break it to Henry that I do not want to ride the tandem again?

Devils Dyke, Beach, beer, burgers and home in time to collect the children – that alone is a record!



Playing catch up 2 – featuring Kate Moss

And so, after many false starts – briefly riding with Mike in the Cévennes before returning to London and getting swallowed by the day job, trying again in November and surviving the embarrassment of crashing and being picked up off the roundabout by the Brunswick Centre by a French tourist only to then fracture something unpronounceable in my foot while walking around Kew Gardens to name but two (with complete disregard to punctuation) – training eventually started.

‘Started’ may be a bit of an overstatement. Henry and I, the tandem-tastic team from 2016

(Yes, that’s us), had a bit of a night of it. Despite this, we were up early – not sleeping helps to facilitate this – and fixing up the tandem which had been sitting untouched, below decks in Cabby’s workshop since last year’s Marrakech Atlas Etape. Things were oiled – hands, clothing and the like, pedals added and tyres pumped. Water bottles were filled and made pretty with the addition of purple isotonic things – whatever they do – and Box Hill beckoned.

The tandem was lifted onto the pontoon and the tyre was flat. In fact the tube was broken at the valve. This was a problem as the old Helios Circe Duo has odd sized wheels and, while I could find tubes for the fat tyres, there were none to hand for the Marathon’s.

Change of plan and Chris cycles north via a cycle shop who had the requisite tubes in a dusty cupboard of collectors items. Broken tyre levers and some time later we set off. Box Hill is out – being 26 miles away – so we target Hampstead and Highgate. The tandem is a beast – says the unfit duo blaming their rather marvelous machine – and a mere 23 miles of hills later we stop for lunch at the Flask – training over.

While sitting there, I vaguely notice the arrival of a couple of women. The fair haired of which looks around in my direction – Henry and Chris have their backs to them. I am at the age where people do not give me a second glance anymore so thought nothing of it – and even if I did, I really need to visit an optician to focus across a beer garden (before the addition of beer). I was watched again on my way to and from the bar as well as being the subject of, from my pov, a blurred conversation and a couple of more ‘checking outs’.

As we were heading out Chris and Henry were very excited that Kate Moss was the blonde. How often do you get checked out by Kate Moss??!!??

I mean, it helps if you vaguely knew her through a friend when at school and that she then drank in your Camden pub – the Camden Brewing Company – obviously.

And, she was probably saying, ‘I am sure that guy used to run a very cool party pub and now look at him – fat, middle aged and wearing lycra’…


View from the front

And so, the biggest outing to date for both the Circe Helios Duo, to give the tandem its full name, and for Henry as we set off on a run from Limehouse, for five climbs of Box Hill and back.

They fared remarkably well, although, it has to be said the bike didn’t, between the snot rockets of his ‘Bushmans’ blowing’, spend the best part of seventy miles moaning about their ischial tuberosities – which sounds like the sort of thing you pick up in conversation with Will Self. I can’t be bothered to look this up, but think it is the lower, sitting, part of the pelvis and is used in this instance to refer to a sore arse – and, indeed, in that case, probably the result of more than just a conversation with Will Self!

Moans and groans aside, the trip was a great success. Unlike previous years, the weather held and we avoided the normal misery of snow or driving rain.

We also avoided giving Chris the satisfaction of witnessing a tarmac-chewing, gravel-grazing, jack-knifing fall on any of the hairpins. The Helios Duo handled magnificently and, while it will be more secure with an addition of an extra break, I am a lot more confident that, with care, we will be okay on the descent with the standard two. You never know, I may yet persuade Circe that they want to sponsor us the cost of a break and, ideally, making the tandem fold properly.

On to this coming Thursday, and we are aiming to put some miles under our belts with a run around Essex. You never know, we may be as well dressed as we were for the last trip… (note, we are not guilty of ‘mechanical doping’, the tandem and the outboard are separate!)



The long road back.

And no, I am not referring to Peter Andre’s – no doubt brilliant – fourth album (which implies there are three preceding it, what a dreadful thought) or, come to think of it, the Bryan Adams song! I am referring to the road back to fitness.

I complacently thought I was a lot fitter than I am. Thankfully, the ride to Box Hill with Chris has alerted me to the fact that this is not the case while I still have some time to do something about it before the Marrakech-Atlas Etape. By ‘alerted’ I really mean I crashed and burned and had to bail.

The day started badly with a(nother) puncture, meaning I ditched the Pacific Reach and pedaled off on the Kona Sutra – like a Bentley, a beautiful lorry which weighs around a tonne. Brixton Hill hurt and things were aching badly by the time I had reached Streatham to meet my riding partner. Rose Hill almost had me turning round and I was shafted on arrival at the peak of the North Downs. Actually the down bit was okay, things started to go wrong heading back up the zig zag, where muscles that used to work decided to be cold, cramped balls of agony. A second ascent finished me off and, rather than the well intended loop to cycle off the pain, I pulled off the road into what was, conveniently, a pub with a roaring fire, decent beer and the ‘retro’ food that indicates you are outside of London…

…Some medicinal amber liquid and solids later made the thought of the two hour ride to collect the children acceptable. In reality it hurt like buggery – although that could just be that I am not used to riding on the Brooks saddle the Kona sports.

Ice, snow, pub and pain aside we covered about 55 miles and climbed about 2,700′ – not bad considering I was only teaching myself to walk again last September / October.

I also know that I need to stop snacking, drinking, partying and take this a little more seriously – and that is only to keep up with Chris! To tackle the Ouka as well is going to take some considerable exercise compared to this year-to-date where I have only cycled 278 miles and climbed 5,709′.

Still, relish a challenge…

The short and the long if it

So, in short (all figures are approximate):

  • 170 odd riders – some deciding on a shorter course
  • 40 made it through the weather to the top
  • 20 of the super-speedy made it down before the weather closes in
  • 67 riders were taken off the mountain in mini buses (with bikes to follow)
  • Hypothermia claims 2 people  who are taken off in ambulances
  • Three further bikes make it home crossing the finish together in joint 21st and last place
    Two are riding Bianchi’s and the third, a Brompton!!

And the long story?

– Watch this space

Week 13

With the clown bike still being in the shop due, it appears, to the part I need being caught up in Brompton’s warehouse moves – the logistics of juggling children and a grown-up bike didn’t really add up and there was a lack of outdoor cycling…

…With one notable exception.

Chris and I headed south out of London on Thursday in light snow. Several miles later we are fighting our way up and down Box Hill in a blizzard. Freezing cold. On the seventh time at the top we decided to bail out and, via briefly stopping at a pub to defrost, struggled into a head wind with little visibility to arrive home frozen and exhausted.

Still, while not the climate we are expecting in Morocco, it was still 75 miles and 5,100′ of climbing.

Interested to note that, while the Kona Sutra rode like a dream and had a lot more gears to fall back on, I didn’t use them and the clown-bike is just as good at climbing.

Back to the Kona on the turbo trainer now until Brompton decide to get their house in order.