Hello 2017

Now we are four…

The fifth Marrakech Atlas Étape supports Education for All which is 10 this year! With the first students now coming through University, the charity now provides access to secondary education for nearly 200 girls who would otherwise not have had the opportunity. The current campaign raising money to support a sixth boarding house.

And for the 2017 Étape Tuffcall return as a team of four – Chris and myself for the fifth time, Henry, last year’s stoker on the tandem is back for a second time and Tim is the new member for this year. There is also a chance that we will swell in numbers to six if Paul and his sister do more than threaten to sign up – potentially giving the tandem an airing.

Our foursomes’ current collective age is over 200 with the usual collection of beer bellies and random gear. Tim, by far the fittest of the group, has a proper mountain bike; Chris will have whichever bodged together stead that is most ‘road worthy’ at the time; I am not sure if Henry has upgraded from his boneshaker yet and I am planning, having ridden the small wheel tandem with Henry last year and the Pacific folder the year before, to revert back to the trusted Brompton. If nothing else, an eclectic mix to bring up the rear of the field.

Training to date has been a stop start affair with a lot of time dedicated to the former. Staying in the Cevennes in the summer saw Mike, one of the founders of the EFA, and I taking on some serious climbs at altitude before breakfast. A healthy life stretched before me – as far as the return to London and the reality check it transpired.

There followed a long hiatus. The agency world workload got heavier and Chris and I hardly speak to each other, let alone go for a ride. Work dominates most waking moments without any concept of balance – more going for the burn-out rather than the burn.

A confidence shaking crash and a ski holiday cancelling fracture in my foot add to the delays.

Off the crutches for Christmas and walking for new year. It is February and all prevarication has to stop.

So, I purchased some weighing scales.

Little steps.

Actually, more like one almighty jolt. I am back up to 16 stone. Something has to happen. I must act.

A blog post will help, surely…?

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Quote of the day

Having punctured in the torrential rain that accompanied my attempt to ride home yesterday, I jumped in a cab. Sodden, late and 20 pounds lighter (if only I could loose pounds as fast as my wallet), I dump my folding bike on the deck and go below to present my partner with damp birthday presents from me and the children.

Not being inclined to change a tube on a beautifully clear morning of fresh Spring sunshine, I mounted the tandem and headed to work.

The small wheeled, two seated Helios Duo often draws comments from scaffold mounted builders to ‘Mamils’ at the lights – the former being louder, to the point and funnier as a rule.

You often hear exclamations of, ‘a tandem!’ (yes) and from the more observant, ‘A Brompton tandem!’ (no, but it does have small wheels and a Brompton bag mount, which puts the commenter in the unusual position of stating the obvious and being wrong).

Today, however, the early morning heckle to a man on a bicycle made for two was in a league of its own.

‘Oi, you’re pedalling your broken marriage through the streets of London…’

I cycled on, at a loss for a smart answer and wondering if I should contemplate marriage in order to facilitate a poetical moment further down the line?

Ride and Glide!

The tandem riding had an air of order after our first training run. We had call signs that, we belatedly realised, when combined, sounded like a type of lubricant rather than a coordinated sporting unit. That aside, however, we were quietly confident.

Ride two was designed to get some miles in the legs – somewhere over the 100 mark to prove that we could manage the distance.

Knowing Chris was out with clients meant that Henry and I, always believers that an odd drink never hurt, liberally carb-loaded on the night before the ride. It only seemed fair, so as not to have an advantage over Chris.

At some point during this preparation our judgement erred and the hour of our departure rapidly began to merge with bedtime.

As a result of this experiment I can categorically say that drinking all night is not ideal preparation for a 100 mile bike ride.

Regardless, Chris arrived looking like he had already done the distance and the three of us set off. It was cold and it hurt. A lot of endurance riding is mental and a no-sleep hangover is not the best mental state to achieve the required miles.

We flogged on, up the Lea valley, through Epping, Chipping Ongar and some of Essex’s finest. We mixed a puncture in for variety and eventually stopped for lunch at a pub where they assumed we were part of the over 60’s cycling club they had booked in – that’s how good we looked.

Lunch it transpires is the great healer. Food and beer revitalised us enough for the return journey and we made the distance, but did it hurt.

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!)

 

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Back in the saddle

So, the computer died while on holiday.

The positive that can be taken from this is it has stopped me going off topic with long stories about my travels around India. They will appear elsewhere when complete.

Meanwhile, 178 miles into the year and we have a new recruit – Henry has joined the team as stoker to the Tuffs’ tandem, adding a wealth of weight, age and journalistic cynicism to proceedings – while bringing the now trio’s combined age up to 150!

Albeit not the fit youth we were aiming to recruit, it does mean that the quality of these pages may well improve in future…