One week to go…

..with just one week to go until our epic trip to the Alps Ollie and I have spent the day doing bike washing and maintenance. We are planning on having a week off of cycling, so our next ride will be on arrival in France! Which is exciting and scary all at the same time. 

   

As the neighbours went out for their Saturday morning I was sat cleaning a cassette and when they came back from their Saturday morning excursion I was sat, in the rain, cleaning another cassette. Now our bikes are sparklingly clean and my hands and nails look like they belong to a mechanic. 😐
Next we have a trip to the shop planned, to get some new cycling glasses, as mine broke yesterday after only 2 months of use. You get what you pay for I suppose! Though I don’t like to pay too much for glasses because they inevitably get sat on, and because I have a wonky face and they don’t tend to be that comfortable!  I suppose on the contrary I could actually spend more to get some which fit my wonky face. 

The week is going to be a busy one, but also a second week of anxious waiting. Chris has managed to injure his Achilles at the worst possible time. We are all desperately hoping that it will mend in time for our adventure – and he’s been to see two physios to try and speed up the process. He’s taken it in good spirits though and has been looking at the potential to hire an electric bike! Not something he would normally condone, but needs must and there is no point is making the injury worse and being out for 6 months just because of a 2 week holiday.
Laura x

Count down to this year’s challenge 

Hello Blogosphere! 

It’s been almost a month! I’ve been catching up on, well, everything! Since I handed my final essay of the university year in I have been just as busy as I was, just with fun, sociable things (and cleaning) instead of academic stuff! 

Typically though, the weather seems to have taken a turn for the worse since I was released from the grips of academia, but I have managed to put in a reasonable amount of miles. Three more weeks of training and then a rest week before heading off to mainland Europe and the Alps! 

Top 100 climbs

In our training for the Alps we seem to have taken to attempting climbs which feature in the top 100 climbs book. This weekend we climbed out of Cheddar Gorge; a nice climb really! I even spent some time on the big ring!! The same could not be said about Bushcombe Lane… Ollie, Chris (Ollie’s brother this time) and I did the British Heart Foundation Cotswold bike ride a few weekends ago, and as we were going to be going past the end of Bushcombe Lane my brother suggested that we should try it. So we did. 

Bushcombe Lane 

During the first section, I wondered what the fuss was about. Yes it went on a bit. Yes I was tired. But it didn’t seem to be on the same scale as the top 100 climbs of Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Then I came across a local chap and I asked him whether I was nearly at the top. He just laughed and told me that I hadn’t even gotten to the steep part yet. 

I turned the corner from him and hit the hill. Within minutes my cadence was so low that I was falling off sideways into a bush. With wobbly legs I leant my bike against a tree, held onto said tree to keep me upright, scoffed some Jelly Babies (other sweets are available) and recovered my breath. 

I looked back down the hill and saw a relatively flat driveway off to the side; I clunked back down there on my cleats and got back on, whilst the gentleman looked over amused to my comment of “Here I go again!” 

I made it slightly further this time, before getting off due to a car coming up behind me making lots of revving noise (off-putting). I had almost made it to another drive, so I walked a few steps and then climbed back on for the final part of the hill. 

Phew. Bushcombe Lane is certainly deserving of the top 100 climbs book (although I think it features in the second book rather than the first).

Name and Shame

While the hill at Cheddar wasn’t too bad, the drivers of Somerset were the worst encountered so far! They were impatient, aggressive and lacked driving/common sense. On two separate occasions we were subjected to unpleasant hand signals; the second time by a passenger in a Ford Fiesta, who decided to do hand signals at every single cyclist on the hill. 

Whilst a driver (presumably a tourist) on Cheddar hill caused all sorts of chaos with his atrocious driving. 

Gains

Despite being unconvinced that I am getting any better at hills, the amount of hill climbing that we have been doing has vastly improved my strength on the flat, and thus my average speed over flat rides. This was demonstrated in my first 10 mile time trial of the year, a few weeks ago. My time was 30.50 which was a decent improvement on last year’s times. 

Finally

The last few weeks of cycling have left me wondering:

1. Why more cyclists don’t keep their buffs as part of their summer kit. I am yet to ditch mine, as it is excellent at keeping flies out of my nose and mouth! Doesn’t do much for my face tan though.

2. Whether other cyclists have as much trouble as I do when cycling through wind. Sometimes the grass isn’t even rustling but it feels like I am pedalling into a wind which is pushing me backwards. This wind which doesn’t even register on the ‘Grass scale’ saps my energy, making even a short ride feel extremely challenging. Will this ever become easier? The boys don’t seem to notice it. 😔

That’s it for now. I will try not to leave it so long next time. 

“Shall I call an ambulance?”

Saturday’s adventures…

As planned we headed out to attempt three of the TdF hills. The planned route of around 80 miles, had an elevation of about 8,000 ft, but we managed 27 miles of it and just under 2,400 ft.

Despite keenly watching the changing weather forecast regularly throughout the week, and realising that it would be wet and windy, we underestimated the effect of being up north and being up a big hill. It’s cold up there, and the weather is unpredictable.

We decided on quite different kit, but that is fairly normal as I feel the cold. I decided upon bib tights, waterproof socks, jersey, arm warmers, a waterproof and my Sealskin mitts. Ollie chose a Jersey, shorts, arm warmers and fingerless gloves.

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The first 20 miles were okay. It was rainy on and off, my arm warmers were off, my raincoat was on, off, on…and Ollie was happy with his choice of kit. However, after the 20 mile point we began to struggle. Ollie’s fingers were too exposed to the headwind and driving rain which was battering us, which meant that he had to keep them warm by putting them into his mouth. I was okay kit wise but the wind was sapping my energy. But the 20 mile point coincided with the first of the three major hills, between Buckden and Hawes, which went on and on and on. Ollie was kindly either waiting for me, or racing up the hill and then coming back to get me – so that he kept warm- whilst also keeping his hands warm, one at a time.

The 20 mile point was like entering a time warp, the hill lasted forever, there was nothing; no civilisation – just moors – grass – water – sheep. I think it even got to the point where there weren’t even any sheep. And then there was snow. Not just sleet – snow. Snow and wind. Still I was okay, but Ollie’s fingers were increasingly cold and painful.We got to a steep downhill section, which frightened me so we had to get off and walk for a little way. After that though, my fingers also became cold, even though they had been wrapped up in my Sealskin mitts. I began to compare the ride to that of Boxing Day and Ride 100, in terms of miserableness. But then it got a little worse;  a passing Landrover splashed me, and I was soaked through.

 

We carried on, miserably, shivering and desperately looking for a pub to warm up in…and eventually came to the cobbled streets of Hawes. We blindly followed the streets until we came across a Coffee shop – Herriot’s – where we dumped the bikes and went straight inside to a friendly welcome. We perched on seats and ordered hot chocolates, which I downed almost in one. We pretty much immediately decided that we would terminate the ride and that one of us would get a taxi back to the camp site to pick up the car. As we sat waiting for lunch, drinking the hot chocolate Ollie’s fingers warmed up nice and quickly, but I continued to shiver uncontrollably in my wet clothes.

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Ollie and the Cafe owner, Glenn, were increasingly concerned about my inability to warm up – Glenn and his wife Liz tried to find me a hot water bottle but decided to offer me the use of one of their Bed and Breakfast rooms, so that I could have a hot shower. He gave me a walkie-talkie and instructed me not to collapse. The shower, on its hottest setting did the job, but I was back to shivering once I got out. However Liz kindly let me borrow some clothes so that I wouldn’t have to put my cold wet Lycra back on, and I spent some time under a hair-drier.

 

In the meantime, another kind couple offered Ollie a lift back to the camp-site, and Glenn ‘sold’ Ollie a room for the night – so Ollie headed off to get the car and Glenn gave me a key to a new room. The end of our camping adventure  – I didn’t even manage two nights!!

 

While Ollie was away I ate my lunch soup, chatted to some other cyclists and fully recovered.

 

We finished off our route on Sunday – so still managed to do all of the hills that we’d planned to do. Photos below…

 

Buttertubs Pass

Buttertubs Pass

Climbing Buttertubs

Climbing Buttertubs

Posing on Buttertubs

Posing on Buttertubs

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Buttertubs

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Buttertubs Pass

 

Decisions, decisions, decisions…and a horror film.

Yippeeeee! It’s a lovely day, I am about to go out on my bike for the afternoon and tomorrow we are heading up to Bamber Bridge in Lancashire to purchase the new bike. All in all pretty exciting.

I am fairly rubbish at making decisions, I struggle with questions as simple as “how much dinner would you like?” – to which I generally reply “oh, the normal amount” and then go back for seconds. The purchase of my first bike (a Giant Defy 2) was so painful for the people in my old office that my boss mentioned it in her speech when I left, under “what we won’t miss”. And the procurement of my second bike has, if anything, been worse. I now know more about bikes and about the spec that I would like. I am not simply taking my brother’s advice or choosing the prettiest one.

So I always assumed that I would upgrade to another Giant. Due to neck pains on my current bike I did however decide that I would go for a WSD, so the Giant Avail Advanced 1 looked like the obvious choice and I would easily be able to purchase this from the LBS.  But that wasn’t to be, it met my spec but it isn’t available in time. Circumstance therefore forced me to consider other options, so we took ourselves off for a weekend in London and a visit to the bike show. My previous post summarises my thoughts from that trip.

I have since considered and ruled out the Scott Contessa Solace, a lovely bike, but then so it should be for £1700 – particularly when the components are only 105. When I say only 105, I mean for the price; 105 is very good, apparently. The Cannondale I have not given any further thought to; Cannondale were never on my radar before the bike show and I am really not fussed still. So that left Dolan and Ribble to fight it out.

Tomorrow I am off to Ribble. Dolan is half an hour away but I doubt I will go there. I think…I have made a decision. 

Ribble Grand Fondo, Di2.

I think I will need more than electronic shifting to get up here though: http://thecolcollective.com/col-collection/col/alpe-dhuez

I had better get out in the sunshine and do some training!

A steep and eggy learning curve

Each evening recently Ollie opens up WordPress and tuts with disappointment. So here’s a post, from lectures! The lecturer is struggling to work the IT, which is a little worrying for an Information capability course, so we have an extra 20 minute break. I can’t really be bothered to leave the room anyway, so I may as well spend the time productively.

So, what’s been going on?

I have discovered that the winter is incredibly frustrating! If it isn’t for rain, wind and the threat of snow then there’s the ice. The day can look lovely, with the sun out and no wind but the temperature won’t have risen high enough to melt the ice. Just in case anyone was wondering darkness and ice aren’t a good mix, particularly when you’ve not eaten enough carrots and can not see in the dark. Despite the frustrations, I have managed a decent amount of miles so far, though the interval training is suffering from my aversion to my turbo trainer.

Talking of discoveries, I found this eggcellent breakfast idea on several blogs recently:

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And I have further developed them into little cheese omelettes. Really quick and easy to make and they provide you with a week of breakfasts.

That’s not to say that the first few attempts were without problems! It was a bit of a learning curve to begin with; the oil must be the spray version – a pool of oil in the bottom does not combat against extreme egg sticking on the sides and much scrubbing to return the tin to a reasonable state. Furthermore, some eggs are volatile; 35 seconds into being microwaved it is possible that they will explode and coat the microwave in eggy goo. This is not what anyone wants at 0700 in the morning!

We’ve also been planning! A trip to the bike show, a bike purchase, a weekend in Yorkshire and a two week trip to the Alps and the TdF.

The bike show, in London during the (long) weekend of 12-15 February will be the serious start point of my carbon bike procurement process! A process which needs to be complete by our long weekend of hill climbing in Yorkshire and the Peak District. The bike show also combines with the Triathlon show, which will be of interest to Ollie as he is about to begin training for triathlons (crazy if you ask me). The weekend t’up North is preparation for the big European trip, to try and get me used to camping!

During the weekend, just gone, Chris, Ollie and I held a holiday summit, which was rather more successful than any of us imagined it would be. We now have a plan for all but the last two days, and as an added bonus we should see the TdF on three consecutive days. Even better is that out of the 8 nights accommodation that we have booked, seven of them are in hotels. 😊

Next post soon, with a selection of possible bikes and their plus and minus points.

Laura

Back to reality

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year. I took Christmas Eve until Jan off. I was back to work just for the Friday 2nd Jan and then off again for the weekend. During the time off I managed to ride 323 miles, which is great for December in the UK. Though of course there was some dreadful weather and also Chris, Ollie and I did do a night ride, dictated by when the best weather was.

But all the mileage means that I have been slow to post on here! I am now having a week off because my muscles are getting a bit upset with me, so time to catch up with my blog and my studies.

I was very spoilt over Christmas! As one might expect, there were many cycling goods wrapped up in my parents lounge and Wiggle did very well from us (between Chris, Ollie and I): My brother kindly got me a bike fit book and a goniometer. I opened the goniometer first and had absolutely no idea what it was; it looks like some kind of strange protractor, but the book explained all and I look forward to reading through and improving comfort on the bike. My Grandparents kindly donated to the carbon bike fund, which is looking healthy and is on target to provide me with my new summer bike in April. Mum and Dad bought Ollie and I a bike maintenance manual which again I look forward to reading and learning. And Ollie bought me Bike Snob which I will mention again in another post.

Wiggle weren’t able to provide this hand-made beauty though…

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Thanks to Ollie and his Dad, Roy who designed and made this shelf for me to hang my bike up in my flat. I highly recommend!

But that wasn’t all, Mum and Dad bought Ollie and I a camping mattress each ready for our cycling/camping holiday in Europe. I am not into camping, so although grateful, I did say to them that I couldn’t promise that I would use it before the holiday. As it turns out Ollie seems to think that I need camping practice, so we have booked a weekend in Yorkshire and the Peak District. That should lead to some amusing blog posts. Hills, April showers and camping. 😩😫

Now that reality has kicked back in, I expect I will have to reacquaint myself with the turbo trainer next week and await the drier, lighter evenings. The search for the perfect carbon bike is in full swing, and we have booked a trip to the bike show in London (Feb) as part of the research. Any recommendations and a debate on the merits of disc brakes are welcomed.

Laura

The A-Z of 2014

A – Amazing/August: 2014 has been an amazing year and there was a massive build up to the main event in August.
B – Bicycle/Bertha/Blog: Bicycle speaks for itself. Bertha did her best to ruin the day. This blog has been great fun.
C – Century/Cadence/Caffeine: Completion of a century was the main goal of the year. Cadence was new to me, but made a difference when applied correctly. Caffeine was an amazing find.
D – Devizes/Dame: Devizes is where the 100 was finally completed. Dame cycling introduced me to many opportunities and lovely people throughout the year.
E – Energy: I never seem to have much anymore. 😄
F – Family: Were extremely supportive, and I wouldn’t have completed 100 miles without them.😘
G – Grand-beings: A new term, used to describe Grandparents and their various animals, as a collective.
H – Hurricane Bertha: Arrived at just the wrong time!
I – Italy: A great, cycle heavy holiday to relax after London!
J – Job: 2014 saw me starting a new job.
K – Killer hills: I still haven’t grown to love them. 😓
L – London: Closed roads, a hurricane and amazing crowds.
M -Master’s: It will be worth it. But it steals bike time.
N – Night riding: The Runway Rumble. Great fun and so disorientating in the dark.
O – One Hundred: The focus of the year.
P – Puncture: Way too many of these on 10th August.
Q – QOMs: I’ve actually got a few!!!
S – Sizzler: The Savernake SIzzler, our first big challenge.
T – Time trial/ Tandem/ Triathlon: So much choice! first time trial, first tandem purchase and my first team triathlon event.
U – Umbrella: Even an umbrella wouldn’t have helped on 10th August.
V – Vomit: What I’ve been scared of happening ever since the projectile vomit occurrence.
W – Wiggle: Great online cycling shop, Where all of my money goes. So addictive.
X – Xmas Day Cycling: A new up and coming tradition, which takes advantage of quiet roads and the laziness of other road users.
Y – Yellow Jersey: The only Y word I could think of.
Z – Zzzzzz: All of this cycling is tiring.

Happy New Year! 😃😀

Homeward bound

We did get back on our bikes to cycle home on the 27th and for 40 miles of the 50 mile trip, all was well – sunny and warm for the time of year, lovely scenery and we kept a decent pace. To avoid the issues of the previous day I decided to try a new tactic to keep my fingers from freezing; Ollie’s mum helped me to wrap my fingers in kitchen foil! My fingers stayed nice and warm for the first part of the ride but the last 10 miles were AWFUL…hail battering our faces; we couldn’t look up, we couldn’t speak. Horrendous. The result of the tin foil experiment was therefore influenced by the fact that it disintegrates once it gets wet and while it worked up to a point, it was a complete pain to remove from the inside of my gloves.

Once I had dried out, cleaned squished slug off of my bicycle and showered I sat down and ordered a nice new pair of Sealskin gloves which I am hoping will do the trick. In fact they arrived today, but we are away in Cornwall, so I will have to see 2014 out with cold paws (trotters – for those that know me).
Although saying that I think we went out over-dressed today despite reacting to the weather forecast. It’s mild here and pretty hilly. Today we ascended 3500 ft over 35 miles.

Off to bed, ready for a mini coast to coast from Fowey to Watergate Bay.

Laura

p.s. Expect many nostalgic posts over the next couple of days, this year has been great!

A nice summer hobby

Ciao,

Two weeks ago, Ollie and I were spending the weekend cycling in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy. Yesterday, wearing bib tights, and four layers up top, we regretted not wearing overshoes and thicker gloves. As we cycled through freezing fog the water formed a white layer of droplets over the fabrics of our gloves and tights. It was chilly to say the least and it’s only October. In fact, it is only the third time that we’ve worn any winter gear. The Italians don’t know what they’re missing, but we do. To quote Ollie;

This was a nice summer hobby wasn’t it! Time to find a new one…

As promised in the last post, after handing the carbon machines back, we had a week off of pedalling – though the week wasn’t without its attempts; a couple of days after returning the bikes in Sirmione we attempted to hire a pedalo but it had been an overcast day so the owner seemed to have decided it wasn’t worth opening up. We arrived in Venice, where bikes are banned, still craving some pedalling so we planned a trip to Lido. Lido is the only Island on the Lagoon which has motorcars; bikes are also allowed and they actually have a ‘Boris Bike’ scheme too. On our final day we took the Vaporetto over to Lido for a day trip with our intention being to tour the long, thin island by bike, but sadly we couldn’t work out the instructions so we had to walk instead.

In addition to being the only island which allows cars it is also the beach resort of the Venetian Lagoon; though the start of October is out of season and much of the island was closed. The hotels all close down over the winter and the beach is less accessible. We wandered along the quiet beach front, sat on the rocks, had some food in the company of some crabs and then wandered to the other end of the beach to see what we could find. What we did find was rather odd. At the end of the main coastal road, in the heart of the tourist district is a gated area, inside of which there is an infrastructure of roads and buildings. However the gate is locked, the buildings are broken and the area is deserted as if it had been hurriedly abandoned. On the gate is a sign, however with our limited Italian, we could only translate one word; Contaminated. Very very eerie, but fascinating – Google didn’t provide us with any answers and Google Maps has the area greyed out, which suggests that the area was abandoned before 2005-2007 when Google did the majority of their mapping work (I think)! I doubt we will ever find out what it was, but it was like something out of a boy-film (Zombies, the end of the world etc…)

We returned home on Tuesday of last week and dived straight into trying to attack the mountain of laundry, in addition to going back to work on the Wednesday and, for me trying to catch up on my studies before lectures this week. Back into the university term means that all fun goes out of the window and there’s only time for work, study and chores (and hopefully the odd half an hour on the turbo trainer). Though after yesterday’s ride I can’t say that I am too disappointed – I am definitely back into a hating cycling phase; I really struggled yesterday, ended up frustrated and cut the ride short for my own sanity and to let the boys enjoy a faster pace. It sounds like I made the right choice, too, since there were some killer hills, although I did spend most of the hour that I was alone getting lost. My Strava map shows just how close I was to the end before taking a wrong turn and diverting away from the course to add a few extra, unplanned miles.

As we enter the school and winter period I suspect there will be less to post about, I don’t tend to have many adventures on my turbo trainer! That said – there are a series of winter sportives, which I intend to check out at some point.

An Italian vista

Buonasera!

We are half way through our holiday 😦 but on the plus side we still have quite a few adventures left!

We arrived in Sirmione on Friday and quickly explored the area; found food, climbed up the tower of Rocca Scaligera for some amazing views of the lake and the peninsula and visited the tourist information for any up to date information which we may not have picked up on. It was at the tourist information that we picked up a leaflet for the Mantova bike festival. Mantova, just happens to be the village which our previous host had recommended that we visit (the one which ended up in us going to the wrong village, climbing an unnecessary hill or two and getting bitten to bits – I am still scratching); it seemed too good an opportunity to miss really – an Italian bike festival in a town which we had been recommended to visit. So, knowing that we were pushing our luck time wise we power walked and ran to the bike shop which we knew were able to rent 10 Speed, carbon road bikes. The opening hours on their website stated that they would be open until 1900, we arrived at 1852, all was dark, no one was around but the door was open. We went in and called “hello” and “Buongiorno” a few times with no reply; eventually a grumpy old guy appeared, and didn’t seem at all happy to see us. We persisted though and although he spoke no English and we spoke no Italian we were able to book bikes for the following three days (including asking for a Giant bike, preferably). Following a visit to the supermarket to buy the essentials for a picnic we mapped out our route on STRAVA and uploaded them on the the Garmins.

The following morning we traipsed out of our accommodation, in lycra and flip flops with our helmets hanging from our rucksacks, along the high-street for a mile or so to the bike shop where we had a slightly more sensible conversation with the lady of the shop. Mr Bike Shop did however remember us and pointed at me and said “Giant” which was reassuring; there’s no need for me to have a height complex any more.

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Our first ride, down to the bike festival and back, was just under 60 miles – great fun, lovely scenery and fantastic bikes (mine was the Giant TCR 2.0, a bike which is now on my wish list). The bike festival wasn’t really anything to write home about, but it gave us the impetus for a fairly long ride, to visit the city and I achieved three QOM’s (Queen of the Mountains – fastest female on specific STRAVA segments). Half of the route was along a canal path, picturesque and traffic free; though the drivers here really are extremely respectful of cyclists it was nice to have the peace and quiet. We stopped in a park, to eat some of our picnic on the way but apart from that kept a decent pace throughout; though it was on the way back that I really started to feel under the weather, however at this point I couldn’t tell why.

When we committed to having the bikes for three days we had planned that we would do the 60 mile ride on the first day, a short ride on the second day and a long ride to finish up. During the evening on the first day my brother sent us a message suggesting that we should visit a bar, not too far away, which had a loo with a view. So we planned Sunday’s ride to include this.

You’ll never have a better view while having a wee.

Unfortunately it was overnight that I really started to feel poorly with my previously mentioned cold/ear/nose/throat type infection and didn’t get much sleep due to worrying about the wasted investment in the bike hire, and a potentially ruined holiday from illness (though I would like to stress that the holiday hasn’t been ruined, the pace has simply been moderated and I have had to make slightly more sensible decisions about what I can manage – oh and a whole lot more Gelato has been consumed due to its throat cooling effects). So the ride was slow, averaging about 13.5 mph, and cut out a huge climb but the view was a good one and having completed another 40 miles I began to feel a little happier about my bike hire expenditure.

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On Saturday evening, Ollie stated his desire for us to cycle the entire coast of the lake, but was understanding that I might not be up to it. There were several options and in the end we decided that we would cycle to the North of the lake, take a ferry to the South West and finish the last 15/20 miles by bike – cutting 90 miles down to a more reasonable 60 or so, with a ferry ride in the middle. However overnight (another not particularly restful night) I made the disappointing and frustrating decision that I would be stupid to cycle with such a heavy cold. I did similar last winter and ended up with a chest infection, or certainly made myself a lot worse and prolonged the illness. In the morning I sent Ollie off and I spent the day relaxing and scaring the cleaner. Somewhat stubbornly though I told Ollie that I would meet him at the South Westerly port and cycle the final bit with him; it turned out to be a 43 mile round trip for me, which is more than I should have done really, but at least I can’t say that I wasted my money on hiring a bike. Ollie, without me slowing him down, managed to cycle to entire lake in an amazingly fast time, and got his first KOM. I am slightly jealous, but of course very proud!

We returned the bikes (this time in proper lycra attire rather than the maxi dress of earlier in the week) and will now be having at least a week off of pedalling! In fact, since returning the bikes we have done absolutely nothing! Yesterday a visit to the beach, and today it rained so I studied on the veranda.

So having concluded our Italian Cycling adventure, it’s about time I commented on a few of the differences between British and, Italian or more specifically, Lomardian (of Lombardy?) cycling:

  1. Squirrels vs. Hedgehogs- Some weeks ago I posted about Squirrels and the unenviable position that they find themselves in on the British roads. In Lombardy it is Hedgehogs that find themselves in this unpleasant situation – though I feel that they have a better case than Squirrels. a. They can’t climb b. They are slow c. They have bad eyesight. However in terms of animals running in front of cyclists as they descend a hill, no longer are squirrels the bad guys; Lizards are far more common culprits in this part of the world. A collision would be messy I guess but far less damaging to the cyclist.
  2. Large vs. Small – I am talking bottle cages. Bottle cages in Italy are too small. Never before has my bottle popped out of the cage as I am moving, nor have I ever dropped my bottle instead of securely returning it to its cage. Whilst over here, the bottle cage on one occasion squished my bottle so much that it fell out of the cage and on two occasions I have failed to secure the bottle and it has rolled into the road. Which leads me to point three.
  3. Road Rage vs. Respect – Drivers and pedestrians in Italy have the utmost respect for cyclists. On the second occasion that my bottle rolled into the road there was a car coming; the driver immediately stopped, waited for me to get off of my bike to fetch the bottle and get back on safely. The likelihood of that happening in Britain; slim to none. In Britain the driver would more than likely have blared his horn, shouted abuse and crushed my bottle while I watched on. Road rage Italy: Drivers vs. Cyclists is a programme which will never air (American Readers – Road Rage Britain did air this very subject recently).
  4. Roundabouts vs. Traffic Lights – In Britain we love roundabouts; in Italy they haven’t gotten them quite right. There’s the old system and the new system and then there is a mix of them both. Does anyone actually know what the roundabout rules are?  The Old Rule: Traffic on roundabouts always has to give way to traffic entering it (crazy!) The New Rule: Traffic on the roundabout has right of way and traffic entering it must give way. The Problem/Mix of them both: Many Italians learnt to drive when the law was different – many haven’t caught up – thus they enter roundabouts without pausing. Furthermore, some of the road signage hasn’t been updated and therefore instructs drivers on the roundabout to give way. Add into the mix the typical Italian driving style and you can see why Italy doesn’t have roundabouts totally sewn up. Traffic lights on the other hand; the right on red rule, which is applicable in many US states, appears to be in use here (or they simply ignore red lights) and is a rule I like a lot – it doesn’t cause a hazard and it keeps the traffic moving nicely. Very sensible.
  5. Any old kit vs. Team kit – Generally in Britain we wear some decent jerseys, there’s a nice selection, we don’t tend to limit ourselves to a specific colour scheme to match our bike or a certain team kit; we mix and match. In Italy they seem to wear team kit, or at a push a generic kit as long as it perfectly matches the colour scheme of the bike. Fashionistas to the extreme. I felt like a scruff with my pink and red clash and my supermarket knee supports!

To finish, I don’t have a British comparison for the guy we saw drafting a moped. Was he desperately trying for some KOM’s (Outrageous!) or was he, as my brother suggested, a pro doing a motor pacing session? With all the team kit out here it was impossible to tell, so we will never know – but I wouldn’t mind trying it myself!