It’s ALL about the bike

Decisions, decisions. The choice of steed for a ride of this length can be a delicate matter. Not, however, in this case. I do have more than 1 bike to choose from (3 in fact, but one is a mountain bike and has no chance of being the chosen one) but one holds a special place in my heart. I’ll try to stop there before this goes a bit 50 shades of grey.

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It’s not the bike I’ve owned the longest, nor is it the most expensive but it has quickly become my favourite, just don’t tell the others.  It is a steel frame (Mangalloy HLE, to be precise) Peugeot PRO-Team bought for me by my dad for fifty quid from a house clearance shop, of all places, so we could do the inaugural L’Eroica Britannia.

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A fair bit of TLC (and a new saddle) later and it was ready for L’Eroica, which is a vintage sportive run for the first time in the UK this Year.  All bikes that enter must for fill certain criteria, including age, materials used and cable routing amongst many.

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The plan for this bike had been to use it for L’Eroica and then go from there.  As the miles began to pile up, I began to realise how much this bike suited me and it’s life plan went from winter hack/commuter bike to my go to bike for all my riding pleasures, so much so that my other road bike now resides in the attic.

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The down tube shifters have now gone, replaced by 9 speed Shimano Ultegra STIs, and as a concession to this ride I’ll be fitting my lightest wheels (a pair of Mavic Kysrium Equipes) in the hope it will help with those late night hills.

*Edit* There are some issues with this choice, the main one is that it only has one bottle cage, limiting the amount of fluids I can carry. It is also running 52/38 chainrings, which are fine in the most part, but I may be thankful for some lighter gears after 200+ miles. I still want to use the Peugeot, but I’m becoming less adamant it’s the best choice. The other option, a Specialized Secteur elite, is lighter, has a lower gear ratio, can take two bottle cages and it has mudguards fitted. But I really want to ride the Peugeot. Suddenly not so sure which to ride.

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A brief sporting history

Committed and dependable, rather than inspirational or a maverick, pretty much sums me up in a sporting context. I’ve always been into sports without being that “sporty”. I played Saturday and Sunday league football on and off until the first year a university, where I began Saturday and Sunday league drinking, and played school team rugby up until the age of 14 or so, when I changed schools and school rugby was no more.  In both football and (to a lesser extent) rugby I got games based on being a willing runner and fairly adaptable, by which I mean doing as I’m told without question.

20150202_192159Cycling hadn’t started as a competitive sport, or even really a sport for that matter. It was a means of getting to football training, or in to town to see mates.  It was also a holiday, going off with my dad cycle touring, during those golden years of never ending summer holidays, think the last year we did that was the summer I took my GCSEs. It later became a mode of transport when, living in rural Suffolk, public transport would not support shift work. It was also fun too.

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Cycling also took a hiatus during university, as did all sports after a short lived gym bunny fad died off two thirds of the way through the first year. I would still chase the odd ball around a green patch with some mates occasionally, but booze, fags and inactivity took its toll as my waist line ballooned and my weigh exploded.

20150202_192440This activity hibernation lasted for years, wasting my sporting peak down the boozer, until the birth of my first child.  With only one car, and a new born, I decided that I couldn’t really hijack the car five days a week, so I dusted off the old road bike.  It started off as a few times a week when my wife had plans, and then most days, then every day, then I began to look for extra hills to add on to the ride home. Slowly I became a cyclist, again.

It still wasn’t a sport, well not a competitive one anyway. That changed when I started running with a view to doing a triathlon.  This is when it, I, became more competitive.  This was in 2011, I had entered two triathlons, an early year sprint and an Olympic distance in September, and then a half marathon, under duress, in October. They all went well, in varied ways. I didn’t drown in the Sprint triathlon, in the Olympic distance triathlon (which was turned into a duathlon, run-bike-run, due to safety concerns) I lost out to a much fitter colleague by 2 poxy seconds, and bested my training partners in the half. The following year I returned to the sprint triathlon, finishing 52nd out of 281 starters.

In 2013, Laura and I entered the London Olympic triathlon, and I set myself a target of finishing in sub 2 hours 30 mins. This was my only triathlon of the year, and everything was building up to this. I ran a local 10km (target time of 45 minutes, finished in 45:07), I also ran two of the three relay legs of Man V Horse, a trail (near) marathon in the Brecon Beacons. I didn’t set any targets for this other than a) don’t get trampled by the cavalry, and b) actually there was no ‘b’. By the time the triathlon came round, I was in pretty good nick and ready to give the target time a good go. When I got out of the 1.5km swim and into T1 before Laura (who is a far better swimmer than me) I knew I had gone well in the water. Out on the bike I just got my head down and pushed hard, knowing it’s my strongest discipline. The run was a three lap affair with spectators most the way round, so nowhere to hide away and slacked off. I finished in 2hrs 26 minutes. Having told a fair few people my target, I was rather relieved my fitness could cash the cheques my ego was writing.

20140622_160036This year has been a little less competitive, doing races just to do them rather than hit a target. Well except Plymouth half marathon where I set myself a sub 1 hour 45 minute. I also entered an off-road duathlon which was dirty fun, as were the couple of mixed terrain run races I entered. Hilly, muddy and bloody hard work. But a good laugh. My most recent event was L’eroica Britannia, a 100 mile vintage bike ride up in the Peak District. I did this with my dad, bit of father-son bonding and reminiscing. And an excellent excuse for another bike.

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