words of wisdom

Northern Soul.

Scottish Championships Knockburn Loch. 3.12.17

LRM_EXPORT_20171204_090238.jpg

Beep beep beep beep, the noise of the alarm at 6am gets me up and out from the comfort of a warm bed. Drag the poor dog out into the cold, and I wake up to the morning of the Scottish Cyclocross Championships.

The early alarm is for me to get some food made then load the bikes onto the car, double check I have packed everything before I go and pick DNF Dougan up at 8am. We have just short of a three hour drive up Aberdeenshire and another new venue for me this year of Knockburn Loch.

Break some crusts of cow shite as I roll the car over the field and into a cow pat free zone in the already busy Knockburn Loch Outdoor Sports Center and it’s just clicked past 11 am. One of the earliest times I have been at the races. The regular routine is to tumble out the car, get my numbers on and then race. With this one, the long drive I wanted to get here and get blood to my legs by having a scout of the course and see a bit of racing.

LRM_EXPORT_20171203_112040.jpg

The start of the week brought some snowfall to the course, turning it into a white wonderland. A rapid defrost midweek took it right back to a standard green and brown tone just in time for race day. Now the course I have in mind is going to be a mud fest with the quick thaw. I am wrong as its actually holding out really well as I take in the V50, Women and Junior race. The ground is still hard under the top inch of grass so the mud fest might not be on the cards after all.

The battle to be crowned Scottish V40 Champion has just kicked off and I now have just over an hour to get my numbers pinned on and sort myself out, then get to the start line with a little detour of a few laps of the grass velodrome.

PSX_20171205_172836.jpg

Sixty-nine riders line up for the Scottish Open Cyclocross Championships, while the top twenty riders or so get gridded the cold wind picks up, and I am eager to get going and get a bit of heat into my bones. After a long hold, the whistle finally blasts, and the race begins. We are off to a flyer as we batter along the grass and sprint down the start shoot. From walking the course I planned to keep left of the course, I manage to execute my plan, and this gives me a good line to shoot up the small incline and then hustle along the soft ground making our way to the woods.

Still riding on the left of the course as we narrow through the entry gate into the woods. Davie Hamill is just in front of me and has the same idea in mind. Both of us dismount and get running when the speed slows, and the bottleneck grows. I gain a few places while pushing the bike, but a lousy remount kills my momentum, and the positions are soon lost. The wood section has a great flow to it, your eyes have to be peeled though as there are plenty of roots waiting to knock you to the ground. (Gary found this out later on in the race)

A fast pedal past the pits after negotiating the first slippery little hill takes you over the bridge and around to the back of the Loch. This brings you to the highest and hardest part of the course. On the first part of the climb, my bike is making some spectacular crunching and grinding noises. My freehub will need a wee looking at, it’s not engaging when I put some power through the pedals, making it skip just like last year at Bute. I lose a heap load of places while I nurse the bike up to the top. The climb isn’t over as I get to the top, we hang a right, and now a slippy grass incline is on the menu.

I use a bit of advice before the start of my race, I got told to get off and run the short muddy downhill section, and then keep running when the gradient turns uphill again. The bike stays on my shoulder as I drop down between the gorse bushes, then keep on trudging to the top of the never-ending hill. As I crest the summit of Knockburn Everest, a magnificent sight comes into my eyes. A 200 meter decent, and is a joy to behold.

It is also a joy to ride, but the mud flicking into one’s eyes isn’t so helpful with where you are pointing the front wheel as you rattle down the hill. Ride around the Loch and back over the bridge passing the busy pits. Now comes the fans favourite. The sand trap! Ride up and over a red gravel hill, try to keep the speed up and power through the sand/gravel, hoping I don’t come off and make a fool of myself in the cat litter box. Manage to get to the end of the pit without incident and ride out into the finishing field.

Ride past the finishing line and with George Stewart’s advice being spot on about the hill climb, I decide to take him up on his other words of wisdom. He told me that the S bends behind the timing van are cut up and slightly slippy under the tyre. Again that the best option is to get off and run them. Roll down the first hill the swing off and get my running legs going. Back on the bike on the last turn and ride down the long grassy decent, back to the left of the course as I ride the hill up and along into the woods once again.

The woods were a joy to ride with a bit of space in front of me as the race spread out as the laps grew. The hill climb became harder and longer with each passing lap. The 200 meter decent never changed with every lap. That was always a blast to ride down, but I know a few people didn’t enjoy it as they shipped their chain as the battered down at high speed. The cat litter tray I managed to ride every lap except for the final time, where I ground to a halt and dropped down like a dead fly. (But thankfully most of the spectators and cameras had moved around to the finishing field) The S bends I enjoyed every lap, as I kept it simple and didn’t even to entertain the thought of trying to ride them, a 99% chance that I would fail and end up in a tangled mess at the bottom of a hill, with running them it gave me a chance to gain a lot of time on riders ahead of my front wheel.

I get lapped once while I am plodding through the course and as always I am in awe of how fast the top riders can get through a lap. My bike holds out for the full race, and the weird crunching noise doesn’t return in my 6 laps of Knockburn Loch which is a huge relief. I take the finishing flag after 1hr 6mins of riding and finishing 47th place. The other two-wheel-army rider Gazza came in 35th in his first champs with is an excellent result for the novice rider.

Huge, huge thanks to Gordon Watt and his merry band of Deesiders that bring a heap of Northen Soul to Cyclocross racing in Scotland.

Huge congratulations to all the Scottish Champions and to every rider who rolls over the start line week in week out. All results are here.

All the best over in Mull with round 6 of the Lapierre Scottish Cyclocross Series and also the Santa Cross Champions on Sunday.

received_1907882002872509_20171118142324756.jpg

Advertisements

Riding The Dream At Plean.

Plean Country Park. 26.11.17

I have wanted to write this blog for a while. A blog about a race where I turn up, finish without any incident or mechanicals then I end the hour within the top 30 riders. Well, I finally get to tell you about it.

Plean is a new course for me, I have seen the footage on YouTube, and every one of them has snow and mud involved. Today is no different. A small covering of snow has dusted the car park, and it’s a little thicker as I wander through the woods on the way to pick up my race numbers.

The course from what I have been told has been shortened due to heavy ice on one part deeming it a bit of a hazard. From the practice lap and dropping the pit bike off, I get a feel for the course and that feeling is slippy. I am confident that the soft grass and fast decents combo will be taking a few people down if it’s ridden too fast. So leaving out another hazard for us to contend with was the right call by the organisers, (Stirling Bike Club)

Head to the start line and strip off the manky waterproofs and prepare to race. Look around, there is a small number of riders at the line in today’s race. I think, even if I come dead last I will still have one of my best placings in the senior open race. I just hope the bikes hold together and no DNFs today.

Some good news for the skinny guys, we aren’t being held for too long at the start line, meaning they won’t be shivering in the cold for too long. That’s the bonus of my bigger belly, extra winter heat! The whistle blasts as soon as the griding has been sorted and the fast boys power away.

It seems I am going backwards, I run out of gear on the start and lose distance on the bunch as we descend down to the first turn. A right corner takes us up through a thick carpet of leaf litter with the bare skeletal branches keeping us in the shade overhead.

On the climb is where I claw back a few seconds, manage to get back onto the wheels of the guys in front making me feel I am back into the race. Speed along the snow, past the pits and now it’s time to pick a good line through the spacious but very soft ground taking you to the first of two fast grass downhills.

I keep right as we shoot down the hill, bang on the brakes to take the inside of the corner and away from the soft ground on the right. Rise out the seat and climb up the hill to repeat the same move over again. Keep to the right of the grass, to try and bang off the mud build up on the bumps. Brakes on and ride the tight inside line. This time two barriers have to be negotiated before I ride uphill once more. None of this bunny hopping malarkey from me. So off the bike and run over the two small barriers, then back on to a grind up the hill.

The next descent was a bit sketchy, multiple lines to choose from but they all seemed to try and spit you out of the course, or worse down into the small burn as it narrowed taking you around a fast right-hand berm. Blast through a muddy sinkhole, then time to shoot down through the woods on a loose gravel path. At the end of the gravel, I dismount and slog up the muddy run-up. The encouragement never faltered from this marshalling point and spurs you on to the top of the deepening mud.

Get back on the peddles and swing around the condemned building in the park, and past the timing van. Time to suck in some much-needed air and not let the Stirling rider get too far ahead, as we ride down to the foot of the first climb up to the pit area.

Managed to keep on the guy’s wheel, then overtake as I passed my pit bike. A lousy line and some colourful language escaped from my mouth that shocks the English HTCC spectators as we battle through the mud. My wallowing in the mire allows him to sneak past once again. I am on his wheel for the remainder of the lap, Stirling rider receives great encouragement from his bike club as we both run the mud up to the tarmac.

I take the chance and overtake as we ride the first climb, I push on a bit harder and manage to gap him as we journey through the mud, I control my race line this time, which in turn controls my corrupt language. On the drop down I stick to the lumps to try to clear the mud on the grass decent.

I hike through the mucky runup, and as I pass the marshall and sporting a smug smile, I ask where his rider is now after gaining a bit of distance on the chasing Stirling rider. Just go to hope it doesn’t come back and bit me later on in the race. Go past the finish line for another lap and get shown the 9 laps to go. Whit!! Nine laps. I am not feeling so smug now.

I feel I can’t manage another 9 laps at the moment but settle in and time to take each lap as it comes. It’s a short course today, so it’s not long before the leaders come past. Then they do so another twice, so my nine-lap fear turned into seven laps slog. All in I complete ten laps within the hour.

I rolled over the line covered in mud and boogies in 24th position, which sounds good and gives my Statage ranking a tremendous boost, but it was only out 30 riders so when you say it like that it doesn’t seem that impressive.

Gary lapped me on the second last lap, he completed 11 laps while the winners have done 13. He rolls over the line in another impressive 17th place.

Plean you were a dream. Let’s see if I can make it the same for next week at Knockburn Loch and the Scottish Cyclocross Championships.

2529af71e01b0c6af786b838dc559950_20171127205332075.jpg

received_1907882002872509_20171118142324756.jpg

Thanks to Karly Millar, Falk Meier for the use of the images in the blog post.

South Park.

Tweed Cross.

27.8.17 Tweedbank Park.
FB_IMG_1498505183057

An early rise to see who had won the most talked about boxing bout in the world, but the fight hadn’t even begun yet as I got ready to head off on a drive South to help the guys from Happy Trails Cross Collective stake out the course for one of the first Cyclocross races of the year.

Arrive at Tweedbank Park at 7 o’clock (or as the border folk say ‘Seaven’). My legs need a bit of stretch after sitting in the car for the two-hour drive. Park up and wander along to find the HTCC boys. The crew are already working away getting the park into shape, final racing lines being talked and walked through before the final taping is completed. I get busy with some tree trimming and shifting bags of stabbers around the course. As the last bit of sponsorship tape is tied (Orbea) I’m itching to get on the bike and have a ride of the course.

LRM_EXPORT_20170828_161152

As the final bit of paint is coming out the can, MC Maddy Robinson shouts the riders over to the freshly painted start grid. The first race of Tweed Cross is about to kick off with the B racers clipped in waiting for the whistle to blast. Maddy gets them underway and they have a nice long left bend on the firm grass to get them all up to speed, the fight for space is on as they head to the start line. Jackie Chan is off to a flyer and should remain out in the lead for the rest of this race if he can keep this speed up and avoid incident. I head over to Tempest Hills to help dish out some encouragement, abuse and after the first lap some beer hand-ups from Tweedbanks local brewer, Tempest Brewing Co.

With six laps complete for the lead riders it doesn’t bode well for me when one of the race organisers describe the course as ‘brutal’. I am really excited about putting my self through a brutal hour of racing, Not! Jackie did manage to keep the speed up and took the win, Robbie Mitchell was second over the line with Graeme McBirnie filling the last of the male podium places. Ladies winners were Alicia Lawson taking first place, Caroline Harvey coming in second and Jamie Nicholson taking the third spot. Well done to all racers and winners.

LRM_EXPORT_20170828_160811

Get a few warm up rides in and have a feel for the course. The racing line has been dialled in with the B race. I love the Tempest hills. Also, the big grass swoops at the start area are smooth and fast. I don’t love the dirty bits as much. In the dusty brown areas, it’s hard for me to ride slow with the gear I am on. I manage it in warm up but how I fare during the race at a faster speed is yet to be seen.

We gather at the start shoot, the grided riders get pulled out to the front of the bunch. Me on the other hand, I hang at the back of the bunch, I know my place in this race. Nerves kick in, I am starting to feel out of my depth being In the A race. My thoughts are, jump in at the deep end and prepare for October 1st when the Scottish Cyclocross kicks off for 2017.

MC Maddy gets us boys sorted out, a massive blast of the whistle and the guys fly off the line. I, on the other hand, forget I am in a race and have a slow start to whistle blowing. I am lagging behind as we cross over the start line and fight to remain in touch with the boys just in front of me as we leave the grass bends and head into woods.

In amongst the trees, there was lots of fun to be had if you weren’t on a bike and breathing like an asthmatic with one lung. In here lurks two sand traps and a dusty bank to ride up. The sand was firm and compacted due to previous race and riders ahead of me so wasn’t too hard to ride. The bank, on the other hand, was tough on the legs. For me to ride it, I had to hit it hard to get to the top. After grinding to the top of the mound it was a downhill left and avoid the tree roots. I am sure that blue paint over the roots attracted my wheels every time I went past. Bump out the woods then the next challenge was the double hurdles.

Still, in the battle of the back markers, I clear the barriers without a hitch. Next on the list of Southern fun was ‘Redneck Hill’. My least favourite part of the course because I couldn’t ride it fast, and in the later laps I couldn’t ride it at all. The hill consisted of dust, roots, line options, trees and some sharp turns. I have got another weakness to my limited racing skills now. Ride away from the Rednecks, in doing so it just brings you into more pain. A soft grassy ride up into another tight wood section that slows me down, then it spits you out along some welcome tarmac.

The smoothness is short lived as you ride up onto a grass bank and along past the pits. I get some speed up, trying to claw back onto the wheel I lost by going so slow through the woods. Another small grassy lump which attempts to deposit you into the trees if you are not careful. Then came my favourite part of the course, riding in an out of the woods of Tempest Hills.

This was a great area for me, if I could just leave the brakes alone it would have been much better. I still bottle it at hitting corners at speed, so Martin Steele drifts off into the distance as I potter around the last few bends. A quick jump for Trump and it’s on the edge of the saddle and pick up some speed as I come past the back of the timing van and turn and burn for the line to take my first lap, Nick Jupp still stalking me from behind.

Five more laps, one off and I take the checkered HTCC shirt. I am knackered and in desperate need of a drink. Head over and trade a few Tempest beer mats for some cold beers. The best way to end a race in my eyes. I lasted around three laps of racing with Nick, but in the end, he broke me on the dirt climb just after the sand traps. He kept pulling away as we hit the barriers and then the gap grew bigger as I toiled at Redneck Hill. Once he was away, the lead riders came through for the first time. With each rider catching me I lost time on him as I slowed or stopped to let them through. My race became against the course and clock now.

Tweed Cross you were indeed “BRUTAL.”

Podium placing was a hard fought battle, Jeremy Durrin taking the top spot, Gary MacDonald taking the second step and David Duggan stepping up to third.

LRM_EXPORT_20170828_160849

A great use of imagination was used to put this course together, the use of all of the topography the park could offer. I am still in awe of what a pretty flat park can produce for a cross race. The HTCC organisation should be very proud of what they put on here. Their first race they have hosted had a lot of boxes to be ticked and people to please to get this race on the go. The numbers and quality of the riders that turned up for this race were outstanding.

From all the novices to the best of Scotland and International stars we can’t wait for Tweed 2018. #TWEEDBANKSY

FB_IMG_1503079019643

Sunday Going Down The Spiral.

4th December 2016.
Lochore Meadows, Scottish Cyclocross Championships.

wp-1481057056688.jpg

My second year racing at Scottish Champs. Pretty sure I will not surpass last year’s position, but I shall give it my all.

It’s a nice crisp winters morning drive through to Fife.  Last year’s course was eating a lot of rear mechs for lunch.  I escaped incident free last year so hopefully by the time my race comes around the course won’t be too badly churned up and I’ll escape with my bike intact.

A quick warm up along the road reveals my front break is super loose.  Head back to the car and fix it as I’m pretty sure it will be needed at some point today.  Drop the pit bike off and head off to get to grips with the “Spiral of Doom“.  This part of the course wasn’t here last year but it’s made its return for the Champs.  Basically a lot of riding to your left for two minutes then ride to your right for another two minutes.  If I was to stake that out I would have been there for a week.  Well played Paul Zarb. 

img_20161206_103004.jpg20161206_103028.jpg

After a few dizzy laps of the Spiral its time to hit the start line.  I manage to squeeze quite far up in the grid.  My highest place of the year so far!  A quick brief was shouted out, now it’s time to wait for the bang of the gun.

BANG!  We are let loose, I get a solid start on the inside.  Keep up with the guys who were in front of me on the line.  It’s a mad dash down to the first corner, a tight left taking you into a small wooded section.  A bottleneck happens and we all slow to a stop, find a space on the outside and I’m off racing again.  Once out of the woods the low sun makes spotting the best line for the next turn a bit hard.  Ride over some soft grass and back into the woods and out into a small clearing.  Dismount off the bike, run around the sharp left and right chicane.  Stay off the bike and continue running through the mud out to the main arena where the low sun makes for difficult viewing.

The flat grass in the main arena gets you back up to speed, hang a sharp right and you’re now eyeing up the ever growing double hurdles.  A quick run with some big leaps over the hurdles, hop back onto the bike and get the gear turning again.  Ride past the timing van and over the finishing line with the sun burning your retinas.  I am with a group of riders as we hit the solid tarmac and race up to a sharp left keeping you on the tarmac heading back to the woods.  I lose some distance here, one gear can only get you so fast!  Drift to the back of the group as we ride under the canopy of the trees once again.

wp-1481057047763.jpg

Ride out from under the tree cover and past the pits and into the Spiral for the first time. Halfway through the spiral, I am closing in on the leader of the pack Ross Johnston from HTCC, taking some positions as I go.  Then disaster strikes!  I’m down on the deck!  I over cooked it on one of the turns and front wheel slipped out, back to the end of the bunch I go.  The group have a small gap on me by the time we go past the start line and into the woods again.  At least there is no bottleneck at this point again.  Manage to catch back onto the group as we come back into main areas and eye up the hurdles for the second time.

Take another lap and we are starting to split.  By the time the tight corners and woods are dispatched, we are back onto the tarmac path.  The front riders have pulled away again and now I am being caught by riders behind.  I know losing too much speed and time in the corners but I don’t want to push it and take a tumble.  Into the Spiral again and this is where I am making ground on riders (if you took the wide line there was more grip).  An Ayr Road rider is my target. I pull him back, but over the next few corners, he’s away again. This happens each lap (really need to work on keeping the speed up on corners or applying the power out of them).

Onto the last lap, I brave it more in the corners and keep some speed up (smooth is fast). Franco Porco shouting to me to keep the wheel of riders in front. It spurs me out the saddle, and I catch on to Darren Lindsay’s wheel (and his shrinking seat post) as we tackle the spiral, we catch the Ayr Road rider again.  Now it’s time to work my socks off and try and gain two places before we finish.  We hit the last wooded section, off the bike and run the bends, sling the bike on the shoulder and run the ever-thickening mud back out to the main arena.

wp-1481057051942.jpg

Only a few corners left and the double hurdles.  Head down and pedal like mad!  A clean dismount off the bike and attack the barriers.  I can see that I have gapped the two riders chasing me, now I know that I can’t lose any positions and could ease off.  I don’t!  I keep my head down and speed up, going for a fast lap.  Roll over the line absolutely spent to take 54th place in the Senior male race.  I think I qualify for V40 races with me turning 39 in a few days time so could be my last race as a Senior, could be wrong though.  The sound of a 40-minute race looks much appealing.

That’s my racing done for 2016, but have the Super Quaich Series starting in January at Rouken Glen Park to keep training for and also keep me off the Christmas cakes.

2016 it’s been eventful, started shite, broken bikes but finished last few races in one piece, which was my primary objective. 

Duels in the Dunes.

20.11.16 Irvine Beach.fb_img_1479811908893.jpg

 Round 5 of Scottish Cyclocross Series takes us to a wee trip to the beach. No bucket and spade to play with today though.

Wandering up to sign on, I see that there has been already a change from last year’s championship course. We won’t be riding past the stench of the portaloos today as the car parking area has been extended. Meet up with Kevin Pugh for a wander around the course taking in what else is new/been cut from last year.

Vet 40 men are just starting their race, head up to the run-up and shout some words of encouragement to the riders or hill runners at this point. Stevie Jackson was the first one to the run up still with the yellow test seat on his bike, must be the longest test for that seat ever. Craig Hardie is hot on his heels while the rest of the racers snake out along the single track.

While the V40 battle it out it’s my time to get my bikes seen too. The debate over my tyre pressure begins. Dump the spare bike into the pits then head along to see the conclusion of the V40. Craig Hardie rolls over the line to take the win just four seconds ahead of Stevie Jackson and John Woodrow takes the third spot. A good bit of racing by the auld yins!

fb_img_1479811953512.jpg

Warm up lap complete, I make my way to the start line. Gridding places are sorted and I find a spot and settle in. Only 69 riders in today race making it feel like I am near the front compared to last few races. Whistle blasts and so do I, Craig Lewis-Hamilton shoots off like his namesake and I go with him, trying to keep the same pace into the first corner.

Then I run out of gear on the single speed as we pass the commentators van and he pulls away. Hang a tight right, and we are on the climb. Last year this was a huge strength sapper for me. Today though I am going up the ever changing colour of grass pretty well.

fb_img_1479680326175.jpg

Crest the hill suck in air and get my breathing slowed. Now onto a great addition to the course, some nice little rollercoaster bends with a little dipper at the end warming you up for its big brother once you tackle the long zig-zags. The Big Dipper (The Big Diaper as I called it last year, I shat it every time I rolled over the edge) is next up. Gain speed, roll over the edge and drop down to sea level, as soon as you hit the flat its back on the peddles and keep the speed to blast up and over the top. Yasssssss! Conquered that sucker!

One legged peddling came next, with two areas of off camber awesomeness. Feet back into pedals and up the valley path towards the sea with the dragon watching down from your left.

Turn right and along the tight single trail, one eye on the ever looming run-up. Dismount at the foot of the climb, and it’s time to try and attack the hill and move up positions. My new shoes don’t have toe studs, so half way up the slope it turns soft and slippy. (I have a plan for this, the penguin walk.) Feet are out to the side, searching for good grip. Making headway to the summit. Over the top and back onto the saddle, rolling down and around to another fast downhill section. Up past the pond and take the path to the beach.

Just as last year, hanging on to the left-hand side of this monster of a sand trap was the best and firmest line. Seem to be riding it well, the single speed has a significant advantage here as I am pushing a harder gear than I would be if I had gears, giving me great momentum. Get to the deepest section of sand drive hard and push around the left-hand bend taking you out and along where we started. A few quick corners, past the timing van and finish line, then it was time to drive up the hill again.

Every time I got to the hill, I was out the saddle driving all the way to the top. Definitely my strong point today. If I didn’t pick people off, I seemed to gap the person behind. Really enjoyed the rest of the course once the hill climb was behind me. Even looked forward to tackling the “Big Dipper” on every lap.

After 8 laps and being lapped twice it was race over, I wasn’t too sure I would see the finish today. Like most people this time of year I came down with the cold a few days before the race. I was still coughing at the start line and after Lap 1 and seeing 8 more laps to go, I really did think of chucking it. Maybe if it was another course, I might have pulled up and had a DNF, but what Scott Kerr, Brian McCtcheon and the Walker Cycling Team done with this bit of grass and sand, it was incredible! Loved the new parts of the course and also they supplied the right kind of weather too.

fb_img_1479819010617.jpg

Well done to Harry Johnston keeping it a clean sweep for the series. Gary McDonald sprinting home to take second from Rab Wardell in third.

Huge thanks to all who shouted encouragement to me as I struggled on.  I came into this sport not knowing a soul, yet now after last season and this it is good to hear so many people shout ‘Go, Bryan’. It can be a massive boost helping you struggle on to the next lap. Feel like I am part of the family now.  Sorry, Jim Cameron, you will have to put up with my parody posters for a while yet! Haha!

fb_img_1479736498684.jpg

Thanks once again to Michael Martin and Cameron Mason for the images.

Next up for TwoWheelArmy is the Scottish CHAMPS! At Lochore Meadows.

 

 

 

 

Gangs Of Cyclocross

Callender Park, Falkirk, Scotland, 9th October 2016.

Round 1 of the Scottish Cyclocross Series.callender-park-1

The gangs assemble at another park in Scotland, readying themselves for terrible battles that lie ahead. Cuts, bruises and dramatic falls are to come in the next few months of an ever growing gang population. 600 people assemble today to battle it out to be crowned the first winner of their fight, taking the bragging rights to the next park.

As I make my way to the sign on tent, register myself and represent my team in this first pitch battle, I see a lot of gangs have congregated under their banners, staking out their little patch of turf as their stronghold for the day.

Walkers are next to RCCK who are eyeing up Leslie Bikers Boutique. Pedal Power seems to be jammed in between the two. On the fringes, Ayr Burners are looking thin on numbers with people switching alliances on the day. Albannach always seem to multiply in numbers at every park, HTCC  swarm about looking for an opportunity to make their colours noticed. After this, you have the unattached fighters, eyeing up the influential groups deciding who’s colours they might wear for the rest of the battles to come.

I head back to the car and get my fighting gear ready and tooled up with all I need to survive in an all out battle for an hour. Then it is down to the battlefield and to the line drawn in the dirt. The big hitters are all at the front of the bunch, whilst we wannabes are content for spots at the back of the pack. The nerves begin to build, eyeball the surrounding people looking for any weakness, find none!  Rules are being laid out, some people ignore them as they are too focused on the mayhem that is about to come down on them, get ready for the call for action.

callender-park

30 seconds and we will be let loose! I get my foot clipped in, other is firmly planted, ready to drive off. Eyes focused on the person in front of me, body weight leaning forward and ready for the charge ahead.

BANG! We are off! I drive off with my foot and keep my eyes on the guy in front, whilst scanning my periphery for the dangers coming at me from both sides. I see a space and move left into a bit of clean air and now I have control of my battle. Get onto the grass on the outside taking some places and look ahead for the next bend. Manage to get into a decent gap which allows for me to take the racing line around the bend. Still in the middle of the crowd by the time we ride the gravel path taking me past the timing van. Next to tackle is the Big Tree Bend. Keep left on this as looked the smoothest way up, it also gave to a good line around the roots at the top.

Descend the hill and now it is time to hustle up along to the stairs, good little drag from the Big Tree Bend to the stairs.  Grippy grass enabling you to get the speed up, seem to be gaining and closing gaps with each stroke of the pedals. Dismount the bike, run up the steps, then with a flying leap I remount back on to the bike, taking a couple of spaces as I go.

A few more ridable areas taking you up to a short sharp incline, apply the power and you were up and over, taking you under the canopy of some large trees. Then came the great downhill speed section, miss the kerbs at the bottom of the hill and you are then zipping up to the hard part of the course. Long grassy uphill section that was slightly slippery due to the morning dew and the other 500 riders being on the course before us.

A dashing decent through the little wood section taking you down to a big swooping lefthander, pinging you out at the foot of another climb sucking all the speed out of your legs. Next part was so much better than 2015.  Organisers had still kept the switchbacks but this year they were lengthened, making them much more rideable but still keeping a degree of technicality about them.

Come off the bends and you are past the pits, heading past the main crowd arena. There was an amazing amount of support today, as the dry conditions made this race more pleasable to watch. Two more bends and then it was the drag up the grass take an 180-degree turn and shoot back down the gravel and take a lap.

All was going well, kept moving up the field and felt good. Then disaster, I hit the kerb on the downhill section.  My rear tyre was a little underinflated before the race so with the bang it pinches and now inner is punctured. Gutter!

Race over? No way! I came to Falkirk for a fight, and fight I shall do! Off and running to the pits (jogging)(very slowly) I came with a pit bike. My new single speed cross bike would be getting its maiden voyage. I had to run roughly half a lap and survive. I took an age to get to the pits, I was burst! Big thanks to Harry McGarvie for taking care of my bike while it got to the end of the pits and mounted my second bike of the day.

OMG! How hard did the remainder of the race become? With the gears, you can slightly get a rest on some parts of this course. With the SS it was a battle all the was around. But battle I did, I was super happy with my next lap as I managed to ride the whole course, well except the steps. I wasn’t in this fight for a position now, it was just survival mode, trying to make it to the end of the hours racing. When I received the bell indicating that I was on my last lap the goal now was to ride the whole course and not have to run any hills.

callender-park-me

When that last drag up the hill to the switchbacks conquered I knew I had achieved my goal. Try and pick up the pace want to get this over with but also try to take a lap back from some riders that passed me. Hit the last 180-degree turn and with the line in sight I pick it up again and take the flag. I take 84th place, rather disappointing.

Job done! Seems like I have to do things the hard way the past few races. So I am grateful I managed to get a good hours worth of training in and also knowing I can race a single speed if need be.

A huge effort has been put in with Davie Lines and Franco Porco to create a great course in a great park for a great cyclocross community.

lords-of-the-big-hoose

Thanks, guys and also to all the helper’s marshalls and to all that stayed to cheer on the racers.

Next up for me is Halloween Dressup time at HalloX.people2

Thanks to the photography skills and images in this post from Michael Martin, The Pressoom and Anthony Robson.

 

 

Here Kitty,Kitty.

Weekend Kit, Commuter Kit, Race Kit or Just Cycling Kit.

the kit

Probably like most cyclist out there I have a drawer of ever-expanding cycling kit, along with pre/post race kit.

It’s funny looking back to what I thought was a reliable and comfortable kit to wear for my first ventures out on the road bike.

I did buy some cycling shorts, £20 was spent in Go Outdoors for some Lycra and the tiny bit of padding.  These were then covered up by some old sports shorts as I felt a bit exposed at the tightness and flashing my skinny legs.  After a few weeks, I braved it and left the sports shorts at home and even bought my first proper cycling jersey with pockets on the back enabling me to ditch the Camelbak too.

After feeling a little bit more of a proper cyclist I invested in a pair of bib shorts.  I would never go back to shorts after wearing them.  The main reason was for comfort but also knowing that the rider or car driver behind you can’t see your ass crack, along with the added bonus of feeling like a wrestler from the early 80’s in them when you look in the mirror.

Once I started racing this is where the drawer seemed to multiply in kit overnight.  I bought some ASOS kit, which I kept as my Sunday best.  It felt good pulling on some quality threads and rolling up to the line in your cycling finest.

I got Cross, Cyclocross.

wpid-wp-1448277818787.jpg

With Cyclocross my kit expanded again due to the amount of mud, sweat and tears.  I went back to some cheaper bibs and tops for training due them getting trashed with the great Scottish weather.  With the bibs and jerseys, along came arm warmers, leg warmers, base layers, jackets, a huge amount of socks and umpteen pairs of gloves.

Pre and Post race clothes became the next thing on the list.  With Cyclocross taking place in the Scottish winter months, warm waterproof clothing became important.  Keeping you warm and dry while you wandered in the rain to the sign on area and having something to keep on and keep you semi-dry for a warm up lap or two.

Pre/Post Crit racing and Road racing clothes were some new sports tops and trousers with decent zips enabling you to strip down quickly after the turbo warm up and roll up to the start line.

A blog was born.

With the blog, I progressed to creating Team Two Wheel Army.  So the team would need some kit to race in and hopefully promote the blog at the same time.

If like me you only want to create one of a kind kit then you will get a lot of companies replying with “Sorry we have a minimum order of ten garments, so you will have to find nine more riders”.

Kalas have been great.  They didn’t see it as a problem I was only a team of one.  Or that I had no idea what I wanted or even a colour.  With a few emails, I had a few ideas and then eventually the kit was finalised and on the cutting table.  A few weeks later, I soon had my very own team and its own cycling kit.  A very proud moment.

Along came a Fixie.

twa fixie rider

I finally thought I had all my Cycling kit sorted, but then came along a chance of a fixie bike.

This now flung a spanner in the works.  I wanted to ride the fixie to and from work, but also will be the bike I nip to the shops in and just get out and enjoy a quiet, easy ride.

With this I don’t think I need the aerodynamics the Lycra brings, so now it’s time to dig out my baggy shorts and t-shirts, trying my best to look cool and hipster.

With the cool clothes in mind, I began looking more and more at images of Fixie riders on Instagram seeing what brands and style were out there. This is I stumbled on a post from My bike and I. mybikeandi.co.uk

First of all, I was looking at the Caps.  As on the Fixie, I have ditched the helmet and the wind is creating havoc with my hair.

I sent a little post on their Instagram page, I soon had a reply.  After a few email exchanges, it looks like I shall be getting a new cap to tame the hair, also a new t-shirt to wear while riding the bike or wearing before my races.

The contact I have had with the new budding bike clothing company, I have been really impressed with what I have seen and the vision for the future.  I think they are onto a winner with their brand and hopefully, Two Wheel Army can help promote some more of the products in the future.

Thoughts!

What are your thoughts on buying cycling kit? Do buy the full team kit of Sky or your favourite team?  Some call this the full kit wanker!  Or do you stick with the high-end of the market and only wear Rapha?  I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Feel free to leave a comment. 

If you liked this post give it a share using the social media icon you desire.

 

The Gym!

Why, Oh Why!

Lately, a little thing cropped into my mind. Running on a treadmill looking out at the grass and trees for 30 sweaty minutes, Why?

I work in a large Sports Campus, we have most sports catered for.  Swimming, Badminton, Tennis, Squash, Football, Rugby etc. The one thing that I find rather confusing is that people still hit the gym to “train.”

Train what exactly? Most of the gym users are there to make them feel better about eating that Chinese for breakfast or the extra few beers they will consume on their Saturday night dance off.  So Mr Muscle Vest, you are at the gym having a workout and posting on Facebook in between your sets of 5!  Not training. (in my opinion training you should have a structured plan aiming to hit a set target or competition.)

arnnie

I understand all the other sports why you have to come to a Sports Centre to partake in the chosen activity.  You need to have a court or pitch and the case for swimming, our Scottish water is far too cold for much of the year for open water swimming.  So you have to come down and buy your way in.  But to come down pay in to use a hot enclosed area, running on the spot, until exhaustion. All the while you have been looking at the open sky and green space.  It’s a mystery to me!  Especial as my work has an outdoor athletics track along with a very nice park just across the road.

Along with the treadmills, there are some nice bikes on offer.  Yup, they are looking out the window too!  But if you don’t fancy looking out at the great outdoors then why not pop on the tv and watch some Homes Under  The Hammer! (WTF)

We do supply some Watt Bikes,  I am sure they don’t get used to their full potential. As even I don’t understand all my training zones after three lots of VO2 max testing. So how would Joe Public understand that he should be riding in their sweet spot!

I think what I am trying to say in this rant is, GET OUTSIDE! IT’S FREE.

Save yourself some cash and run the park, or don’t save money and buy a bike.

I am most certain that if you buy a bike you will be out for the same amount of time as it takes you to drive to and from the gym and complete your workout, but you will have had a better workout and probably burn more of the beer and burger biofuel, while enjoying the sights around you.

So kick the gym door open and go get some FREEEEEEEEEEDOM!

Car W**kers!

Accumulation of rants with a life on a bike.

rant and rave

Ok, Ok the heading is a bit strong.  With the better weather returning, I am sure there will be more confrontations with drivers as more cyclists come out and hit the roads.  For us who have been cycling throughout the winter months, you will probably be more accustom and senses are more honed for dangers with sharing the road.

In this post, I will go over my interactions with drivers and other dangers that I have come across in my short time of riding a bike.

When I first ventured out onto the road I tried my best to stay tight to the kerb, probably like most newbie cyclists.  After a while, you realise this is the wrong way to ride.  The majority of car drivers would try and squeeze past you in the same lane.  This gives you nowhere to go if you come across any potholes or drains in the road, making a crash more possible.  So now you need to move out take control of the lane as stated in the highway code.

Once you have moved out to the Primary position this is where most of the contact with car w*nkers will evolve.

My encounters have involved being inches away from cars travelling 50+mph when the second lane of dual carriageway was empty for them to move over and giving me space to ride.  In one case the nice blue Subaru Impreza squeezed past while another lane of dual carriageway was completely clear from other traffic at 7am.  Not only did he nearly leave a blue strip of paint along my leg, he dropped down a gear to make his big bore exhaust backfire, scaring the early morning porridge out of me!  Though he didn’t find the funny side when I caught up with him at the red light 200 metres away.  Let’s just say he wasn’t the great conversationalist type that morning.

anger-9-unknown2

Then there is middle finger guy, sat in behind so close to my rear wheel he could see the depth of my tyre tread.  Once he had enough space to overtake after been held up for all of 3 seconds, he then raced on by, flicking the finger!  A polite wave back and on with the cycle. I even had this on an open country road, the driver was not in any way delayed or affected by me riding on the road.  To this day, I wonder what I did wrong!

Roundabouts are fun.  The more exits the more it’s like Russian roulette.  Had one taxi driver come out 3/4 of the way onto the roundabout.  Luckily it was late at night and the road was quiet, meaning I had room to swing round the front of the cab to avoid him.  If I was one-second faster, I would have been surfing the bonnet and walking a crushed carbon bike home.

A typical comment would be “use the cycle lane”.  Have you ridden more than 400 metres on a cycle lane?  They are full of drains, to help with making the lanes puddle free creating safer roads to drive.  By draining the surface water, all the debris from the lanes finds it’s way to the side of the road/cycle lane making it puncture heaven.  With all the water heading to the side of the road, this helps with the deterioration of the road surface and creating more monster potholes for you to navigate.  Then there is Mr Lazy, parking in the cycle lane because he can’t be bothered finding another place to park while he nips into the shop.  These are just a few of the common problems.  Have a look at Global Cycling Network (GCN).  They have a good collection of the stupid cycle lane blockages or obstacles.

Then the drivers favourite comment “you don’t pay road tax”.  Implying if you pay “Road Tax” it means they should have priority on the road.  Yeah, good one mate!  I am pretty certain that no one should be paying  road tax, as it was abolished in 1937.  Meaning we now pay “Vehicle Excise Duty“.  As bikes don’t have engines and don’t spew out fumes, then there is no payment to be made!  Just like the electric cars on the road today.  Oh,  we do pay towards the road.  Through our council tax and general taxation just like everyone else.

These have just been a few of my encounters on the road.  Don’t get me started on the advanced stop line (ASLs) being blocked at traffic lights.  The not looking coming out at junctions.  The grief from cars while taking part on group rides.  Then the other beast, canal paths!  I shall leave that one for another day.

Rant over with.  Would love to hear any of your hates/stories with sharing the road.

BIKESvsCARS_01_new.jpg.662x0_q70_crop-scale

Tale Of Two Wheel Army

 

image

2015

Begin with my first ever Cyclocross race, I got a new shiny bike for my Birthday so had to try it out in anger at First ever Rukenglen CX.

Januaryimage

I entered the race not having a clue what to expect, lots of YouTube videos of Dig In The Dock. Gave me some idea of what was to come.  Race was where I was to cut my teeth, had a great time in the snow and frozen mud, managed to finish 22nd so not a bad result first time out. 

March

wp-1450099808509.jpg

Crit on the Campus was my first road race.  I watched this from the sidelines in 2014, from then on I knew I wanted to race some Crits. Was a hard race, once you loose the bunch It turns into a dogfight just to keep going around and minimize the amount you will be lapped.  Finish 39th and absolutely spent.

May

wp-1450100951745.jpg

Next on the road was Crit race in Motherwell, this was a big boy race.  Pearl Izumi Tour Series is in town.  This is a warm up race before the main women’s and men’s go ahead.  I am still struggling Cat 4 racer, this was to be an open race.  Cats 2, 3 and 4 were all scrapping it out in this race.  Good course nice and fast but a brutal headwind on the back half of the course, then you had a bit of a climb coming up to the finish line.  Same as previous Crits I can’t hang with the bunch so try to slip in behind others to help with hiding from the headwind.  Finish 36th.

wp-1450101228572.jpg

May was also to bring my first ever road race.  Wee Run Out Before The Morra.  36 miles was to be the race distance today, my biggest test of fitness yet.  Race being held on the A77 at Fenwick, this is also a Cat 2, 3 and 4 races. With also an open road, adding cars into the mix as well.  We’re racing in a loop one roundabout to another.  Try my best to keep with the bunch, sit in and keep out of trouble.  Even feel brave enough to have a little attack and help reel in a two man break.  Then disaster strikes.  Wrong gear coming off the roundabout, the bunch sail past, I am now being gapped.  From now on it’s a time trial for me.  Seeing the bunch gain and they eventually go past on opposite sides of the road.  Struggle on and finish the last rider home 49th for me.

June

wp-1450428141722.jpg

June brings me into another Crit I have been wanting to do, Crit Under The Castle.  Stirling Castle.  Battling up the cobbled streets was great, a brilliant crit course and great crowds out cheering us on, think we even had a “Dutch corner”.  Manage to hang with the bunch, doing well top ten looking achievable.  Then disaster struck, dropped my chain after the cobbled climb.  Dropping down a whack of positions and finish the race disappointed but still 22nd.  That’s racing for you!

Having caught the racing bug fully now, I enter another road race.  John Davies Memorial Road Race, held by VC Glasgow.  50-miles, 5laps of a 10-mile loop around Kilmaurs.  The weather was horrible, heavy rain and wind.  It was a struggle to get out the car and warm up.  Think I manage two laps then get dropped again.  Manage one more lap then after a wrong turn I end up throwing in the towel.  Not got the head to last another 20 miles on my own.  Once I am changed the sun comes out and the riders flash by for the final lap.  I receive my first DNFwp-1450429404855.jpg

 August

This month was a massive month for me, not only did it bring me some Cyclocross but also Two Wheel Army was born.  Racing at Haugh-Cross Festival.

wpid-wp-1439647605018.jpg

Click To Read More Two Wheel Army

wpid-wp-1438886438690.jpg

Click To Read More Haugh-Cross

September

One Cyclocross race, one Crit race and an Adventure Cross ride this month.  Talking all the cycling options.

Click To Read More Of Tour Of Duty

Click To Read More Of Tour Of Duty

Click To Read More Of Kilmarnock Crits

Click To Read More Of Kilmarnock Crits

Click To Read More Of Beverage Park GP

Click To Read More Of Beverage Park GP

October

Click To Read More Of Callender Cross

Click To Read More Of Callender Cross

Click To Read More of Battle Of Balloch

Click To Read More of Battle Of Balloch

A-race and a B-race this month, Seen me getting a top ten place again.  Then during Big boys race, I reside to mid-table again, though still moving up the placing ladder.

November

Scottish Cyclocross is in full swing, rounds 4-5 taking up the month of November.  Both proper mud fests, lots of broken bikes after these rounds.

wpid-wp-1447054881909.jpg

Click On To Read More Of Strath-Mud Bath

Click To Read More Of Lochore Meadows

Click To Read More Of Lochore Meadows

December

Click To Read More Of Irvine's Dragon Riders

Click To Read More Of Irvine’s Dragon Riders

This was to be my last race of 2015.  Now I will focus on the Super Quaich series, starting in January.  It has been a good year for me on the bike.  Not doing as many longer rides like 2014, but I have been more constant on the bike, keeping my fitness levels up.  I liked the way my results went as there was always an improvement within every race.  Now it is time to trying and get fitter and keep the momentum going for 2016.

wp-1449663823417.jpg

Hope to see you all on the start line in 2016.

The End

The End