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 Post subject: Thistle Round the Forth
PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2006 10:36 am 
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For several weeks we here in the frozen North have been blessed with an unusual run of fairly good weather. Wet spells have been short and infrequent. Mostly we have had bright, breezy, sunny days. So we were quite optimistic about the conditions for Sunday's Round the Forth Charidee Cycle Challenge.

As Murphy would have it, however, on crawling out of bed at an ungodly hour for a Sunday, we were greeted by the sort of damp, dismal day we in Scottish-land call 'dreich'.

Typical.

The Round The Forth is a purportedly 50-mile ride. I believe this was its first year, and it is a widdershins amble around the Firth of Forth, which for you Sassenach types is the big wet bit between Edinburgh and St Andrews ( :roll: ). It heads north over the Forth Road Bridge, then along the coast and back round via the Kincardine Bridge. On paper it all looked straightforward enough. There were a few cycle paths being used but we thought we could probably ignore those. It came with a copy of the National Cycle Network code, which had us in stitches because it only tells you to wear a helmet when riding on the road. I won't bore the honourable members with an explanation of why this is so funny. The organisers themselves, however, only asked us to consider wearing a helmet - and as charity rides that don't have compulsory helmet wearing are rare, we thought this was a good sign.

We had mostly got ourselves sorted the night before, after returning from the PF Conference, and so Shackleton's chain was tight and his tyres were hard: Ivanhoe was running as soundly as possibly with a worn chain and block. I had bought maps and checked the route over dinner the previous evening. We packed the car in a degree of haste, being somewhat later than planned, and set off.

I'd not done a charidee event before, nor have I ever driven anywhere in order to go cycling (other than a couple of brief experimental forays into the world of mountain biking). This was all very new. We arrived ten minutes before registration was due to open, and already people in painfully-bright fluorescent yellow jackets sporting large numbers on their chests were cycling past us, obviously having started already. It reminded me of last year's Dun Run, when all the newbies set off at around 8pm instead of waiting until 9 like they were supposed to.

The car park was hoaching. There were a lot of people there. It was nice to see such a good turn out given the weather.

We headed for the pub after getting our kit together, where we ran into Noggin. He too was searching for the room where we were supposed to register. I was very pleased to meet a fellow jersey-carrier. He was taller than I had expected.

After registering, armed with goody-bags containing several barley-sugars, some dried apricots, a small bottle of mineral water and some banana chips, we went back out to find Gordon lurking there. He had seen the Pompino - which I believe was not only the sole Pompino but also the only fixed on the ride - and naturally assumed it must belong to me. How right he was. There was a quick greeting and a brief discussion as to whether I was totally mad to be considering doing next month's LEPRA on fixed, given the nature of Cleish Hill, Noggin and Gordon set off while Frood and I threw our plastic snack-bags into the car. After a brief technical hitch when my computer flew off and went under someone's car, we were off.

/cont

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Last edited by Ravenbait on Mon May 08, 2006 11:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2006 11:33 am 
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First obstacle: wet cobbles. The Hell of the North has nothing on South Queensferry: Merckx and the rest have never had to contend with tourist traffic and shoppers. On a 70" fixed gear sporting 700x25 GP4000, this was a tad hairy to say the least. Having said that, the more I ride those GP4000 tyres the more impressed I am. They skid when I want them to for impressive fixie braking, but they grip like gecko fingers under all other circumstances. Shackleton didn't step out of line at all.

Once out of the main part of South Queensferry and up to the bridge we found the first instance of an issue that was to plague the ride: poor signage. The route had originally been written with a deosil route in mind, but the organisers were advised by the police that it would be better for the poor ickle bicyclists to be turning left rather than right, so they changed it. But the route sheet had not been altered to reflect this and so Frood and I went down the East side of the Bridge while everyone else went down the West side. No biggie: we just hoiked our way underneath at the Rosyth crossing. But arrows would have been good for those who were not as familiar as I am with the area.

Not long after this we passed an entire family, mostly on cheap mountain bikes. Just as we passed one young girl ran straight into her mother and there was a minor prang, followed by swearing and shouting like one would expect from characters on Titty Bang Bang. There was a chap with a huge trunk on a side-hitch trailer as well. I slowed down long enough to ask what was in it and he recited a list of equipment that would have made it possible to be comfortable at Base Camp on Everest. All, he claimed, so he could have a cup of tea.

The first real surprise of the day came on leaving Charlestown. Seeing a steep-ish climb up ahead I put my head down and went for it, only to find myself hitting wet cobbles at a speed of close to 25mph. Frood reported that he could hear the shocked cursing from 100 yards back. I expect he could barely get up the hill for laughing, the bar-steward. Shackleton shimmied a little in protest, like a spirited stallion trying to take control of a jump, but then settled down and we got up there with a few burst lung-cells and the heady glow that comes in the aftermath of an adrenaline spike.

We got chatting to a couple of girlies on mountain bikes shortly thereafter. They seemed quite surprised that anyone would ride a fixed gear. Indeed, Shackleton's lack of variable transmission was pretty much the talking point of anyone who started speaking to me that day. We lost them when I had to stop to make some adjustments to a rubbing brake pad, about 9 miles before Kincardine Bridge, during which time we were investigated thoroughly by a rather attractive German short-haired pointer and waved on entire gaggles of men asking if we were okay.

By this point my manga-hair, which has not been restricted by use of a helmet in some weeks now, was completely ruined by the rain and we were both quite wet. So when we had crossed the Kincardine bridge we stopped for a coffee from my lovely 0.5l thermos flask with the neoprene cover that fits perfectly in a bottle cage. Here we had a chance to talk to a couple on His&Hers (His&His as they put it, as the only difference was colour) Cannondale CAAD 8 bikes. We explained to them that they'd find the hills much easier if they wore proper cycling shoes rather than trainers and bought some clipless pedals.

/cont

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Last edited by Ravenbait on Mon May 08, 2006 12:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2006 12:17 pm 
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We didn't make another stop until we reached Bo'ness. I think it was Noggin who had mentioned something about a hill coming out of Bo'ness, but I had seen no sign of this mythical hill on the map and was not overly concerned.

Oh dear.

Here was me on a 70" fixed. Lo, here there around me do I see fellow cyclists, mostly on triples, many on mountain bikes. Lo do I see two of them walking up the hill as I hit the bottom and start muscling my way up it with the tactical deployment of coarse swearing and the sort of stubborn determination that is a prerequisite for SAS qualification.

Lo do I make it to the top without getting off, despite there being a couple of hairy moments where I wasn't sure I had the overall physical strength to force that gear round another inch without toppling. I was well pleased with that, even though I could taste my lungs and I was breathing in the sort of short, heavy gasps you expect to hear from the nubile girlie hiding in a closet in a slasher flick.

This wasn't the last hill. There were another couple towards the end, although neither as bad as that one. One of them was made worse by coming immediately after a right turn, and having to be done on legs that had been working in the near-constant wet all morning.

What there was, however, was an extraordinary off-road section through Hopetoun House, which involved riding across a field. Yes, a field. An actual field. On grass.

I wouldn't have been happy on tyres much less than the 25mm I had, and I had seen a couple of guys riding 700x23. I was quite thankful that I wasn't on the Pinarello. This was very unexpected and I found it quite unreal. Frood reminded me that the info sheet had said we would be following the NCN route for some parts, and this of course sent me off onto a massive rant about shite Sustrans is and how they shouldn't be allowed to call it the National Cycle Network given that some of it includes crap like this.

But, after that, it was a straight, flat run into Port Edgar then back onto wet cobbles to the start/finish.

Frood and I did the ride in 3 hours, which was a leisurely pace - pretty slow, really. Riding fixed meant I found it easier to match Frood's pace, which was nice, as when I take Fingal out we are not terribly well matched for speed at all. The rain made it difficult in places but did keep the temperature down. I was amazed by the total lack of road sense evidenced by some of the participants: one of the arguments against headphones while riding is that they prevent you hearing anything coming up behind you. From the way some of the riders behaved they might as well have been deaf anyway, and of course looking around to check behind just did not occur to them. We had more than one rider who seemed to think it was fine to swap between road and pavements as and when they saw fit, although I didn't see anyone running any red lights.

Of the random sample I spoke to, other than our own fine Noggin and Gordon, of course, the 50 miler seemed to be at the top end of their ambitions. I did speak to a couple of guys thinking of doing the LEPRA (one was on a Giant OCR 2) but that was what he considered to be a really long ride. It was a completely different attitude from that I have experienced on the Dun Run, for instance. The riders weren't nearly as sociable as those on other rides I've done.

The signage was appalling, but we managed, so I suppose it wasn't that bad. The route was… interesting? Innovative? Downright freakish at times, certainly. It wasn't quite 50 miles. I think Frood and I both measured it at around 46. The weather could have been better, so that we could have enjoyed the scenery more, but in a way I liked the wet. The organisers were very good about asking us for feedback afterwards, and we are expecting to receive forms in the post so we can tell them how we think it could be improved.

We stopped off at the enormous Queensferry Tescos on the way home for the makings of dinner and a bottle of wine and were home by 4. Shackleton got cleaned before I did, and then the aches set in as my shoulders worked out exactly how I'd managed to get up those hills. Today I can hardly move my head BUT I DID NOT GET OFF AND WALK AT ANY STAGE.

Next month it's the 67 mile Edinburgh - St Andrews. Including Cleish Hill. I think I might need to drop a tooth for that. Hope to see a few more of the Scottish contingent there. I might even take a camera.

Sam

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PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2006 2:13 pm 
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You are a fixie beast :)

Sounds like it was a good laugh. Did Frood have fun too?

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PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2006 2:21 pm 
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As far as I know he did, although he's having real issues with Ivanhoe's chain and block and pulled a calf muscle when he put the power down for a hill and it slipped.

Sam

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PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2006 2:36 pm 
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Ravenbait wrote:
We headed for the pub after getting our kit together, where we ran into Noggin. He too was searching for the room where we were supposed to register. I was very pleased to meet a fellow jersey-carrier. He was taller than I had expected.
/cont


:D :oops:

and surely younger and more handsome as well


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PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2006 2:54 pm 
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Younger, more handsome and more manly, Noggin dear.

Sam

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PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 8:53 am 
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Ravenbait wrote:
Younger, more handsome and more manly, Noggin dear.

Sam


:oops: :oops: :oops: :D

complement returned medear :wink:


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PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 9:30 am 
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That's because you caught me before the rain destroyed my Manga hair!

Sam

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PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 9:35 am 
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Hmm... manga hair... Anything like this? Image

<runs and hides>

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PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 9:51 am 
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Not far off.

Spikier. Think Sonic the Hedgehog crossed with Mortimer.

Sam

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"You might remember that 'annoyed' is my natural state!"
http://quantumcoyote.com
"Ya'd think we could just attracts ants, like normal people."


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 9:52 am 
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Or indeed my current avatar!

Under the hat.

Sam

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"You might remember that 'annoyed' is my natural state!"
http://quantumcoyote.com
"Ya'd think we could just attracts ants, like normal people."


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