An introduction to cycling

Almost a month ago, at 11 months old (well, a day off of 11 months), Sebastian went on his first bike ride.

We bought a second-hand Croozer Kid2 as recommended by a fellow cycling parent. Sebastian sat in one seat, and “Cow Cow”, his large Jellycat Cow, sat in the other, both tucked up under a quilt.

Ollie attached the Croozer to his Giant TCR, and off we went on a short trial ride, to coincide with nap time.

Sebastian was so amazed and excited that he fought sleep for half an hour or so, but finally gave in and had a nap for the last few miles of the 10 mile ride.

10 miles, which took us an hour! It was hilly, and a lack of maintenance and cleaning had taken toll on our bikes and Ollie was subjected to a problem that I had experienced earlier in the week; he was unable to change down off of the big ring. Making what was already a challenge, towing a trailer with a small person and cow, even more difficult. He did very well, and I struggled to keep up with them!

Sadly a nasty bug kept us from repeating the experience the following weekend, and then other commitments kept us away from our bikes last weekend. But this weekend we were free and (semi) healthy, so we decided to have another trial ride, this time with me towing.

After some domestic delays (yawn!), we departed for our ride somewhat late, so I made a last minute suggestion that we ride to a local farm cafe for lunch. We stuck a packed lunch in the ‘boot’ (trunk) of the trailer for the little one and headed off on what was supposed to be a 10 mile ride.

The cafe, 5 miles in, was perfectly placed as I was desperate to use the facilities (waaay too cold for the SheWee), but closed on a Sunday. So, sure that we would find a pub if we continued, we carried on, going away from home.

We came across one pub that was closed, then went on and on, until we got to a town. We cycled right through the town, and were about to give up when we saw a tourist sign to a local pub, which we then followed. Frustrating that was the only sign and we didn’t come across a pub. We pulled in, and I had a cake to console myself, whilst hoping that I would soon find some facilities!!!

Ollie checked Google Maps, and some 8 minute ride away was a farm cafe and it was open. So, off we went for a lovely lunch, and a play on their play park. When we got there, we’d done over 13 miles!

Ollie offered to tow home, and it’s lucky he did – a strong headwind meant that it was very difficult cycling to get back and I was exhausted. At one point, going up a hill my Garmin AutoPaused because I was going so slow! If I’d had to tow, we’d either still be going now, or we wouldn’t have made it!

Two naps, two play parks and a large lunch meant that Sebastian enjoyed his second outing despite it being more than double the length it was meant to be (24 miles altogether), and a 4 hour + trip.

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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!

The contenders

The bike contenders, before and after the London Bike Show:

Before

Giant Avail Advanced 1: Stuck in a port in LA apparently – but there certainly aren’t many in the UK until June (too late)! Plus it’s a Ultegra/105 mix.

Canyon Endurace 9.0 CF: It turns out it isn’t possible to get 11/32 on this bike. A Laura requirement for hills.

A Rose carbon ultegra bike: Nothing wrong with this bike, four week delivery, and it was a serious contender for most of the day, but it is from Germany and I think I would prefer the convenience and safety of a UK supplier.

After

Cannondale Synapse Carbon Ultegra: Would test ride one if I could find one, but I’m not that bothered – probably not a serious contender. The women’s versions were disgusting (glitter?!?)

Scott Contessa Solace 25: I am test riding one of these in the week.Only 105 though.

Ribble Gran Fondo: An addition to the list this morning, thanks to Ollie. Looks amazing!

Dolan L etape Carbon Ultegra: The fave. Such value!

Oh, well that was some good ruling out :-\

To finish off, here’s a couple of pictures of Ollie and I trying the recumbent challenge. Ollie was the winner of the day!

Saturday's champion

Saturday’s champion

Trying the recumbent challenge - ouchie

Trying the recumbent challenge – ouchie

And one of Ollie, not trying very hard…

hahahaha

hahahaha

I love the weekend!

I finished work for the weekend, early and made my amazing Dad (who has been decorating and DIY-ing in my flat for two weeks) thank you cakes and made a cake for my Valentine – because it’s that weekend.

Happy Valentines weekend!

Happy Valentines weekend!

We aren’t really doing Valentines, though it probably may appear to others that we are. It is totally coincidental that we happen to be spending the weekend in London, because without a thought to the date we booked to go to the Bike Show at the London Excel; we are also going to see Made in Dagenham at the theatre and will have a nice Italian meal to top it off.

I am so excited.

The bike show is the beginning of my carbon bike procurement journey. Will it be the primary front runner – Giant, that I fall head over heels with or will a more competitive, good looking rival win me over? Maybe I will buy a Rose (that would be an apt choice), Canyon, Cube, Mavic, Scott….? Now is the time to get your recommendations in. I sort of know what I want but I am hoping that I will get exposure to potential choices in a way the internet spectacularly fails at. 

At the moment, as you know, I am torn about what type of brakes to get but I know that I would like 11-speed, Ultegra (full if possible) and I would like 30 or 32 teeth (I really do hate those hills).  The Giant fits the spec nicely, but is on a very long delivery time and would barely make it to me in time for our Alpy Holiday and no chance for Yorkshire. Finally, I am after an endurance fit rather than a racy style and I am moving away from uni-sex to women -specific. 

So, we will see and I am sure you will wait with baited breath!

And since tomorrow is leave from work, I will finally get out on my poor, rejected old steed and give my tired brain a rest from Uni work. I really could do with the exercise! 

Have a lovely Valentines weekend.

 ? 

xxx

p.s. hello to the Grandbeings – sorry I haven’t been able to visit recently. 

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.

SONY DSC SONY DSC

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.

SONY DSCSONY DSC

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!