Shutt Velo Rapide Isobel Jersey review

Sometimes there are perks to my Cyclosport “job”.  This time around I have a jersey to review and also, as it unexpectedly turned out, semi-matching socks!  And, to gild the lily, when it turned up last week, it’s also purple!  Not that that makes a jersey better of course, right?Isobel1w

And so on to the details.  That which you see before you is a Shutt Velo Rapide Isobel short-sleeved jersey.  I wasn’t sure which size I would be from their size chart, falling neatly between two camps, but they very kindly supplied both so that I could have the right one (and return the other).  As it turns out I’m a medium, which is no doubt better for my ego than being a large!


Apart from the joys of it being purple, it also has a polka dot band on both the front and back and also inside the collar which is a nice touch.  Apparently this inspires thoughts of a certain polka dot bikini song, which is close as you’ll ever get me to being in a bikini!  There also isn’t a flower, butterfly, or hint of pink anywhere to be seen – result!  I think it’s quite attractive – a bit quirky, distinctive, but not OTT.

The jersey has three rear cargo pockets with an extra zipped valuables pocket, which is great as I’m forever wondering where to safely stash my keys without having to worry about losing them mid-ride when I pull other stuff out of my pockets.  The pocket is also waterproof on the body side, so it would be great for your phone too, though I use my trusty pOcpac for mine, which is the reason my phone survived Ride London and neither my camera nor iPod shuffle did!


Once I’d stopped examining it and put it on, some of the other features became obvious, especially when taking photos.  All the zips and the piping on the hem and pockets are reflective, as are the logos, as you can see!    It’s longer in the body, especially at the back, than I’m used to, with a good silicone gripper all round, and having worn it a few times now, that’s nice.  It covers your lumpy bits, never rides up, and it keeps your behind covered properly.  It’s not the lightest weight lycra out there, but it also has mesh side panels which you don’t really notice but will mean that it’s breathable, and means that it’s probably perfect for most of what passes for both spring and summer weather over here.

front view rear view

I wore it for Ride London, and the extra length was both good and bad.  Good because even when soaked through, you have an extra layer of warmth there.  Not so good as, once the pockets were full of my assorted crap, my lovely waterproof, being somewhat shorter and relatively close fitting, couldn’t extend to go around and cover them too, so the water just ran off it and on to (into?) them.  My Cyclosport gilet wasn’t up to the task either.

All that said, and most importantly however, it feels really nice to wear.  I wasn’t aware “Italian lycra” was a special thing, but apparently it is, and it is lovely and soft on the skin.  The sleeves are a good length, and fitted but not tight, so you can get arm warmers on under them, though you have to be a bit careful not to stretch them too much, as I think that might pull stitches, but that’s ok.  The white trim on the sleeves goes well with a tan too ;)  The full length zip can be a bit tricky to get started from the bottom as it’s beneath a little protective fabric corner that it hides in, but once done it works fine, and it goes up and down easily enough en route.  Oh and it tucks into a matching corner tab at the top too.

It fits pretty well, but having curves, the front doesn’t always sit flat, and there’s sometimes a bit of a gathering effect as the jersey stretches to cover them and the less stretchy front zip tries to cope, while the longer back pulls down happily.  The collar isn’t quite as fitted as I’d like so it doesn’t stand up straight when the zip is fully done up, but those spots do mean it looks lovely when the zip is undone some.   Also trying to have the polka dot panel horizontal and where it should be that pulls the collar down a bit too.  All of which probably work better on the less well-endowed however.  And none of this is anything you’d notice whilst out in it riding the bike either.

What else can I say about it?  Having worn it for Ride London, it did not dissolve!  And so far it’s washing (30c machine wash) and wearing well.  Thanks to the fit, the length and how nice it feels on, I’ve already worn it again twice, which is pretty telling, and it’s rapidly becoming a favourite.


As for the socks well, they don’t actually match, but it’s the same colourway.  And it is nice to wear matching things :)  Sock length seems to be a matter of personal taste; I tend to prefer my summer ones short to minimise tan lines, so these, at 9cm high, are longer than my usual.  They are, once again, very comfortable, with a good fit and no seams to rub anywhere.  The cuff is doubled over so they stay up well, what with that meaning double the elastic.  When it comes to the technical bit, because even socks can be scientific, they have a “high-density elastic mid-foot support band and a diaphanous web on the top of the foot”.  I’m not quite sure what those mean, but I’m presuming that’s why they’re so comfortable!  It also means they’re very breathable which, along with the special Meryl Skinlife™ fibres they’re made out of (which “contain naturally bacteria-static silver ions so that bacteria will not grow”) will keep your feet and shoes nice and fresh.  And you thought they were just a pair of socks! ;)

 sock on

At £79 for the jersey, and £12.50 for the socks, it’s not cheap kit, but then neither is it up at Rapha level, it’s somewhere in the middle and don’t let’s forget that you get what you pay for.  It’s really nice to have women specific performance kit that fits well, feels good on, does the job above and beyond, and is stylish without yelling “girl” at you!  There don’t seem to be matching shorts available at the moment, but if there were I’d be seriously tempted to get some and go the whole matching hog :)

Saddleback Sodbury Sportive 2014

And so the sportive calendar rolls on…

…with another 5:15 alarm call dragging me from sleep and back out onto the road again.  Today’s target?  The Saddleback Sodbury Sportive starting from, as you may have guessed, Chipping Sodbury.  Not a first for me, I did their first one in 2012, which makes this their third, and my second.  But I had fond memories of it, felt bad when I was unable to do the second one when they asked me to, and so, here, or there, I was again this year.


HQ was an hour’s drive away, at Chipping Sodbury RFC.  Easy to find, and easily marshalled onto the playing field where the ranks of cars were slowly filling up and discharging lycra clad cyclists and their steeds.  With a positive weather forecast but a distinct chill in the air thanks to the wind, conversations all around were mostly concerned with what to wear.  Well, we do love to talk about the weather, right?  Before I made such momentous decisions, I headed off towards the clubhouse and found the registration marquee outside, as yet fairly queue-less, and for the clue-less, it was made easy – queue up by at surname ordered desks.  I duly signed my name, and collected my bike number (complete with integral timing chip) and two cable ties, before making my way inside to pick up a free cup of coffee, also known as warmth in a cup.

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Right.  My turn for faffing.  Ooh, the dilemmas.  What layers to wear?  Would it rain?  Would the forecast be accurate…in which case it wouldn’t?  I shook off the ghost of Ride London past and decided that limb warmers and gilet were the way to go, and trusted that leaving the rain jacket in the car would not prove to be an unwise decision.  There wasn’t much else to do, so me and my trusty, and also cleaned, polished & oiled, steed headed for HQ together.  I trimmed the cable ties with the cable cutters provided – a nice touch that – and parked up so that I could use the facilities while waiting.  Even that only takes so long, so that done, I was amongst the first to be ushered into the start pen when it opened, having first had my number taken down, presumably to be used against me should the official system fail.  It was sort of considering being sunny as we all stood there waiting, and pretending to ignore the official photographer, which was nice.  Finally the time came for the rider briefing, complete with a top dressing warning, and the usual “play nice, be good, it’s not a race” warning from one of the many yellow tabarded Rotary Club volunteers.

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Time to go then.  No fanfare, but nonetheless we were off, first to be sent on our way into the Cotswold countryside.  In boy, or make that girl, scout fashion, I was prepared.  Well, prepared in that I’d read my blog from 2012, and looked at the route profile, and knew that however nice the first few miles were, it was going to be less pleasant very shortly.  About five miles from the start there are three big hills.  Well I think they’re big, and they’re big when you haven’t warmed up and there’s no respite between them.  The Hawkesbury Howler, the Alderley Grunt, and the Tresham Tester, one after the other…and if I hadn’t known that things were going to get easier after that, the latter of them could have had me throwing my toys out of my cot and walking…it was hard work!  It takes me a good 45 minutes or so to warm up these days, and so I really wasn’t ready for them.  Still, I recovered fairly quickly, in time to not enjoy the aforementioned and recently top-dressed section afterwards.  I swear some councils wait for a sportive to be imminent and go out that week to sabotage it accordingly!

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Onwards and luckily not upwards, through a constant stream of cutesy villages, and quiet country lanes.  The route split comes all of 11 miles in, and I didn’t even consider opting for the 60 miles instead of the 100, or more accurately 102.2, according to the Garmin file I’d downloaded the night before.  Nope, it was a right turn for me.  It was really windy out there, mostly in our favour initially, though once again having prepared for a change, I knew that that wasn’t going to last either.

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Still, the first 30 miles or so passed by fairly fast, and I was the first woman to the first foodstop, a novelty value that lasted for about 2 minutes before I was no longer the solitary female there, but which I enjoyed nonetheless.  Located outside a convenient pub where normal mortals were completely ignoring the steady stream of cyclists in and out of the toilets inside, there was food of all sorts from savoury to sweet, including printed lists of ingredients for all the cakes on offer, something the less tolerant of us appreciated.  I settled for a banana and a bottle top-up before heading off again, determined to be first woman out there for a little longer.  She and her much larger wind-break of a male partner (jealous, moi?) didn’t leave me out there alone for long though, and I was shortly left in their dust.  Ah well, nice while it lasted!  Mind you, she did hold me up going downhill at one point, which just goes to prove I’m more of a nutter than she is, not that I’m any better at it I hasten to add ;)

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It wasn’t long before we were heading the wrong way as far as the wind was concerned, and just to rub salt in the wound, it even started to rain.  I’m pleased to say it stopped fairly soon though, and the lack of rain jacket did not prove to be an issue, otherwise my sense of humour failure would have been complete.  As it was, life turned into a constant and fairly solitary slog.  I hate wind!  It felt like an uphill slog which, as it turns out, it gradually was, all the way up to the very pretty village of Minchinhampton and the Common beyond where a helpful sign informed me that I’d now done 50 miles…whilst considerately failing to mention that that left another 52 to do of course ;)  I took a moment to immortalise it and try and get a grip of my fed up of struggling self, before heading off once more unto the breach.

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Somehow I had completely forgotten the hill that came instantly after the lovely hairpin descent into Nailsworth where, just briefly, I felt in control of my bike and all pro and stuff.  Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, how very European ;)  Then through the town itself, with the way ahead indicated by a camera-toting marshal at whom I actually smiled, and his smiley encouraging mate.  Ah, a yellow sign.  B*gger.  This would be the Nailsworth Nailer then.  Up and up and up, past pedestrians enjoying a sunny Sunday and cats crossing the roads, through and out of town to where you think it’s finished…and it hasn’t.  As I reached the roundabout where straight on was straight up, the road to the left was amusingly called “Another road” which was pretty much what I wished I was on ;)  Still there was a wind turbine to admire, and finally another helpful sign informed me that the hill was over.

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I do like that – a sign at the bottom of each hill and at the end – proof that I am officially going up a hill rather than just feeling like I am ;)  And of course ups mean downs, and we all know I like them.  Sadly the next one was interrupted by traffic lights and then, once they had changed and a couple of us that had gathered there waiting were on our way through, a “lady” in a black 4*4 decided that even though her light was red, she might as well head up and plough through us anyway.  Well, we all know they own the road, right?  Shaking our heads disapproving, and maybe even tutting sotto voce, we carried on down the hill, and through the woods, around a gratuitous little extra loop thrown in, as it turns out, just to get us to the next hill…

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Now, just because some smart Alec (or smart Simon!) realised that if you write a book about Britain’s 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, a whole heap of lycra-clad sheep will buy it and then slavishly tick every one off, whilst swelling his coffers in the meantime, does not mean that your sportive has to include one of them.  D’ya hear?!  Nope, thought not…and this is not the first time a route has deviated just to include one such which, I’m fairly sure, it didn’t in 2012.  I’d remember going uphill for the best part of two miles right?!  Having read the description of Frocester Hill beforehand (see, said I was prepared), apparently “the gradient is all but uniform, steep, but it’s never a grind”.  Hah, bl**dy hah.  Just for once I was happy to take heart from the guys passing me with cheery words of encouragement and what I would normally consider to be patronising remarks as to how well I was doing.  Today I needed them.  To be fair, I’d probably have been much better off if I hadn’t gotten my head all bent out of shape today by worrying about the ACG trip to the Pyrenees…ie if I wasn’t enjoying this much, how the h*ll am I going to cope with them and that?  Cycling is so mental…and after hours of slogging into the wind, and now slogging uphill, my mood was going down in the same way as the road was going up – constantly!  Hey, at least it was sunny and the views behind me were nice, right? :)

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Moan, winge, gripe…I know, I should button it…but it’s my blog, so it’s my way or the highway :P  Inevitably, and finally, I made it to the top.  I was very pleased to find the next food stop shortly afterwards, even if it did interrupt my downhill progress, as my bottles needed topping up again and I needed a break.  Jelly babies for me this time, thought I was sore tempted by the marmite sandwiches.  I didn’t stop long, as I didn’t want to get cold or take root, and headed out again to fight the wind a while longer.

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No more hills for a while, just endless country lanes on my own as other riders seemed few and far between, grateful for the good signage and the occasional marshals to remind me I was in fact on the right route.  I was definitely in the mental doldrums.  But not becalmed, that bl**dy wind made sure of that!  I just wasn’t enjoying it, was still fretting away, and when my right knee started to hurt in chorus with the already strapped up left knee, it all got a bit much and a few not very manly tears at all were shed along the way (just as well I’m a girl then).  Honestly girl, get a grip!  In retrospect it occurs to me that this was my second longest ride of the year, only my second over 100 at that, and the other one was back in June, so it’s probably not a big surprise that I was struggling a bit.  I’d also been hoping to do it faster than the last time but in the face of the wind and the altered route, I was disappointed to see that goal blown away early on, possibly setting the tone for what was to come mentally.  That’ll teach me to have ambitions above my station ;)

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After a very pretty patch heading southwards along the hills above the Severn valley, finally I turned a corner, physically if not mentally, and that wind started to be behind me, with about 15 miles to go.  This didn’t stop me popping into the last food stop at the 91 mile mark – again I was keeping hydrated enough to need more fluid on board, and besides, how can I review the foodstops without stopping?  They were all well-stocked and staffed by friendly helpful volunteers – job done on both counts ;).


Inevitably there were a few more draggy climbing bits on the way back which probably only felt that way because I was tired and my legs had had enough.  Still, having had a quick peek at the map, up on display and helpfully marked out at the final stop, I was ready for them, and they were just part of counting the miles down.  By the time I rolled over the finish line, to a cheery chorus of cowbells and applause, I was more than finished.

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I collected my goody box, checked my time on the spot – with 7:12 officially making me a Silver (must have low standards!) –  dumped the bike in the car, and headed back to HQ for free food.  Not my usual fare, but I didn’t care.  One Cornish pasty and potato salad (though you could have had baked beans instead) were mine.  Oh and a large glass of orange squash enhanced lemonade – my latest post-sportive craving is fizzy orange for some reason, and that they didn’t have at the bar.  And if I’d bought lager instead there’s a distinct possibility I’d never have made it back to the car, let alone home.  The food may not have been good for me, but man it tasted good!  I sat and ate it at a table outside, zoned out and on a slightly different planet, as the lady who tried to talk to me when collecting rubbish will attest, as I didn’t notice her existence for a good couple of minutes…oops!

Cycling time: 6:52
Distance: 102.9 miles
Avg: 15.0 mph
ODO: 6297.0 miles

There were showers, which I was half tempted to use, but with only a relatively short drive home, I opted for heading back and doing such in the comfort of my own home…where I also knew there was a bottle of restorative lager in the fridge with my name on it.  Well, not really, because that would probably make it Coca Cola and that wouldn’t have hit the spot half so well ;)  Somewhat later, having narrowly avoided falling asleep on the motorway, and having drunk my well-earned pint, my goody box turned out to be a souvenir travel mug.  Now that’s a goody.  Lovely though medals are, I’m thinking this is way more useful! :)


The Sodbury Sportive is a lovely well-organised friendly event.  I haven’t got a bad thing to say about it really, other than that the route could possibly be a bit more interesting, and it would be nice if they could turn the wind off.  But if wishes were fishes…  I’d do it again.  But I’d do it better.  Honest ;)

PS: And yes, I’m still fretting. Now that I AM good at ;)

PPS: provisional results are now out.  817 riders took part in all.  Only 10 women did the 100 mile route.  Out of them, I was third overall (missed second by just a minute).  And I came first in my category.  I feel a bit better about it all now ;)

I want to dance

I wonder how many more times it will be possible to just put on a short sleeve jersey & shorts, strap on the shoes and helmet, and go ride the bike just like that.  Not as many as I’d like I reckon.  So even though I did a pretty good workout last night, and my gastroenteritis turns out to be campylobacter (so I have antibiotics now), I couldn’t not go and ride in the sun this morning.  That would be looking a gift horse in the mouth, and the weather gods are not to be spurned…

…so I went out and did a fast flat loop instead of staying in bed.  Properly fast as it turns out, even if the headwind on the return leg did drain away a little of the impressive 19.5mph average (well I’m impressed) that I managed for the first hour.  It was pretty hard work, and I was tempted to slow down and take it easier…but I was liking the figures so much I just couldn’t do it.  I’m a sucker for stats ;)  Having said that, ich bin geknackert now!  OK, so some of it is probably down to my lovely new wheels.  And some of it will have been wind-assisted.  But maybe, just maybe, a little of it was just me?  I like fast :D

panasonic lumiz sz1

You’ll no doubt be thrilled to hear that I have a new camera.  It’s exactly the same as the old one, and the one before that, apart from it being purple that is.  Well, why not?  The new iPod shuffle is en route somewhere.  I think I ordered that in purple too.  And thanks to the seduction of the Rapha sale, I also have fabulous new gloves, which fit, ooh, let me think, like a glove? ;)  Clearly they’re not purple.  But they are very comfortable and I forgot I was even wearing new gloves.  Nice :)

gloves back gloves palm

In the meantime, after a long week, it’s finally the weekend! ‘Rah!  :D

Cycling time: 1:43
Distance: 31.8 miles
Avg: 18.4 mph
ODO: 6194.1 miles

Don’t you forget about me

I am getting more than a little bored of riding on my own, and since I am home alone this week and thus more on my own than usual, I took myself off to my folks for a bit, to eat, sleep, and then ride with Dad and his group.  I think they officially call themselves the “Portishead Old-Timers” and I think it’s safe to say I was the youngest there…probably by a good 20 years and in several cases, quite a bit more.  It wasn’t the longest ride ever and, due to the nature of the beast, and the cycle paths used, and the chatting to be done, it may well have been more of a case of us being the “Portishead Potterers” (hey, I do love a bit of alliteration) but, you know what?  It was really, really nice.  The sun shone, mostly.  It didn’t rain even though it threatened to.  They made me feel very welcome.  It was (sorry guys!) very good for my somewhat battered cycling ego to be reminded that I’m not quite as slow and incapable as I tend to think I am, as I found it pretty easy going, and didn’t even object to the odd hill.  Just the kind of spin my legs probably needed.  And just occasionally l hit sprint mode, and hurtled off into the distance, just for the sheer joie-de-vivre hell of it.  Just because I could.  And I can :D

Sadly since only my phone was in a trusty pOcpac on Sunday, both my camera and iPod shuffle have succumbed to the ravages of Ride London, so I was unable to take any photos.  That turns out to have been one bl**dy expensive weekend!  Here’s one I prepared earlier… ;)


I hope that when I’m that age I’m still riding my bike half as well as they do :)

Cycling time: 3:02
Distance: 40.2 miles
Avg: 13.2 mph
ODO: 6162.3 miles

Prudential Ride London 2014

rider numbers

It’s just as well that (I don’t think) I’m supposed to be writing an official Cyclosport review of this.  For lots of reasons.  But mainly because I’m going to moan about my health, and the weather, and probably a whole heap of other things…when out there, on Newlands Corner, riding with his friends and girlfriend for charity, a rider named Kris Cook died.  How’s that for perspective for you?  I will write about it, because that’s what I do…but if you feel like donating to his cause, as many now have done in tribute, his justgiving page is here.  In the meantime, on with the trivial, and the fairly short.  Normal service is resumed.

Orange wave H

Doing a sportive whilst suffering from post-holiday gastroenteritis is probably not a good idea.  Not that that ever stopped me.  My instincts said stay in bed and bale…I ignored them as usual.  Well, it was all booked and organised, and I’d been training for it, in so far as I train, and I had nothing better to do this weekend so…why not?  Even the atrocious, “here have a hurricane”, forecast didn’t deter me.  Or make that us, since Guy and I were both doing it, and sharing travel and all that malarkey.  You’d think, after the Tour of Pembrokeshire, I’d have learnt by now, right?  Just call me a bear of very little brain

tower of london and shard monuments

Which is why I ended up spending 86 miles riding on my own, much of it in torrential rain and through floods, wondering what the hell I was doing it for.  Not 100 miles, as the weather meant that the organisers had truncated the route for safety reasons, removing the only two big hills of the day – Leith and Box - and thus also removing any sort of goal from the ride, other than, as it turns out, to get it over and done with.  To be fair, for the first hour or two I was doing pretty well, fair flying for some of it, and had it been another day, I reckon I would have beaten last year’s time.  But it wasn’t, it was this day, and when the rain started, and came down, and down, and down, I gave up on such lofty ambitions.

london eye nelsons column

I don’t think I’ve ridden in such torrential rain for such a long time.  Floods everywhere, pop-up rivers pouring off hills, unable to properly see where you’re going, so wet that getting wetter didn’t matter anymore, that breathing was hard because every breath contained so much more H2O than O, water running down your face into your mouth, past sodden spectators and photographers, not waving but drowning.  And no, I wasn’t wearing my waterproof; I’d stashed that earlier on pre-rain when I’d boiled in the bag for long enough after freezing to shivering point waiting on the starting grid.  It wouldn’t have made any difference anyway – water gets everywhere, including into my camera which, thanks to rain and flapjack oats, has finally given up the ghost, and it looks like my iPod shuffle may have done likewise.  Besides which, though soaked to the skin and possibly beyond, I wasn’t cold.  With water, water, everywhere though more than enough to drink…dehydration wasn’t a problem.  Well, that’s not strictly true, though good for comedic effect, as ironically I was really thirsty all ride, and drank more than usual.

I rode, and rode, and rode some more.  Nothing much to see out in what passes for countryside that near to London, broken up by towns with anonymous high streets brightened by cheering supporters.  Kudos to all of them by the way – and much appreciation too.  With little to focus on and no goals in mind, I got bored.  Which is not motivating.  My knee, having had a break, hurt.  I couldn’t stomach food so lurched from gel to gel, when I remembered that eating would be a good idea.  And eventually, after about 45 miles of downpour and well on the way back towards London, the weather cleared up a bit and I sped up a bit.  It was too little too late to salvage the event for me, but was at least in time to mean that the professional road race to follow would have better luck than we had.  Well isn’t it always the way?  It’s like jam, but with sunshine…

Cycling time: 5:06
Distance: 86.0 miles
Avg: 16.8 mph
ODO: 6122.1 miles

By the time I rolled, or maybe squished, over the finishing line, Guy had been waiting around for  far too long, and was far too cold to hang around any more, so without any further ado about anything, we headed straight back to his car; a 10 mile ride back across a now sunny London.  I did feel a little like a naughty child being route-marched back to the car for bad behaviour – being too slow in this case presumably – and I can’t keep up with him on a good day, let alone after 86 miles of a bad one! ;)  I think the best thing that can be said for this year’s Ride London is that I enjoyed it being over.  I didn’t find it particularly hard work per se, and ok I wasn’t feeling great, but I’ve felt worse.  But with the weather and all the palaver involved with the ballot, registration, accommodation etc., not to mention the considerable costs (even before a new camera & iPod shuffle!), I don’t think I’ll be throwing my name in the hat for 2015, however lovely it is to ride on closed roads.  One to chalk up to experience…and move swiftly on.

medal front medal back

The numbers lead a dance

Welcome to another ACG ride.  Aka The Fast Show.  For many reasons, including the obvious one.  Here’s some names to conjure with: Paul, Paul, Martyn, Guy, Jon, and Rob (collected en route).  All of whom make a pretty evenly matched peloton…until you get to me that is!

It was scorchio.  I seriously considered getting my coat and bailing on the way out, but after a chat with our esteemed ride leader, I was persuaded to stay, on the proviso that they would wait for me at the top of whatever hills there were.  I am not putting myself down, or even playing the self-deprecating card – I am being a realist and I know my limits.  So there :P

ACG at Langport

And it worked out.  It may not have been brilliant, but it was pretty good all things considered.  G did indeed stand for Group, I rode my bike in the sun, and I reckon with all the effort I put in keeping up, I properly earned the couple of pints I consumed later outside the pub with my folks and the mob :D

Cycling time: 2:55
Distance: 49.1 miles
Avg: 17.0* mph
ODO: 5977.7 miles

(*that’s the speed my Garmin said when I got home before I forgot to turn it off!)


Ride Like a Pro 2014

ride like a pro

Facebook is…well…many things, but it is also responsible for me doing today’s ride.  One of my FB “friends” said “here’s this ride – why not sign up”?  And after a little discussion behind the scenes, mostly to establish what the route and clientele were likely to be like, I figured “what the hell, why not?”.  Well I’m here this weekend (clearly) and I’m trying to get as many miles in as possible before I go on holiday and “taper” before Ride London so…yes, why not?

Team Sky car

Which is why at 9:30am this morning I was parking my massively outclassed Hyundai i10 at Hartwell Bristol Jaguar, and unloading my massively outclassed bike from it!  All the high end kit and clearly fit riders around made me properly nervous too, so it was really nice when a friendly face  - aka James S – turned up.  Apparently 50 of us had signed up beforehand, but only 29 turned up on the day which, given the nature of the route and the gorgeous sunshine, seems a shame  - for them, not me!  There wasn’t much faffing to be done.  I was already wearing as little kit as possible, so it was just a question of assembling the bike, putting gadgets on it, and stuffing my pockets with the usual stuff.  I could have had a coffee, but I didn’t want to be the one needing a comfort stop later, en route.  I was nervous enough to have to go to the (very plush) toilet twice as it was!

riders queuing

This isn’t really an event as such.  It’s more of an escorted club ride.  Escorted by a Team Sky Jaguar, bringing up the rear and loaded with such supplies as might be necessary, and led by a posse of whippets in Bath CC kit.  For the first time since the Mad March Hare garmin debacle, I’d actually downloaded the route, as there would be no signs, just a follow your leader principle, and looking at the principals involved, I figured I might be carrying the lanterne rouge home on my own and didn’t want to get lost.  Although most of this ride is on my patch, the bits going out of and into Bristol are unfamiliar territory to me.  Well, why would I choose to play with city traffic if I don’t have to?

After a short, we need to tell you this to cover our risk assessment arses, briefing, we headed off around 10:15, nominally in two groups.  James convinced me to go in the first group, on the basis that that way I could fall back to the second if necessary and, not having been brave enough to do likewise on the Tour of the South East, I was prepared to give it a go this time around.  Although I’d downloaded the route, I’d only really looked at it enough to see what the profile was.  Mostly flat with two main hills in the middle – Shipham and Cheddar Gorge.  Well, those hold no fear for me…other than the fear of being left behind of course!

It was fast.  It was hot.  I tried.  I got dropped a few times, but traffic lights, traffic, and obstacles of various nature combined to allow me to catch up.  Dropped was, of course, whenever the route went up at all.  I would drop like a stone on every incline, while the group surged relentlessly on, barely pausing to register that the gradient had changed!  How very TdF ;)  But that’s ok, and only to be expected, and a lot of the time I did get to ride in the group, suck wheel, enjoy the scenery and even have the odd chat, when breathing wasn’t too essential.  Out through Long Ashton, along the fun rolling road to Wraxall, through Nailsea, and then onto more familiar turf as I hit Dad’s patch, and the long flat road to Yatton.  I held my own, just, as we went through Congresbury and Langford…but I also knew what was coming.  After averaging 18.5mph up until then, the road was about to go up, and the game would be up, and my true colours duly revealed themselves as we climbed up from Churchill to Shipham.  I say we…very shortly it was just me…one of them did try to tow me for a bit but there’s no getting me up hills faster, I’m best left to it.  Besides, I was thinking it might be better to have the descent of Shipham Hill all to myself, all the better to enjoy it, as it were.

Hm.  I did.  Much fun.  But half way down I realised that something was up.  Something was rotten in the state of Denmark.  All was not well with the gearing world.  I had my granny gears, but top gear?  Nope.  In fact, not the top three, whatever ring I was in, however I tried to trick the cassette into them.  Not that this was currently a problem, with gravity on my side ‘n all, but it did mean I couldn’t shoot out of the bottom of the hill in my usual style.  Just as well, the junction was a bit busy, and I nearly overcooked it anyway!


I rocked up at the Edelweiss cafe, where everyone else was already parked up, with a complete lack of fanfare, better late than never, but a little concerned.  One of the other riders offered to have a look at the bike for me, and after some fiddling, established that the right gear cable was frayed, under the hood.  And having fiddled, the gears would turn out to now be off a bit too.  Marvellous.  And spare cables are not in your standard repair kit, so that cupboard was empty.  Ah well.  I went and drank coffee and considered how ironically near home I was…!  Still, my car was in Bristol, and that’s where I needed to get to…so that’s what I would have to do.  Get back, gently nursing the gears, hoping the cable wouldn’t snap altogether…though I checked the Team Sky car would get me back if necessary!

gorge two

The second group, all fragmented, arrived in dribs and drabs as I was mulling this over.  Having drunk coffee and used the loo, I decided I would head off before everyone else so as to do Cheddar Gorge at my speed, without them having to wait too long for me at the top, supposing they would wait at all.  Which went well.  For them and me.  Hey, it was probably good for them to officially have a rabbit to chase, right?  Sure, some of them caught me, sooner or later, sooner in James’ case, as him and a whippet raced for the top, but I wasn’t the last up, and going up went ok, and that’ll do me :)

Right then.  Time for some fun, namely the descent of Harptree Hill and then the fast flat testosterone fuelled section past Chew Valley Lake to Chew Stoke.  However it all got a bit too much for me eventually (maybe I ran out of testosterone?), and I dropped back a bit.  James kindly joined me which, as we all got more and more spread out, was a good thing.  Some behind us, some in front, but all out of sight as we semi-guessed our way back, and the Garmin failed to beep “off course” at us, thus proving we were doing a pretty good job of the same.  There were a couple more hills…aren’t there always?  I plodded, dealt with whatever gear the cable decided I was allowed to be in at any given time, tried not to stress it or me too much, and James patiently waited while I did.  Nay problem :).

Bristol was getting closer and closer, but that meant areas of Bristol that I’m totally unfamiliar with.  And here the Garmin came into its own.  Sure, we missed a turning off the A37, but it shortly made us aware of the fact, and we took the next turning and fixed it.  After that we followed the trail it showed us.  Not a detailed map, for sure, it’s only a Garmin 500, not one of the bigger fancier models, but it was enough of a trail to get us back to where we needed to be.  However near the end, where the route sort of looped on the way out, I was just about to convince myself we were about to start all over again when James knew where he was and where we needed to be from there, and one right turn at the lights later, we were back at the start.  Sometimes gadgets are good.  As is company – thanks James! :)

Cycling time: 3:00
Distance: 48.8 miles
Avg: 16.2 mph
ODO: 5928.6 miles

Did we ride it like pros?  Hm…well…not precisely, but it was nice to know that the broom wagon was there to sweep me up if that cable had broken, which made the return leg far more relaxed than it would have been otherwise.  I did have fun though, and keeping up was probably very good training!  The whippets were still there when we arrived, just, but headed off, presumably back to Bath, pdq.  The friendly staff at Jaguar were unperturbed by this sweaty lycra invasion and dug out lots of cold orange juice cartons and large glasses of cold water for us, which was totally what I needed.  It was really hot out there again today – as the salt crystals all over my kit and helmet straps demonstrate!  Oh, and we weren’t the last in, by a long shot.  ‘Rah!

PS: On the suggestion of one of the other riders, and after some interesting driving around Bristol, I took my bike into BW Cycling on the way back home, and a very lovely young man replaced my gear cable on the spot.  Also ‘rah! :)


She she she shine on

peacock sunrise

Yesterday’s ride was lovely.  An evening bimble in the setting sun.  I acquitted myself well enough, as we were taking it fairly easy, so there was enough in me to mean that I could really play silly b*ggers on the odd bits where I love to sprint.  And I do, when I can.  I am such a big kid *grin*.

Cycling time: 1:31
Distance: 24.5 miles
Avg: 16.1 mph
ODO: 5879.8 miles

In other news, despite considerable provocation, I didn’t crucify anyone today.  Who knew I was capable of such restraint?! ;)

Tea in the Sahara

I should probably have been riding up hills today.  Training ‘n all that.  But man, it was just too hot.  I couldn’t face it, not after how hard Burrington Combe was on Sunday.  So I stuck, mostly, to the flat, and actually it may be the one and only time I turn out to have been grateful for the wind.  Sure, slogging into it wasn’t much fun, but at least it cooled me down :)  I did throw in Winscombe Hill to round things off though, not sure why…maybe because I know it’s usually shady?  And I was as slow as ever, but I still got up it.  So there :P

life is indeed too short

As I cycled around Nyland there were some awesome scarecrow things going on, many of which were cycling-themed…and I could have captured them all, but I think this one sums it up.  It is, isn’t it?  Which kind of sums up why I stuck to doing what I wanted to do, s*d training plans and the like.   I sweated up a storm and drank a lot.  I spent two hours hurtling around in the sunshine, topping up my tan, and soothing my soul.  Flat quiet fast roads, blue skies…    I was zenned out for hours afterwards…as well as slightly zonked.  Cycling in the heat just takes it out of you in a way you’re not used to I think.  But in a good way :)

Cycling time: 1:57
Distance: 33.3 miles
Avg: 17.0 mph
ODO: 5846.5 miles

Just as well I didn’t have much to do this afternoon…  See that deckchair?  Now imagine me on it, with a cold lager (or two) to drink, Cyclist magazine to read, nowhere to be and nothing to be doing.  Followed by a restorative nap.   Yep, that’s how it went *grin*.  Good day, sunshine!  By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, I still love riding my bike :)

deckchair time

 PS: – told you my camera was fixed! ;)

duct tape camera