Group Therapy

All three groups together

All three groups together

Our club organised their first Reliability Ride for August from Dumfries across to Bridge of Dee, Loch Ken then Corsock. It was a bit later than the traditional time in Spring but enjoyable nonetheless and different from our usual club runs.

We divided into 3 groups – 15, 17 and 19mph average over 55 miles. It’s definitely different riding in a group to a set time. Unlike club runs you suddenly become aware of a collective goal driving the pedals around which everyone in your group is responsible for – MAKING YOUR TIME!

Group One looking rather pleased with themselves!

Group One looking rather pleased with themselves!

I rode in the 19 group and I never felt we were on top of our average speed…it seemed to constantly elude us. It certainly made for an interesting ride and I found us talking more tactics than we ever would on a normal Saturday. We tried through and off, someone at the front riding tempo and, for the final section, two guys at the front drilling it. We certainly sounded like the crossest cycling group in Scotland at times with some choice expletives especially along the Loch Ken section.

anxiety eased - we made our time

anxiety eased – we made our time

Unbeknownst to us at the time, our anxiety was nothing compared to the 17 group who suffered 4 or 5 flats. This would be enough to have you heaving your bike over a dyke but it didn’t puncture their resolve or their motivation and they arrived with 17.7 on their garmins…chapeau. They had the biggest group which can bring its own problems.

f*** another puncture!

f*** another flat!

Cool as cucumbers were the 15 group who we passed on the Loch Ken. They seemed to be gliding along unworried and well organised.

We finished the official part of the ride at Pringles Pub in Corsock – great grub and I discovered people more fond of cake than myself. I enjoyed the day and the way that your own efforts are part of a bigger purpose.

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Preludes and Interludes

'...nothing better than a wandering cloud,I cannot miss my way...' Wordsworth

‘…nothing better than a wandering cloud,
I cannot miss my way…’ Wordsworth

When I started cycling, I joined some club members for a ride round The Lakes. If you haven’t been, try it sometime…your legs will forgive you, eventually!

Our recent icy blast has meant less road cycling for me. In years gone by I would be checking every forecast even the sky itself, for the beginnings of a thaw and when it didn’t appear, I’d ride nonetheless, worried my fitness would suffer.

Not so nowadays. Why go out on minus zero days when your body temperature rarely rises higher than the thermometer and with every blind bend on a country road you’re wondering if a thoughtless farmer has let his field flood onto the icy road? At those moments shivering hands want to clutch at the shifters but your cycling brain says keep rolling straight. For 3 hours your nose is cold. If there’s ice and snow so be it. I’ll enjoy the break and the rest.

It happened that during our cold snap, my wife had organised a hotel deal for a weekend break down at the Lakes. Great – a chance to immerse myself in the unique landscape of the Lakes National Park, laze about in the cafes and perhaps a bike shop or two.

A mile from Kendal

A mile from Kendal – ‘The world is too much with us…getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…’

We had a lovely time so well done for the plan Mrs McG. A word for our wives and partners, or as I call them – cycling widows, before I move on to the heart of this post. They put up with a lot from we cyclists, getting used to our disappearances for 3-6 hours and then sitting patiently as we say things like – ‘I was thinking it’s time I got a new frame..’

The trip down to the Lakes brought back some fond memories for me. One of my first cycling trips away was in the Lakes. Also I’ve had a few journeys down with cycling buddies wandering round the great cycle shops in the area, spending the day debating shimano versus campag..or carbon over titanium.

Keswick at sunset. here you can do two things...coffee shop or outdoor shop

Keswick at sunset. here you can do two things…coffee shop or outdoor shop

Although it’s only 60 miles approximately from South West Scotland you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Lakes are the same in terms of landscape. Actually they’re subtly different especially colour and contours. The lakes are darker with their brooding, impossible hills and passes. It was here Wordsworth wrote his greatest poetry and no wonder, the enigmas in the hills and sky are like another planet. The towns and villages seem tiny, sunken places, humbled by the neighbouring giants.

Colossus and leg breaker

Colossus and leg breaker

It must be 8 – 9 years since I rode in the Lakes. Some of the boys from Dumfries CC and myself made the journey south to take on some of the passes. I hadn’t been cycling seriously for long (in fact I was sporting a baseball hat under my cycling helmet instead of a proper cycling cap – newbie)! I think I went down there as though it were just another route. I couldn’t be more wrong. Cycling in the Lakes is a special experience. Ask the guys who’ve bravely entered the famous Fred Whitton Challenge. Some of the boys from our club have tried it and survived…just.

The Lakeland Pedlar - our rendezvous

The Lakeland Pedlar – our rendezvous

As usual for The Lakes, it was pouring rain the day of our ride. As it was so relentless we decided to cut the route to about 40 miles. The route included Honister and, as I remember, Newlands. One of the guys said to me as we approached Honister ‘Get it into the Granny, easiest cog. If you survive till the grid you’ll be alright.’

I wasn’t sure at this point if he was psyching me out. No. He was giving good advice. The foot of Honister is really brutal. I immediately found the granny next to useless and wished I’d had a great granny instead. We were weaving all over the road at about two or three mph, grinding the cranks like they were made of concrete. I got to the grid then fell over. It was a relief. I think someone was lying beside me. We got back on and then slowly wove up the remainder of the climb.

going up is brutal and coming down, terrifying!

going up is brutal and coming down, terrifying!

The reward at the top of Honister is a Slate Museum then a downhill of terrifying proportions! Downhills are my achilles heals on normal runs but this one was more like sky-diving! I remember being so terrified I unclipped half way down and used my cycling shoes as extra brakes.

Newlands was tough but not quite as brutal as I recall. Soaked to the skin we never made it to Hard Knott and Wrynose. Along with Kirkstone and Whinlatter these are the iconic names of the Lakes.

I was stopping the car every mile trying to capture it all

I was stopping the car every mile trying to capture it all

We rode back to our cars. Legs in bits but spirit unbowed, I had done something a little special and even years on the memories are vivid. Since that time I’ve been back a few times but hanging out in cycle shops is not too arduous.

In Arragon Cycles Penrith, obsessing on the Van Nicholas

In Arragon Cycles Penrith, obsessing on the Van Nicholas

Proof that a great bike like a Scott can be ruined by a hideous paint job!

Proof that a great bike like a Scott can be ruined by a hideous paint job!

The Lake District is legendary amongst cyclists and rightly so. Its passes are exacting tests of your legs and your will power – you’ll need to dig deep to survive. Oh and the great cycle shops will drain your wallet. One day I’ll go back again to cycle and reclaim those hills.

Postscript – One of the boys on our Forum just reminded me about the Lakeland Loop 2013…that could be the day to end my lengthy interlude from Wordsworth’s dark, exciting landscapes!

What Would Buddha Say?

We started our longer runs for the Autumn and Winter with club favourite – Samye Ling in Eskdalemuir. A great ride in which I inadvertently clocked up another Centurion.

Re-fuelled with cake and coffee beneath the Victory Stupa

Just because the summer has ended (much like it began with torrential showers) doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your bike. As always with a cycle run over to Eskdalemuir, the scenery and company make for a great day.

Including some early extra miles and the club run itself, I spent six hours on my bike. I’d say whole heartedly that was six hours of pure unbroken, enjoyment. You can’t say that about every sporting activity…or about many activities for that matter.

My cycling buddy, John Andrew and I decided to go for a spin in the early morning round Caerlaverock and Bankend. Initially this seemed a little mad as it was pretty cold. However the winds were very light and this meant areas of pure white mist shrouded the Nith as it opened out into the Solway. This with the soundtrack of wintering birds above us made the early rise seem worth it.

Early light with mist across the low road at Bankend

As I said earlier the Samye Ling run is a popular long run for our club and as I expected there was a great turn out for the start. The sun was beginning to warm us but was still low in the sky which made riding in a bunch of 30 quite tricky at times.

meeting point for the run to where east meets west

Blinking in the sun we hit the hills just outside Lockerbie and myself and a fellow cyclist managed to get ourselves detached from the group (always ask the patron of the peleton for permission to pee). Re-grouping is essential on longer runs and no one is trying to rip anyone’s legs off.

It was not far from here where we hit a minor directional hitch, namely getting from the Langholm road onto the roads for Eskdalemuir. To cut a long story short, it involved a small place called Corrie. We ended up on the long, undulating but nonetheless spectacular road into Langholm. Someone joked that had we taken any further detours we might end up in the actual Corrie, the fictional one in Weatherfield, Manchester!

Following the road from Langholm to Eskdalemuir brought back some great memories of the excellent Ken Laidlaw Sportive which travels through that area. Our detour quickly became irrelevant amongst the hills and rivers which surround you as you cycle and chat.

With a mile or so to the Samye Ling centre I tried a cheeky jump on the group claiming I wanted my soup first. I was quickly chased down – never kid a cyclist about his soup and cake.

As I’ve said in a previous blog, Samye Ling is a fascinating incongruity. It’s brightly painted stupas, cloutie tree and flags sit bravely in the Scottish countryside. It all seems to work together somehow.

Gary and Brian – taking a break with a coffee

Back on the road we swept down through Boreland and then onwards towards Lockerbie. After the lumpy hills around Banks Hill, getting the chance to spin your legs freely for 10 miles was a great feeling.

Murray (centre) looking a little like a Mafia Cycling Don with the shades

By the time we reached Millhousebridge a couple of guys had cramped up a little but being close to home on roads you know well, lifts the morale and we managed to keep a steady pace in the sunshine as we rolled through Templand.

Birthday boy Gordon, his wife Gill and my old cycling mucker, Ian Harkness – great to see him back into the long miles and at the centre of the micky taking!

It always amazes me with club cyclists how after 80 – 90 miles in their legs they’re still game for a 30. There were several of these as we neared Dumfries, so we finished the ride with some leading out and sprinting shenanigans.

Alison and Jim with Mikey (big miles) in the background

Sprinting into Locharbriggs on the outskirts of Dumfries meant the day was drawing to a close. The detour meant I’d completed 104 miles. I wasn’t complaining. It won’t be long till winter (will it be snow or storms this year?) so I would easily have cycled another six hours that day for the pleasure it brought.

My early morning buddy, John A. with Andrew beside him thinking about more caffeine perhaps?