Author Topic: Velosolo Club


« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2015 »
There's no good reason to ride without music, unless you particularly like the sound of passing traffic, or for those of us who live in the country, nature. It's well known that birds only sing out of sheer boredom.

The worst side effect of taking your earphones off, apart from showcasing any tinnitus, is the enhanced ability to hear noises your bike shouldn't be making. Unfortunately, sometimes these ticks and creaks and wails happen in the pauses separating tracks, and are sufficiently distracting to drain pleasure from the next movement. It doesn't matter if you're less than sensible with the volume. A loud enough mechanical chorus will not be denied an audience, even slipping between notes to create disharmony. Eventually it can become necessary to take the extreme measure of earphone removal to help diagnose the problem then see if you've fixed it.

I have completed a club run for the express purpose of determining if my recent efforts (seatpost collar and rear wheel Q/R skewer replaced) to solve the latest riddle (intermittent ticking) worked. A nocturne seemed the way to go. Due to pressure by the powerful pie chart industry, I've illustrated the data acquired from this "quiet riot ride" thus:

Dedicated to John "Everything we do is music" Cage
I see the first video has been taken off YouTube because reproducing the sound of silence was a copyright violation


The Last of England
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2016 »
The Velosolo Club co-ordinating committee (needless to say I wear multiple hats to form a quorum) rarely convenes; the last time was to discuss the impact of Brexit on the club ("nil"). Productivity and morale are vastly improved by skipping meetings. Not long ago it was discovered that the secretary had signed up to a group ride from Ashford to Rye. Although participation in non-solo rides clearly isn't prohibited under the charter, it requires a unanimous vote. After an emergency session, this was obtained.

Ashford is chiefly known for its discount designer outlet stores

tattoo parlours [citation needed]

and of course, high speed rail service to the continent.

Of chief interest, however, was removing ourselves from Ashford. Here is footage captured by a low-flying drone.

The first sign that we were in countryside proper was a stockpile of rabbit food.

We contemplated bivouacking at the Royal Military Canal, aka Mr Pitt's Ditch. Built to aid in the defense of the realm against 5'6" of aggressive Frenchman

this swan bait is "the third longest defensive monument in the British Isles after Hadrian’s Wall and Offa’s Dyke."


Rations were sourced in Dungeoness, a deliberate misspelling and cuspate foreland, incidentally my new word for the day. Here you'll find Derek Jarman's celebrated flotsam and shingle garden. (I missed it.)

We turned part of a beer garden into a bike park. Some took security more seriously than others, eschewing lock for anchor.

I catalogued tattoos I'd been following as they danced on the pedals.

click for closeup

and went on safari.

that tickle in your nose before you sneeze...

Next was the nuclear power station. It needs to suck up and spit out 100 million litres of water an hour to keep the headland from glowing.

Nearby is a structure that glows on purpose.

Geometers ('anglers', informally) take note: an attractive venue for party-goers who dig an isosceles vibe. The bollard in the background to the left is the old lighthouse, literally eclipsed by the power station.

This being the coast, there was a boat or two

industrial grade shingle

and of course...

I didn't take any pictures in Rye. Here's Henry James, who lived there:

see his tattoo

This was billed as a Cinque Port ride. We got deux: New Romney, as was before its harbour was silted up by outrageous EU decree, and Rye.

"On his Rural Rides of 1823 William Cobbett dismissed the canal as a great military folly and a waste of public money; he was much more impressed by the Romney Marsh sheep."

A swain was sighted but drifted deceptively quickly out of shot.

Other than a wistful reminder of a certain special home secretary, which I refuse to remove out of principle, my skin is devoid of ink unless there's been an uncapped ballpoint.

James wrote The Turn of the Screw in Lamb House, owned by the National Trust. Contrary to popular belief you don't have to own a beige jumper to join.

That was the 2nd eschewing in this thread.


Singing in the rain
« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2017 »
I don't go outside my comfort zone very often. Give me a route I've done a thousand times so I can fly on auto-pilot; looking out the windows, sure, but mostly thinking about anything other than cycling. It's not boring, it's… comfortable.

The first day of a new year demands ride time. The forecast appeared to offer a dry slot opening briefly in the afternoon, so I went for it. About halfway through, atop Jack's Hill, the slot closed after toying with me for a few miles.

I don't use waterproofs anymore. I'm simply not interested in launching myself into the rain. Those mudguards are for wet roads but dry skies. I wear a fleece. It dries almost as soon as something as outrageous as raindrops hit it, provided they aren't too fat. My shorts aren't quite as carefree, but can hold out for a little while before getting clammy. It's my shoes that suffer. If there's a quality I admire in a shoe, it's – you guessed it – comfort. Historically I am satisfied with what I have until it's in tatters and then some.

Were this a fleeting shower I probably would've holed up in the church and skimmed the diocese bulletins or, heaven forbid, the massive bible anchoring the lecturn on this mortal earth. But it looked to be settled into the horizon, so I heaved a sigh and carried on.

"Where nature doesn't provide..." Taking my own advice

I was going to write that there are five stages of riding in the rain, if only because the Kübler-Ross model is such a reliable trope, but there were only two: denial and acceptance. Denial didn't last long, even a Doubting Thomas knows he's getting wet, then wetter. Acceptance came quickly. It's only rain. In fact it kind of feels nice. And it did. I used the opportunity to wisely inform myelf that's it's good to go outside your comfort zone once in a while, even as gentle an immersion as this.

As I picked up speed going down the long hill, collecting dampness, my personal zoning committee grew restive. I flirted briefly with disgust, a stage I've just made up, but didn't put any real effort into getting miserable. My earphones were still working fine, and the sandwich bag for my ipod – the one concession I make to adverse local weather conditions like sweat – was doing its job. Music is a very effective mood enhancer. To tip the balance into good cheer, I passed a couple of cyclists stalled under the boughs of a Chinese water torture tree (they're all Chinese water torture trees). Flagrant stoicism spills more endorphins into the bloodstream.

Home stretch, high on the high street. Happy new year, bitch, I channelled Jesse. (Well, I didn't then, but am now, due to residual Breaking Bad references in my system.) As we break in a new calendar, it's good to be singing in the rain, looking forward to dancing on my pedals in the sun.


Velosolo math
« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2017 »
Club run cut short yesterday. Puncture. Filthy bike. Wimp.

I had just passed a woman I know from the road, a fellow cyclist in this land of so few except weekenders, walking down the hill I was honking up. At the summit I realised the air was abandoning my rear tyre. Only two miles home, so decided to turn around and walk it in preference to getting my hands and probably clothes dirty. Nice day for it.

Slow leak turns out to be not so slow after all. “Wait!” I want to yell to the woman now a few hundred meters ahead of me. I know approximately where she lives, hope she’ll allow my bike shelter in her garage while I hoof it back for the car. Shoulder my steed (a cowboy carrying his lame horse to the ranch?) and make an ungainly run for it. Catch her just as she’s approaching her front door.

Breathless request follows. Quickly accepted. I half jog half walk home. Drive back, have a nice chat with Valerie, it turns out her name is. Has never owned a car lo these 70 (wild guess) years on earth.

As I cross the street to my nearby car to load the bike in, I can sense that the people who apparently usually park there, having just arrived home, are radiating disapproval at the effrontery of the invasion of ‘their' space. I apologise and say I’ll be gone in a tick. Forgiveness is not forthcoming. Ah well. + Friend - enemy = nil for the day?


Velosolo Club
« Reply #16 on: December 06, 2017 »
Yesterday my chapter of the club adopted a non-binding helmet resolution, until those straps were fastened and I shoved off, at which point it became very binding indeed, there being no interest in turning it into a plant hanger on my handlebars down the road.

This was the first time I’ve worn a helmet in 17 years. Cicadas will be wondering what the fuss is about. Impressions:

– It kept my head warm. I’ve got hair for that, so a little too warm. This was a chilly afternoon in December; wearing one of these in the summer doesn’t bear thinking about.

– After my recent off, which prompted this experiment, I will admit that it gave me a feeling of reassurance. As dusk deepened, the power of the talisman crouched on my head slowly evaporated. Hilly rides on badly dressed lanes at suboptimal scanning resolution always make me cautious anyway.
– The straps actually didn’t bother me as much as I thought they would. They weren’t cinched tight enough to garrote, at any rate.

At one point I swept by Valerie from the post above, who regularly transports herself in what looks like rigid terror, helmeted obviously, bike equipped with a horizontal give-cyclists-room stick with a reflector on it (I’m most definitely not poking fun), and wondered if she even recognised me.

I felt self-conscious. Truly, almost nobody cares if I wear a lid or not, though doubtless a few observers of my regular club runs tut at my normally hairfree ways. Heaven only knows how many Darwin Awards I’ve been given by the safety vest wearing village speed monitors as I cruise past bare headed, drably dressed, no-handed (now that’s just taking the piss), ears sprouting music vines…

Special note: I wanted so badly to add a picture of the Indiana Jones hat grab, with a helmet instead. Couldn't pull it off.


Velosolo Club
« Reply #17 on: December 07, 2017 »

I got the helmet out for a club run, mindful of the film of chaos the gales had left on the roads. Then I reconsidered and set it aside, not wanting to turn it into the source of the confidence I still needed to reclaim.

It turns out to have been my first ride since the off that I felt truly relaxed and happy. I already knew a helmet could be an article of faith; who knew it could be a bandage.


Velosolo Club
« Reply #18 on: December 10, 2017 »
The latest club run was dubbed the Rightmove Ride. It involved visiting houses which got more than a passing glance in our doomed search to move out of rented accommodation.

The first one on the itinerary is a few miles down the road from us, in a small commuter village. Honestly we aren’t even considering this, for several reasons, including that the price is so absurd. As if that distinguishes it from any of the others. I only stopped by to get my eyes rolling:

It’s the second Sky dish from the right. Price: £280,000 (I’m going to be including all the zeroes). Last sold in November 2013 for £165,000. Decent salary for a house.

The next village on the itinerary features this ivy-covered barely-detached "well presented" mortgage guzzler wedged into the uncomfortably close close on Acorn Way, naturally branching off Great Oak. It's on @ £325,000, which is too much for the likes of us, but it's been on the market for some time now, they might be willing to consider cheeky offers on their cheeky asking price. As if.

On the nearby main road is this, for £220,000, which is still way too much for what it is, but less of a budget buster:

Street parking only. Next.

£275,000 will buy this semi-d(eluded), which has had a refurb in a sorry attempt to justify the massive profit margin desired. Not sure if that included the fence to keep the neighours at bay.

Also no parking.

Ah, here's a bungalow in a neighbourhood in which ball playing has never been an issue. We like bungalows, especially ones that have been languishing in the listings:

But what's this in the back? Time to call Gardeners’ Question Time?

We'd rather take the £325,000 we don't have and spend it on something offering less in the way of Japanese Knotweed. How about this one down the lanes?

Grade II listed. Knotweed might be preferable.

Notice what’s been missing? Outstanding Natural Beauty, which we live in an official Area of. Sure, it may be on the doorstep, but we're used to having it in our living room.

As renters, we live in what you might call the deceptively cheap seats. I still remember how upon moving down to this part of East Sussex an estate agent told us we couldn’t afford “the Sussex lifestyle” (she didn’t mean Hastings, which she must have felt was reassuringly distant). She wasn’t so gauche as to actually accuse us of relative poverty, but it was clear from our budget, which hasn’t changed much even as the landscape on Rightmove has.

You know who can afford the Sussex lifestyle, besides London downsizers and locals who got here first? Rock-n-rollers.

That’s Roger Daltry’s pad, which I finally located.

The house we found ourselves in used to belong to a gentleman who had a lot more money than a pinball wizard, but he’s dead now. Still has a nice view.

It has since passed on to a trust. There's actually an agricultural tie on it, which nobody told us about – thus we took up residence in an unintentional lie. Rescuing sheep from fences from time to time doesn’t qualify as agricultural employment. We only learned of the tie recently; also of the fact that as long-time occupiers it no longer applies to us.

We’d like to live the rest of our lives here, and if we find a magical money tree, maybe we will. Meanwhile we’ve belatedly started to look for something a little less rent increasey. We missed the boat, thanks in part to the savings trap which has been known to ensnare poor fools lacking conventional wisdom.


Coming to the end of the ride now. This 2 bedroom bungalow can be ours for £350,000-375,000,

which as I may have intimated we don't have, so never mind. Freeman Forman, you're the bane of my existence.

The only properties which regularly appear at prices in our budget range are Home Wise teasers, park homes, and flats. Home Wise can sod off, park homes are not even technically houses, and leaseholds are as inviting as a certain herbaceous perennial plant. A nearby block of flats offers the aquatic lifestyle,

but we’ve already got that.

Or did, until the neighbours rescinded our pool pass because they ran out of money to maintain the thing. I guess we're all feeling the pinch.

Well, that’s the end of the wrongmove ride. Time to head home. Where the heart is.


brain bucket bingo
« Reply #19 on: June 23, 2018 »
"You're brave not to wear a helmet," said the cyclist during our brief encounter while scaling my usual hill. "I've crashed three times. It saved my life."

Served up by my ipod on the way back down: something fortunately not apropos.


The final frontier
« Reply #20 on: November 03, 2018 »

casual wear

Recently I violated Club protocol by advertising for volunteers to join me on jaunts around the local area, taking care not to inform them of their possible medicinal qualities. The result was underwhelming: 1 interested party. There was enough information about him online that I quickly judged him someone I'd rather avoid, instead of go out of my way to meet up with. His crime? Using London house sale money to help further inflate the market in these parts.

We've got quite enough greedheads as it is without importing enablers.

Until the background check it hadn't even occurred to me that I have a litmus test. It might be wise to make a list, to avoid future awkwardness. This isn't in any particular order, unless you count numerical:

1. No fixies. The non-freewheeling drivetrain attracts far too many deplorables. I've only seen one since moving down here, though people say they're going down to London, so I'm no longer sure which way is up, compass-wise, assuming north is still north. I don't think he was deplorable, but can't take that chance.

2. No fancy carbon-fibre bikes. Horses for courses sure, but does that mean the horse has to be ugly? If you can't shoot it, at least keep it out of my line of sight. I will adjudicate what's fancy and/or ugly in a fair and responsible way.

3. Absolutely no disc brakes. I'm sorry, they make me nervous. I've heard they can slice a man in two.

4. Must dress conservatively. That means no distracting logos (decided on a case by case basis) or excessively aerodynamic sunglasses.

5. Any occupation is fine, except estate agent.

This should really go without saying.

6. If we stop long enough for lunch, no pictures of your food, especially sausages, to share on social media.

7. Don't yell "on your left!" or "on your right!" I don't know what these things mean in the heat of the moment.

8. There will be a political questionnaire. I don't care what your politics are, I just like asking questions. Note however if they turn out to be odious, there will be consequences.

9. Be willing to post about rides on this site. Listen, I know it seems pointless spending potentially valuable time composing interesting and witty stories that probably nobody except me is going to read. What am I, chopped liver?

10. Must have a sense of humour verifiable outside peer group. This is sufficiently far down the list it shouldn't be confused with an ad on Plenty of Fish. Still, life is too short to be waiting for a candidate to completely change his or her personality.

11. Obligatory Spinal Tap reference (here's another for good measure). As anybody woke will tell you, not funny. Those things hurt.

It strikes me that if I adhere faithfully to the principles laid out above, I’m destined to continue my solo career.


A death in the afternoon
« Reply #21 on: November 05, 2018 »
There's a branch hanging low over the road. It's the same one I saw and easily avoided two days ago, wondering at the time if I should be a good citizen and try to bring it down. Guess I figured that somebody else always takes care of these things. I also had a vague notion that no good deed goes unpunished; it was big, so I could hurt myself, and on a blind bend, all the better to be hit by an inattentive motorist.

This afternoon I’m wool-gathering

barbed wire is not recommended for this

so only notice it just as it’s about to bring me down. I duck but it still grazes the top of my head. I think right, got to do something about this, and so set the bike against the hedge and approach the broken limb.

It's about 10 feet long. My first tug tells me it’s holding on tight. I then take it by its arms and we do a twirling dance. A few twists and it’s off. I heave it over the hedge, then get back on the bike.

A deer suddenly appears up ahead.

Then another and another. Fastest pay it forward ever? If I hadn't stopped, we could’ve been meeting for our own dance. (Not sure about the timing, but I’m going with it anyway, for the sake of this post.)

A few miles later there’s another one, broken neck turning him into a swan in death. Bloody hell. I almost feel like paparazzo snapping a dead Diana.

What with me, my bike, and a dead deer on the side of the road,

soon we have company. A man with a van pulls over, gets out, and promptly informs me "He's alive." I tell him I really don't think so. "But his chest is moving." I would suggest the flies swirling around are giving the illusion of motion, but he's already put his hand on its ribs. "I guess not," he finally says, then heads off with a little wave.

Closer to home I meet a small herd of cows clomping down the lane. They stall as they approach me. Nothing the farmer shouts changes their minds, so he puts them in reverse for me to go by. He thanks me for waiting, suggests they must have been frightened by my wheels. It's a cheap wheelset, I have to agree, but hasn't given me problems.


The unintended gauntlet
« Reply #22 on: March 17, 2019 »
The Club officially frowns on competition. It is felt that an emphasis on the sportier side of cycling is not conducive to the relaxed atmosphere, with guilt by association to drugs scandals and worryingly wattage-inducing enhancements creeping into the public bike domain

And yet.

I am considered, at least in my household, to be KOM title holder of Kings Hill Road in Burwash. This despite not being jacked into that cyclist supercomputer (I don’t even use the little ones that go on the handlebars). It is felt that I hold this title by virtue of the fact that nobody is allowed to beat me up it.

While “nobody” is admittedly a small sampling given that I run into relatively few of our kind around here, and does not include those who have indeed reached the top first on certain rare occasions, this is does not detract from the royal mystique which would be my due were I not republican.

This is how it usually goes:

• If cyclist is spotted ahead of me, simply take note of whether the gap is closing. If so, go for it: victory is almost certainly assured.

• If cyclist is noticed behind me, this becomes a good time to have a swig of water: the better to gauge the potential usurper’s fitness level. Only amateurs kick it into high gear before knowing this crucial bit of information. Given that I have ascended this hill literally thousands of times now, I know exactly when to press my advantage.

During the expected denouement, it is polite to acknowledge the vanquished. It is not unusual at this point for the more observant to laud me for riding a fixed gear, which of course I correct.

• Relax, hoping I haven’t triggered exercise-induced asthma.

Today’s ride brought the unexpected: another cyclist passed me as we were nearing the summit. He appeared out of thin air, which surely wasn’t a good sign. I had the reserves to sail by him before we hit the peak, though he did slightly take the wind out those sails by cruising past once we had plateaued. He remained silent to my innocuous sally as I passed.

If it please m’lord, I often chide myself over my victories, granting that my opponents may be halfway through a century while my daily rides are considerably more modest. Who knows where this guy had come from, or where he was going, besides the record books.

Fortunately the road ahead was to provide a more satisfying encounter.

Another hill, much less lofty but of the sting-in-the-tail variety. On the lower slopes I was stopped anyway, to have a drink, when I heard a cheerful trio chatting about base layers. “Mind if I hang on to you guys?” I asked the tail-end-by-a-few-feet-Charlie. Permission was cheerfully granted.

They were fit and lithe to the point I felt comparatively Rubenesque, but I reckoned I could take them. Sure enough, as we approached the sting, they slowed to a satisfying crawl. Still, I bided my time, to be absolutely sure: ignominy in a group setting was not my goal here.

It got steeper, they got slower, I grew surer. I made my move. Victory was sweeted when one of them mentioned my lack of gears, to which another observed that it didn't seem to be slowing me down, or praise to that effect; I don't remember exactly, I was bathing in the afterglow.

It didn't even set off a coughing fit.