Keep it real

May 16th, 2011

I started biking purely in order to get from A to B without having to walk.  I lived in Edinburgh at the time, was an art student, and my first bicycle journey was from my flat in the middle of Leith Walk to the Art College at Lauriston Place (about a mile and a half) .  My folks had bought me a bike for my 18th birthday-a no-brand ‘ATB’ that had it been taken off road would have most definately protested-much like myself at the time.  Exercise was something that I remembered vaguely from school and being made to run round muddy fields and getting caught trying to take a short cut so having to do it twice.

My bike was like a reflection of my myself at the time-a heavy but sturdy machine that worked but kind of took its time to get there and our maiden voyage together was an uphill one.  I lived in the middle of Leith Walk (opposite the Italian restaurant-my markers were food at that time).  I dragged the steel beast up the Walk until we got to the Old Post Office at the top of the Walk (anyone else old enough to remember that)?  It was at this point that I felt really light, almost airy in fact-I was having a whitey and all the blood had gone from all available organs to my legs hence the strange feeling.  I sat on the steps and slowly recovered, got back on the beast and made it up to college-just.  It got easier each day and I took to taking jaunts round the city, exploring all the bits I didn’t know by bike.  I got a rack, and a pannier bag.  I started loading up the beast with blank pieces of paper and pastels and drawing stuff that looked interesting-at the Docks, building sites on the West side, one day I even went to Portobello.

With more and more miles I got fitter and I had everything I needed either in my pannier bag or strapped to the bike-utility style.  We went everywhere together and when the frame broke I took it down to the sculpture department and they welded it back together for me and we set off on another adventure.  I loved that bike and the time I had it-it was crap really but I had some great times on it and discovered the city on it.

I liked the fact it was a bit ugly but extremely useful and combined the pleasure of riding a bike with a sense of purpose.

Now I have a really fancy bike that cost too much money, has all sorts of dials and settings on it and I tend to just go round in circles on it (when I have the time).  It doesn’t have a set of panniers and I don’t think there is anything steel on it at all :cry:

Keep it real.




Look Ahead

February 9th, 2011

If I had to give just one piece of advice on how to ride a bike better it would be to look where you want to go.  The funky chicken is of course very important and we must never forget to stay loose but all these things don’t matter if we don’t remember to look where we want to go.

A decade ago Tracy and I had just taken delivery of a couple of second hand portacabins and were in the process of stripping them out and were attempting to transform them into something that resembled a cafe-on the budget of a creative remortgage on a one bedroom flat, a few second hand race bikes, and a healthy sprinkling of goodwill from family members.

In the same year Fort William was hosting the World Cup for the first time and Singletrack magazine was born and we were all still riding hardtails (first time around).

In just 8weeks we transformed the cabins into a habitable space and er well, played swingball and read Sunday papers praying for some customers to come in.  In the early days it was just Tracy and I and we learnt to do anything that we didn’t know how to-which was quite a lot-but we had plenty of time so that was fine.  Then it got a bit busier and we took Jim on.  He worked on the 12 hire bikes we had, out on the cafe decking, in the freezing cold and rain-he’s a man now and I like to think we moulded him a little (we didn’t break him anyway).  Next came Adam, from New Zealand, so super laid back he forgot to make the chocolate cakes with sugar-you won’t believe how awful they taste with no sugar.

So ten years on we still ride our hardtails but full suspension is bit comfier.  I’d like to think I’m a better rider-or maybe thats just the suspension, but ten years of always looking ahead has made me pretty good at reading the trail and if I’ve learnt anything its to expect the unexpected because that happens quite a lot when you ride a mountain bike.  A rock moves when you don’t expect it, a puddle might be a bit deeper, and the chain slips just when you don’t need it to-but keep looking where you want to go and there’s a good chance you might just get there.

It’s Never Too Late

January 6th, 2011

Yesterday I did my first road ride of 2011. If I’m honest I think it was my first ride in about 2 months-apart from the mountain bike ride I did the day before but that was with a friend who hadn’t ridden since August and admitted she’d had to go out and buy new clothes because she’d put on quite a few pounds and none of her clothes fitted her anymore. It was a chatty ride and a very gentle introduction to exercise and 2011, which suited me fine.

So the next day a more committed cycling friend suggests a road ride which before we go out I am feeling a bit excited about but also dreading because I know I’m going to have to work a bit harder to keep up-not so worried about the balancing skills.

It was a fresh beautiful sunny day and the route was a quiet back road loop that took us through the stunning Borders landscape and pedalling along enjoying the scenery and the banter I felt great and realised I was doing something that made me really happy.

My main excuse is of course the terrible weather, riding in snow is fun for the first few times then its just tiresome and impossible, a bicycle is no substitute for a dog on a walk. So once the snow went then I found another excuse-I had the flu over Christmas, which saved me from eating and drinking to excess which in hindsight was great and saved me from having to buy new clothes (I have got to the ‘this used to be a bit loose’ stage) but it left me in a place where motivation had deserted me-I knew having been inactive for so long it could possibly be painful getting exercising again and I began to imagine a life where my bicycle wasn’t my ‘raison d’être’-although I’m not quite sure what I would do with myself.

Then I watched a trailer for a documentary on the UK’s fattest man where he laments desperately about letting himself get to the point of 40 stone and how unhappy he is and I thought when did he start down that road?

I put down the box of Christmas chocolates, entered the Etape d’Caledonia, downloaded a Cycling Log app and planned a training programme to get me through the next 129 days until I have to ride 81 hilly miles. Can’t wait.