Sunday, 14 December 2008


I went out for a run Wednesday lunchtime, something I do regularly throughout the winter. As usual for about 45-50 minutes, as always cross country – never on the road and as usual poochie came too. I never take him running on a lead and he normally does about twice the distance I do before collapsing on his mat in the living room. I don’t usually push it, the purpose is just to keep the fitness ticking over so in 45 mins I reckon to do about 4 to 4 ½ miles.

Wednesday, however, may have been a run too far. The ground was mushy with a thick layer of leaves and I was slipping about all over the place. I altered my route to avoid the worst of the mud and only stayed out for 35 minutes or so. When I got home my left knee hurt whenever I put any weight on it but did feel better later on. This was probably a result of either slipping about in the mud of running on uneven ground when you can’t see what’s there. It’s been fine since when just walking around although occasionally there’s a twinge behind the knee cap and getting up off the sofa can be…er….interesting.

So. Whinge over. But I went out for a test ride on the track bike today after fitting a new chainset, seat post and (most importantly) wheels. Everything was fine until I backpedalled to stop and then OUCH. Manchester is 2 weeks away. Think I’ve got a problem?

Solutions on a postcard please.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Cabin Fever

Its four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon less than 3 weeks before Christmas. Its been raining all day. Its been blowing about F7 all day and its freezing out and only a professional cyclist or a moron would go near their bike in this weather. What to do? There are a million and one things I should be doing, fixing a leaking radiator joint, tidying up, wrapping presents, even buying presents, painting the house or washing the car, not to mention all those bike repair jobs I’ve been putting off for weeks since the season has ended.

But what am I doing? Writing a blog entry, that’s what. Nutty daughter is upstairs wrapping presents for Mrs. Kipper and self using paper, tape, scissors and labels provided on the house before buggering off to paint the town with Swiss Dave, whose just spent the last fifteen hours installing Firefox, RSS and some other whatnot onto my computer so it does what I want as opposed to what it wants when I turn it on. No don’t ask me, I have no idea, but it does stuff it didn’t before and I’ve finally lost all of those irritating adverts.

I’ve got cabin fever. I’m bored with my new computer setup, even though it works better than ever before and I’ve loads of new toys on it. I’m bored listening to Gillian Welch. I’m even bored with Google Earth and the Astana team website. Quite how one can be bored web surfing is beyong me, but I seem to have managed it. After all there’s even a website among many others! I’m too bored to pick up my guitar. Even the dog looks bored and the turbo is glaring menacingly from the conservatory. Perhaps I should dig out a razor blade and some old Leonard Cohen records and make a proper job of it.

Oh. Sod it. I’m gonna go and make a pizza.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Baby, its cold outside…

The training day everyone fears arrived on the back of a North wind overnight. Coming home from a night out with family at the dogs somewhat after midnight the cold ripped through your average overcoat rather like a knife through, well… butter, but it was at least dry. At 7:30 this morning, however, there was a sugar coating of snow over the fields and roofs and it was still coming down although as I watched it turned to freezing rain. A day for making a pot of tea and going back to bed. Winter training, Pah! Not for softies like me.

Mid afternoon and the guilt of inaction finally gets to me so it’s on with the running kit, out with the dog and 50 minutes slogging around the fields and through the woods at the back of our home with poochie in tow. Mrs. Kipper, meanwhile, wisely decides to drop into the local Somerfield for veggie stew makings, rushing back to a warm house in record time.
By the time I got back home the sweat was dripping through 4 layers of Decathlon’s own brand finest and the thermometer had risen to an alleged 19 degrees from this morning’s measly one degree. All of my clothing (Apparel to those of you who can afford Hincapie stuff) went straight into the washing machine along with a major part of the contents of the fields I so delicately tromped about in. The shoes will have to wait for another day but I feel that preparations for Manchester have only suffered a minor setback.

Saturday, 15 November 2008


BKW’s latest post in praise of innovation lead me to consider how many of the improvements in bike design have been true advances and what effect some of those of “lesser” impact have had on the bikes we ride; so here’s a personal list of the good, the bad and the ugly:

The Good

1. Clipless pedals:To this day I cannot understand why it took Sean Kelly so long to change to Look pedals. I first used them in 1988 and from the first clip in I could see that they were a major step forward in both safety (have you tried getting out of tightly done up toe straps lately) and ergonomics. Certainly my feet stopped hurting immediately I first put them on.
2. Ergo Levers: O.K. I know, Shimano introduced the first ones in the early 90’s but I could never get on with those, my hands are too small and to this day start to ache after about 2 hours riding on them, So it’s Campag all the way for me. Anyway, to the point: to get to this point in development, they had to have both hidden brake cables and indexed gears worked out but the whole thing made a single huge step forward with combining gear changing and braking on a single lever on the bars. No more leaning down to change gear etc. etc.
The Bad

1. Disc front wheels: Recipe for disaster anywhere except pursuiting in an indoor velodrome.
2. Roval Wheels: I don’t have a problem with “boutique” wheels in general, certainly for racing, I even use them myself, but those Roval wheels with the plastic star thingy in the middle must be the worst of both worlds. How do you true them up and what happens if you break a spoke? Mind you the same goes for Lightweights, but if you can afford those, you deserve all you get when things go wrong.
The Ugly

1. Carbon frames: Does anyone actually believe the B.S. the hacks write about “torsional stiffness” “vertical compliance” etc. etc. While a carbon fibre frame is very light and rides just as well as a modern steel frame, all these “aero” tweeks, bulges and formaed shapes just seem to add cost. I don’t even have a problem that 95% of all carbon frames are made in factories in the Far East and end up looking the same, only differentiated by paintwork, but how long do these things last? Carbon Fibre is one of the few materials that do not follow Young’s modulus of Elasticity and there have been a lot of high profile failures: Splintering Look road forks in the early 2000’s lead to a number of serious crashes in the pro peloton, regular frame failures of (a high profile U.K. supplier relatively new to market) and the infamous story of Specialized’s complete failure to provide robust machines to either Quick Step or Gerolsteiner in 2006.
2. 1980’s colour schemes: Lime green and pink? What was that all about?

This is an “off the cuff” personal list with no real thinking through before I put fingers to keyboard. Further contributions in all categories welcome…discuss.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

World Cup

Beijing seems to have disappeared into the distant past and the Manchester round of this years World Cup is with us. Several of the big GB stars are absent, but the medals still keep coming. I'm really impressed at the strength in depth the GB team now has because lets not forget there's several up and coming names (Dowsett, Hampton etc.) are waiting in the wings in addition to the "new boys" riding here. Victoria Pendleton was interviewed in the Grauniad during the week and bemoaned the fact that there are so few events for women at the Olympics. She's right and let's hope the blazers in Lausanne are listening.

It also shows well when the weeks roundup takes up 3 hours of prime time Sunday afternoon on BBC2. The track was sold out for every session even before the Olympics had finished which , when you consider that 4 years ago they couldn't give tickets away is pretty astounding and shows the lottery money has been well spent. Every time a GB rider took to the track the noise was deafening and when yet another one won a medal I began to get worried that the roof would still be missing when I'm up there training in December. It must be terrifying for Johnny Foreigner, faced with a shouting, yeling stamping crowd against them to a man. I'm not saying they were partisan, but very noisy....

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The joys of winter training

It's eight o'clock in the morning, dark as grandad's hat, blowing a hoolie, slashing rain and about 12degrees outside. You go downstairs to make tea and when you let the dog out he takes one look into the garden and looks at you as if to say "If you think i'm going out there for a p***, you must be mad" and scuttles back to his bed. Yup, for me its straight out to the garage and on the bike for 3 hours of joyful pedalling.

Why oh why do we go out on a bike when it's like this? Even the runs leader stayed in bed today and I still managed 40 miles before swimming home. I had full rain gear on and Steve turned up with shorts and windtex jacket..." It's not cold really, just a little wet"

No mate, it's not cold really but with 20 mph of wind chill it shows some of us have no sense and less feeling. I wouldn't like to be your knees. Time for some BKW methinks and if can keep this up when all around are pulling the duvet over their heads I'll know the motivation is still there even after all these years and I''ll be truly ready for timetrials in heavy snow and driving rain come March.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Danga danga nang nang

Watching Stephen Fry in America and he's got to West Virginia, Kentucky and Tenessee. Not much Bluegrass or Old timey music, but just listening to what there is and watching all those "Good 'ol Boys" brings me out in a rash of both jealousy for not being there and nostalgia for the time I played in Loose Screws. We were probably the nearest thing to the real sound in Southampton, playing more hickey than Oh Brother!
What's worse is that this part of the world also has the Jack Daniels distillery AND C.F. Martin guitars. (OK I know Martin are in Pensylvania, but its not that far really). Just the smell of my 0015 reminds me of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I've had it for about a year now and it's just starting to play in but the inside still has the scent of fresh cut wood. The scenery there is fantastic and just when you start to think that poor old King George III made a very serious mistake someone tells you that our colonial brethren mix marshmallows with mashed potato....Gordon Bennet! what's that all about?

To finish the prog, SF goes to Miami Beach. Most people relate Florida to theme parks and little else, but for my money Miami Beach is the nearest I'm likely to get to that whole world. Florida to me is Gators, Airboats, Canaveral and....yup....Miami Beach. I stayed in a huge, posh hotel right on the beach and despite several visits to all parts of the state (including road rage in Tampa), its Miami Beach and the Deco buildings that live with me.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Winter training

Around this time of year I usually make rash promises about the training I'm going to do over the winter ready for next season. Most years this ends up with me spending a lot of time looking out of the window wondering why I didn't get up and out when I had the chance. Maybe the odd half an hour on the rack (sorry - turbo) and the odd jog will be about it and then I get dissapointed when I have to race myself into something approaching fitness during the spring.

This year was a real mixed bag. I felt strong in Flanders in April and won my first open TT in June but in between rode like a bag of spanners. When I wasn't unwell, that is. I didn't even ride a single 50, didn't ride the ECCA 100 and as a result failed to enter the National 12 hour which had been my main target. 2009 can only be better.

This year will be different...I promise. I has to be, I'm booked into a 1 1/2 day track acclimatisation & accreditation course at Manchester at the end of December and a training camp at Calshot in March, the plan being to ride the Welwyn league next year.

In the last 2 months I've only managed one century and a few short rides so I'm effectively starting from scratch. This weekend I'm getting my legs ripped of by Pete H on the club run. If I do this every week plus regular runs through the local woods, Tuesday training with Team Welwyn and the Maldon 'cross series throughout the winter I will have no excuses for creeping in the new year. All I have to do is get my arse in gear. Simple really.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

A near religious experience

"F*** it. The f***ing thing's f***ed. ". . . . .Not the best start to your second encore after a barnstorming set, especially after a 45 minute late start and an opening comment "Lets not get pissed now, there's a long way to go" but Stephen Stills had the Shepherds Bush Empire in the palm of his hand from the moment he walked on stage. The first half was acoustic, the second electric and I can't make my mind up which was the best set. With so many hits to choose from, he seemed to play just what he wanted with a couple of covers from Tom Petty and Dylan thrown in but still managed several that even Mrs. Kipper knew! - Helpessly Hoping, Change Partners, Johnny's Garden and Love the One You're With. The F*** was a blown monitor which immediately preceeded (after prompting from drummer Joe Vitale) a fantastic electric version of Dark Star. The only disappointment of the evening was that he didn't play Black Queen but that's a minor quibble.

Monday, 6 October 2008

The Great Depression?

Today the London stock exchange had its biggest ever fall, this after weeks of simillar losses in share prices. The strange thing is that if you walk round the City, the shops and pubs look like they are doing good business, there is no drop in the traffic on the roads or the trains, concerts and theatre performances remain sold out and even the employment agencies seem to have a steady stream of posts to advertise. Travelling out through East London the number of construction projects currently underway is higher than I've ever seen it since they built Canary Wharf. So apart from the banks and other financial institutions, everything appears to be life as normal. One can't help but wonder whether we are talking ourselves into a credit crunch out of boredom or have the chattering classes finally decided to put the money gamblers in their place? It has to be said that the obscene salaries and bonuses "earned" by people who gamble with our pensions and life savings have become unsustainable and it would be nice to think that if mass redundancies in this sector had not happened, that the population would rise up as one and sack the Bank of England. . . Watt Tyler where are you now?

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Welcome to my blog

We've been out marshalling the final road race of the year (Finsbury Park CC) before the 'cross season starts and I'm sitting in on a wet Sunday afternoon with lots of better things to be doing. However, I've been thinking about starting a blog for a while but the question is, do I have anything to say thats worth saying? Time will tell...