It’s Been A While
Since starting up the #12×100 Monthly Cycling Challenge I’ve tried to keep up a regular routine of cycling and it’s definitely helped. There are very few Tuesday nights I don’t get a few miles in, and every other weekend tends to have a good ride in it, too. Most of my cycling has been done alone though.
I do like riding my bike on my own. The chance to gather my thoughts out of the house, to take in the views, to enjoy the weather and listen to the sounds around me is a chance I like to take. More recently though it’s become obvious that although I know loads of other cyclists, I don’t often ride with any of them.
A close neighbour now rides me with me most Tuesdays on his old boneshaker. I’m hoping that his Missus will let him buy a better bike once he’s proved that he likes cycling and he’s going to keep it up! At first I struggled to adjust to the possibilities of conversation and sociable tea-and-biscuit consumption, but now I have to admit that it’s been good to have someone along.
There are always going to be good chances to ride alone and I’ll keep taking them. My lack of fitness and ambition are less obvious when I’m plodding along alone, lazily winching up the hills and flowing down them. My opportunities to take photos and capture the beautiful countryside within which I live are also more plentiful when I’m not encumbered by anyone else’s conflicting desire to cover more miles or keep their heart rate up.
But, when Chris suggested it was time for a social MTB ride, he was right.
A Bad Start
Going out for morning bike rides with diabetes is sometimes a pain in the bum. Managing my diabetes means that I tend to fuel up in pretty short bursts: you don’t really carbo-load when you know it’ll push your blood sugars high. The normal short-term, in-day rules apply but carbs usually have to be ingested to suit the exertion planned. Basically, that means: eat for today, not tomorrow.
We’d arranged to set off from mine at 10am. When I got up on the day of the ride my blood sugar was a bit higher than I’d have liked, so a big porridge breakfast wasn’t on the cards. I opted for a brioche whilst the lads turned up, pottered about and we all scratched our heads over Joby’s totally screwed rear brake. More about that later.
Powered only by instant coffee and a small helping of French bread with choccy bits, I led the lads down the canal towpath and up beside Clegg Hall towards Hollingworth Lake where we were meeting Adrian, our fourth rider and expert guide for the day. On getting there, we all joked about Joby’s knackered brake, suggesting either that he should descend first so as not to hit us in the back when he went OTB, or go last so that we weren’t inconvenienced when he bit the dust on the rocky Pennine descents Adrian had planned for us.
Brief hellos done, we set off towards the M62 viaduct where Rochdale and Littleborough are left behind and “the moors” are entered. Immediately, a massive gap opened up when the lads steamed up the first climb and I just let them go. Admittedly, they did climb very quickly (Strava told me later) but I was over a minute down on my usual time for an ascent which takes less than four to finish. I didn’t know that at the time: I just knew I was knackered!
I knew I’d be hanging off the back of the party all day. On the next climb, I got up without dabbing but at the top I was properly worn out. Only 5 miles or so ridden, all of which I’ve done many times alone, and I needed to get off the bike for a long rest. Thankfully a horse asked us to hang back (well, a woman riding a horse, but a horse asking would have been amazing) so I didn’t feel so guilty sat on the grass, sweating, not talking, with three blokes wondering whether I was going to bottle it and go home.
I’m glad I didn’t. It wasn’t a race.
Starting To Enjoy It
From there, we went along to Piethorne reservoir where the descent to the waterside and the views are amazing. Adrian got told off for startling two lady walkers but he had the good grace to feel a bit guilty, so that was ok. Poor Joby’s back brake had evidently spilled all of its hydraulic innards and was totally useless, so he followed gingerly down the descent, leaning off the back of his bike with the front brake on, somehow managing to avoid any face/rock interfaces.
The lads were beginning to talk of sausage butties by this time, so I played my trump card. Everyone needs to bring something to a social ride, and I’d brought my knowledge of where the best food was! One problem though, the climb from Piethorne reservoir to the Ram’s Head is a bit unpleasant. Rocky and steep, with hefty water bars and no clear view to the top – but remember, there was a pub at the top, so we got there.
You know you’re getting a posh burger when the chips are arranged in a little mesh chip pan which has clearly never been immersed in a fryer. Suffice to say that it tasted bloody marvellous. You should go to the Ram’s Head – it’s actually easier to get to from the road than the moors, for you roadie-whippet types.
Dropping back to Piethorne ressy from the pub was lots of fun for everyone except Joby on his single-braked steed, then we took the easy service road alongside Piethorne and Ogden reservoirs before a little portage back up towards the junction where I’d flaked out earlier. The burger and chips were working their magic and I felt much, much better with some proper carbs (and meat, and fat – all the important food groups) working through my system.
A final little climb and back down to t’Lake finished off a great couple of hours in the hills, so we said goodbye to Adrian and headed back to mine along the canal towpath.
Let’s make this clear: I had a really good day out. I loved the cycling, the company, the scenery and the food. This social ride was a brilliant idea. Thanks Chris for the suggestion and thanks Joby and Adrian for being there too.
I learned three things on this ride:
1. As a diabetic, a poor feed means a poor ride.
2. I should ride with other people more often.
3. I’m even less fit than I thought I was.
My fitness isn’t a problem when I’m out alone. I’m fitter than most 42 year old men, but the trouble with grossed-up statistics is that they don’t reflect your individual circumstances. Most 42 year-old men spent last Sunday eating crisps and watching the Olympics – they weren’t trying to keep up with 3 fitter, younger men on mountain bikes in the foothills of the Pennines.
Being fitter than most 42 year-old men isn’t good enough. I need to get as fit as most men who regularly ride mountain bikes in the hills. I guess that means that I have a goal to achieve.
You can see the full ride on this link to Strava. Tell ’em Phill sent you 🙂