Sunday, 30 October 2011

Thats good to know.....

As a commuter having ridden the very same route for 127 consecutive (working) days, thats 254 rides too and forth on the same route, I like to think I am the master of my route. I like to believe there is no one faster over my distance on my terrain (male pride), now I'm fitter and my legs stronger than they've ever been I recon thats not too bad a claim right? Wrong.

That age old saying that there is always someone bigger and stronger just round the corner always seems to ring true. In my case there is this one rider who always beasts me and I do mean always. He rides a bike similar to mine, its a road bike made of aluminum with full mudguards so he appears to have no mechanical advantage (Yes I've googled it, its a Quest The blue one at the bottom if you must know) but the guy is super fit and always in the tucked position no mater what part of the route he's on when I see him.

Initially when I started commuting I was ok with him passing me as he was clearly fitter than I but as I have started to pick up pace and fittness my regular beastings were starting to bother me more and more. I can confidently say I am able to pass all riders on my route regardless of bike, it's especially pleasing beating other road bike riders, I like to wait for a climb as I do like a climb which most regular riders don't.

Anyway the only way I was happy (well sort of) for this to continue was for me to let myself believe this guy was a racer, amateur whatever, just a racer of sorts. Couldn't have it any other way, I just couldn't get close to this guy, I had tried in vain to keep up on a number of occasions notably on a flat part of my commute, he passed me, I accelerated and dropped of hitting 24mph. 24mph!!! I couldn't hold that speed, jeezzz.

I've spoken to the guy before at a set of traffic lights, he works shifts at City airport in central london and lives in Bracknell, so not only a further commute but after a 12 hour shift too. Tosser. The shifts explain why I don't see him in the AM, getting beasted before work may just have killed my will to actually do this. His route from Staines to Bracknell is identical to mine so I have nowhere to hide, just take the beating.

So, I haven't seen the guy in a while (thankfully) and just kept plodding away on my commute pretending to race all those before me in preperation for the enevitable. Friday was the day.

On the route home from work on a slight ascent past Virginia Water he passed me, 'shit there he is', for the first time ever I accelerated and stayed with him (to my astonishment. I wasn't in his wheel incase you were wondering) until the set of lights by Piccolino. I sparked up a convo 'jesus mate I'm mullered just trying to stay with you, tell me you race'. 'Ah this is just a run out for me, I'm tappering down as its the end of the season', my initial thoughts to that comment were 'HELL YEAH HE'S AN AMATEUR RACER', the rest of the conversation pails into insignificance. Now it was ON.

I simply had to stay with him for as long as I could to test myself against his speed. I managed to stay with him about 10ft in front for about 4 miles (Whoop Whoop) before he gradually started to pull away, the only places I felt I gained on him were the climbs (this is my opinion mind).

I kept chasing him all the way until our routes changed. He was always in sight but not as close as I'd have liked.  BUT HE WAS ALWAYS IN SIGHT!!! Now this changes everything. I posted a PB chasing that guy home, I wasn't as mullered as I'd have imagined having put so much effort into the chase.

Now my commute is a training ride with only one goal. No one is unbeatable right?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Must dab brakes, must dab brakes

And suddenly I remember why I titled this blog as I did, because rain drops and rim brakes just don't work together.

Unless of course you know how to use both. The rain this morning reminded me of the near miss I had that prompted the thought and eventually the name. Prior to my starting commuting I hadn't really ridden a bike for a while and certainly not in the rain, fair weather MTBer that was me.

On a day not too disimilar to this one on my commute to work in the pissing rain......I was riding my standard route in my standard way 'all killer no filler', please bare in mind I do no pre ride checks (well 'did', thats since changed) never felt the need 'if it ain't broke don't fix it', hmmn. Anyway so there I am climbing the short rise over the railway which has a roundabout on the base of the descent, minding my own business trying to give the impression the rise didn't hurt.

As I make my way down the descent to the roundabout, I stick my arm out to signal my intention to go right (see car drivers, I let you know where I plan on going in advance....), this obviously leaves me with only one hand covering the brakes as the roundabout looms 'not a problem', well not when its dry. It suddenly dawned on me that I wasn't slowing, at all. I applied both brakes and still nothing, by this point I was quite aware I was carrying too much speed heading for the roundabout but it's cool because no one goes straight on when coming from the right at this time in the morning.

WRONG, shit that car is going to hit me and there is nothing I can do about it because like a chump I didn't plan for this or the affect the weather would have on my braking, or lack there of. Thankfully, as panic set in the car driver going straight on at the roundabout was watching my dumb ass as I tried to stop myself and envisaging a collision, he stopped to let me pass. At least one of us was awake that morning.

So now I dab my brakes fairly frequently when the weather is pants, just to make sure they are working, after all raindropsandrimbrakes don't mix, right!

Fairly aware that my last 2 posts are about me narrowly missing cars, thankfully these events didn't happen over the course of 2 days. Hopefully going forward as I learn to actually ride a bike these posts will become less frequent.

Here's to hope.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Near miss....

I nearly ate bonnet last week.....

The oncoming driver simply couldn’t see me, it was a difficult situation as a car had pulled out from the (B383) on the right, right in front of me as I travelled east on the A329 London Road and then turned left onto Buckhurst road. There was an oncoming car facing west waiting to go right onto Buckhurst Road (so following the car that went left).

In Hindsight I could have backed off leaving enough space to be visable, I obviously didn't do this (the car should have waited before pulling out in my opinion)....I kept my speed and was too close to the car hence why the oncoming car turning couldn’t see me.

It was very close BUT not the turning drivers fault as he simply couldn’t see me. I needed to take some of the blame in this instance and thats my point, its all about what you can influence, if i’d have hung back and reduced my speed the whole situation could have been avoided. It’s about being clever enough to position yourself correctly in every situation.

Amazing what a difference our split second decisions can make...

Lesson learnt, no blood spilt.

As a cyclist there are elements of potential accidents that you can influence as in this case. I could easily have blamed the driver that pulled out in front of me but if there had been a collision that driver would have been long gone and ignorant to it. It seems to be commonplace that cyclist aren't taken into consideration when a car driver considers pulling out onto a main road, your simply not part of the equation until its too late.

I’m just lucky the westward facing driver saw me when he did, if he wasn’t looking directly in front of his own car i would have been over the bonnet and off the bike.

I am now uber aware of everything around me and every potential situation when I approach junctions especially ones like this....I've also purchased some LED's for my lid to make me more visible when stuck behind a car. Every cloud eh?!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

WHAT a freaking Jacket...

WHAT a freaking Jacket......

Need a decent jacket for your winter commute? Look no further than this awesome bit of kit, the Altura Night Vision EVO jacket RRP £100 but you can find a bargain if you look.

I bought mine from DiscountCylesDirect for £69. I read soooo many reviews on this jacket from real world users and pretty much 98% would recommend it. A few nobs mentioned they felt the jacket was 'boil in the bag hot', I found this amusing as the jacket is waterproof and windproof, what do you expect??!! This is a winter jacket not an autumn jacket....

I wore mine this morning at 1 degree with only a base layer underneath, the perfect jacket for cold tempratures. The wooly neck lining helps keep your (erm) neck toasty warm and stops the cold breeze heading southward.  The jacket is completely waterproof including the zips, with adjustable cuffs (bonus).

I really can't praise this jacket enough, though I would say you may need to tighten the waist drawstrings slightly as I found without doing so the jacket can ride up at the front but this is probably because I'm just so freaking fast on the bike, so don't worry too much.

The reflective strips and lettering stand out a treat you even get a free flashing red LED which attaches to a velcro patch on the rear of the jacket. Nice Touch that.

Simply the best winter jacket availible at £70.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Damn, the cardinal sin commited.....I just kept riding.

Riding to work this morning I clocked an upturned bike just beyond a small wall I was passing, clearly another cyclist with a mechanical. In that split second I made the decision to keep on riding pretending I'd not seen the cyclist (cause i'm nice like that), unfortunately the rider walked from behind the wall and we made eye contact.

Not so much of a problem if I could just keep riding but ow no, the poxy traffic lights went red just 10 meters from the striken cyclist. By this point I couldn't turn back, damage done, anyway it's cold and I'm in a rush right, just keep looking forward...

I do carry tools with me, always have, 2 spare tubes, tyre leavers, a multi tool and a pump, silly to leave home without that right. I thought 'ah well, that dude should have his spares like me'. cocky twat. I don't even know if I had the tools to help but thats missing the point.

In hindsight I wish i'd stopped to offer assistance even if I couldn't as thats all we want in our moment of need, a little assistance. Being a fellow cyclist i'm ashamed to have kept riding and just hope he doesn't cycle past me when my chain's snapped, now thats a tool I don't carry....

Next rider down and I'm stopping to help, regardless then the happy/sad balance will be restored.

So if you look like a fat Mika and had a mechanical on the A30 at around 7:50am and by some miracle happen to be reading this 'sorry mate'.

 There's more to this cycling lark than just pushin pedals......

The Profile

Yesterday I posted the route, today the profile of my route. 

On the left is my starting point in Bracknell, Berkshire, on the right my finishing point in Staines, Middlesex.

As you can see the profile explains my speed on the way to work and the lack of on the way home (i'm working on it), 545ft of climbing. Not a huge amount but just enough. I would argue that this is the perfect commute, the perfect distance and the perfect profile. Enough climbing to challenge your legs and enough descents to keep you interested, you wouldn't want the right to left profile on the route to work now would you?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Route

This is my current commute, all 12.5 miles of it (The perfect distance?). I ride from Bracknell Forest to my Office @ 1 London Road in Staines.

When I started doing this commute on the 28th March 2011 I posted a time of 49 mins (give or take).
My fastest time to date is 36:19 with an average speed of 20.4 mph,  which gives you an idea on my level of fitness now and my level of fitness then.

My journey time is slower going home due to the nature of the profile. 40:59 at an average of 18.4mph is my best yet.

The commute is all on A roads, I go through Ascot town centre and follow the route on to the A30 at Wentworth golf course. The road turns into a dual carriageway at Egham just past the Maranello gararge.

My next post will be of the route profile....peace

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Bike

This is my commuter, the only bike I own, a size medium 2010 Specialized Tricross sport. Ironically I didn't buy this bike to commute, I bought it simply because it does everything i'd ever need it to do. I wanted a bike that I could ride on the road, off road and a bike I could carry one of my children on using a rear fitting bike seat. I've ridden this bike off road with knobbly tyres and a 2 stone child attached and i've used it to cover over 2500 road miles, it really is that versatile.

I bought the bike from Evans using the cycle to work scheme, simply fittting Shimano M424 SPD pedals and adding a pair of Specialized sport mountain shoes into the deal and I was away.

The bike had really good reviews on the Evans site from real people that use the bike, I'm always a little skeptical reading magazine reviews on bikes as the testers are responding to niggles real world riders would simply never notice. I've since read this bike is 'sluggish', as far as i'm concerned if its slow, I need to be fitter to go faster so win win!

The only things I have changed on the bike are the tyres. I have some Conti Gatorskin 25's which replaced the standard semi slick Specialized tyres on the bike. The original tyres were ok but a little sluggish on tarmac. As a commuter I need a strong tyre, I don't want to be wasting time repairing punctures on the road side. A colleague of mine used these tyres on his Allez to ride the LEJOG route in 2011 without a single puncture, good enough for me.

I've added mudguards which is a no brainer for anyone hoping to commute through the British winter or summer come to think of it.

Ok so other than that the bike is standard, ow I did flip the stem as it was far to high right way up. Touch wood, the only thing I've actually had to change so far are the front brake pads, not a bad return for over £350 saved in fuel costs.

More bleating to some point....

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Reason

Clearly I am new to blogging, never done anything like this before so thought i'd give it a go...I intend this blog to be about my commuting by bike through the impending English winter, as i sit here typing this in my front room, the sky is blue and cloudless and the sun shining bright. Not bad for mid October. Sadly I commute at 7:20 in the Am not 3pm in the afternoon.

I hope to blog on my route, the bike i use, the clothes I wear and the sites i see. This will be my first winter commuting having moved to Bracknell from Aldershot in March to lessen the cost of travelling to work.

So far this year I have covered just over 2600 miles on the bike getting to and from work. I ride 25 miles a day every working day as long as i haven't called in sick......Having started from no bike and no kit, I bought a Specialized Tricross Sport using the cycle to work scheme, I have added numerous bits of riding gear as the seasons have changed. Being a family of 4 I'm rocking a tight budget and purchase only what i need when i really need it. I'm not made of money and I do this to save money....simple.