New Wheels

(just not of the sort you might be expecting - well it does say 'mostly' motorcycles at the top, not 'only')

Strangely, having spent eight weeks in the US, travelling by motorcycle, truck, train, and car, I returned home really fired up about cycling.  The fact my last few days were spent in Portland, the self proclaimed "America's bicycle capital" contributed somewhat, but the thought actually originated somewhere back on the East Coast in the first week of the trip.

After a couple of weeks getting back into the swing of things, I dug out my ancient Claude Butler rigid mountain bike (which I've had since I was 16) from the back of the shed, stuck some slick tyres on it, and started riding the 15 miles (each way) to work and back as often as my legs and motivation could manage - which typically turned out to be twice a week.  I persisted until mid-September when it started getting a bit gloomy at 7:30am - I feel a bit too vulnerable on some of the country roads around here in the dark - then went back to using the Tenere every day.

The hybridised (bastardised?) MTB worked pretty well, but I had the yearning for something a bit faster - I could just about get the average speed into the mid-16s (mph), and thus the time down to about 55 minutes, but wasn't getting any further on MTB gearing and fat tyres.

I started looking at cyclocross bikes after a friend of mine got really into CX racing.  The idea appeals to the same part of me that thinks racing the Tenere is a good idea - it's not really made for serious dirt-riding compared to a smaller enduro bike, but it can cope with a lot, while being a lot better between the trails or for riding to work on.  A CX bike appears to me to have exactly the same attributes compared to a mountain bike.

The downside is that, while there are some very cheap new road bikes out there, the bottom end of the more niche CX market is about twice the price, and not really something I was going to be able to afford for a while after emptying my bank account into the US trip.  So I didn't really have any serious intentions of buying one. Then I happened to mention this to the aforementioned friend, who in turn happened to mention that, having upgraded to a more 'serious' bike for racing, his old Specialized Tricross had been relegated to winter hack duty, but that he would be prepared to part with it for a decent price.

A few weeks later, last weekend, I managed to pick it up, taking advantage of a weekend where we were visiting other friends to avoid making a special trip from Derby to South Wales.  I got it back home late on Sunday night, excited to have a new toy to play with, but with no opportunity to take it for a ride - at work all week, and dark in the evenings.  Then I noticed during the week that, with the clocks going back, it's now light again when I go to work.  That means it's pitch black when I normally leave, but I finish early on Fridays - and therefore could do both journeys in daylight.

So today I gave it its first outing, during which I mostly learnt that, while the bike may in theory be faster, the loss of fitness from not cycling for seven weeks more than cancels it out.  I also learnt that not eating enough lunch because the sandwich van didn't turn up to the office is A Bad Thing when you have to cycle 15 miles home in driving rain - I was even slower than on the outward leg, then completely ran out of energy about three miles from home.  Fortunately, there was cake when I eventually wobbled through the front door.

Better get some weekend winter training routes planned out.

"Why does it always rain on me, is it because I've gone out in public wearing man-tights?"

Some Nerdiness:

As of today, I have been to work 90 times since I got back from the US.  That breaks down as 18 times by bicycle, 71 times by motorcycle, and once in the truck.  The latter was in my first week back, and was such a good reminder of why commuting into a city on four wheels is stupid that I have not repeated it.  

My cycling frequency therefore stands at exactly 20%, or once a week on average.  It reached a high of 33% some time in September before it started getting dark at either end of the day.  It will decline further over the winter, but I'm interested to see how high I can get the whole-year average (to the end of June 2014).