Guest Blog – New Year’s Resolution (aka we gotta start somewhere)

By Alexander Rhodes (he’s the guy on the right)

 


It is 8:30 am new years day 2014…..

Actually, we are going to need some context here. Back in the early part of this decade, I was post-rave, post-relationship and very much in the era of depression and self-loathing. I knew things were getting out of hand when a friend I hadn’t seen in a while commented via Facebook, with complete sincerity, how cruel it was that someone had “Photoshopped my head onto that obese body.” No such manipulation had taken place. This was exacerbated weeks later when popping in to see an old clubbing acquaintance at their place of work. He looked at me open mouthed and, shaking his head, muttered the immortal words, “My God, what happened to you?” Things had to change.

I am a single-minded and determined character. If I decide on something, it is often taken up with 150% commitment, within minutes of making that decision. Even so, had you have told me that in just short twelve months I would be cycling the welsh hills in the pouring rain, completing a 101-mile course in just 6 ½ hours I would have thought you in some way deranged. So back to the story……

It is 8:30 am new years day 2014…..

I am bleary eyed and disorientated. The alien sound of my smartphones alarm confuses me. I don’t set alarms as a rule. As the world comes into focus I jab at the smartphone screen to silence the sounds of “Rousing Forest”. I am awake. Not as a result of all night partying and copious chemicals coursing through my veins as would have been true the year before. No! The reason for my early start is sat in the spare room downstairs. I have bought a “racer”.

For the younger readers of these ramblings, a “racer” is the anachronistic title given to what you would call a “Road Bike.” This is the first push bike I have owned in the best part of 26 years. The last being a mail order mountain bike which I used to ride to work in my early 20’s. (I should point out that I had not, at this juncture, referenced a cycling magazine, googled any kind of background information or studied any forums. For the older readers, a forum is one up from Ceefax and Oracle. For the younger readers, it is where retired people go to moan).

The “Racer” in question was purchased from a high street retailer for a ridiculous £350!! Who would ever dream of spending so much on a bike! My shopping trip had revealed exotic machines of £1000 and more. I could not ever see me spending this much on a “Racer”. It had taken me all summer to save up the £65 required to purchase my last one.

It is my new year’s intention to ride this bike today, whatever the weather and accomplish a massive 10-mile ride! Yes, you heard me correctly. 10 miles! I know right? 10 whole actual miles. It is ridiculous, but I am sure I can do it. I am excited, scared, I feel like I am about to embark on some foolhardy, epic voyage into the unknown. TEN MILES! Even the horizontal rain that drums violently onto the window and the foreboding howling wind will not be stopping me. In fact what stops me, in the end, is me. Around 2 miles in, huffing and puffing, red-faced and heart pounding in my chest, I see the city border and beyond it, the wild green countryside of rural Devon.

I feel the security of the city and its hustle and bustle tugging at my ankles. The harsh, cold wind and driving rain lash out at me with ice like talons as if to warn me of my impending doom. Basically, I bottle it. I turn the bike around and, consoling myself that to ride 10 miles on a “racer” is the preserve of fools and super-humans, I slowly grind my way home. 4 miles completed, I collapse into a heap with a hot coffee and a laptop. I decided that I should start researching cycling with a view to improvement.

One of the single most influential web hits on that fateful day was the discovery of Strava. I was excited by the idea that I could track my progress and see how my ride had gone. Even more excited that I would be able to compare previous efforts and the efforts of other people in my network. I downloaded the app to my phone and tentatively filled in some details. I then, as instructed, searched for friends who also used this app. A few tenuous acquaintances were suggested. One was a middle-aged man that I kind of know through a social network and that I surmised, was about my level of fitness. I looked at his rides. I was blown away. 42 miles!! Surely that was kilometres. No. It is miles. He managed this feat of athletic prowess in just over four hours. That is incredible! How on earth had he managed this?

I spent the rest of the day visiting cycle blogs, articles and magazines. It was at some point mid-afternoon that I hit a site dedicated to the Tour De France. Needless to say, the numbers that I saw there rendered me speechless. I had not even realised that a human could achieve such levels. It had also become increasingly obvious that a 60 to 80-mile ride was deemed to be a reasonable weekend jaunt for a considerable number of everyday people. Right there and then I set my goal. I would get comfortable with my bike. I would spend a couple of weekends addressing some of the obvious issues that I was becoming aware of through my reading, largely concerning kit, diet and personal motivation. I would then head out with a local club. I was going to ride 25 miles. I was going to achieve this before the end of February and, before the end of spring, I was going to hit 50 miles.

So much of human ability is set by our attitude. As a diploma qualified hypnotherapist, I am well aware of how positive mental attitude, re-framing and peer group influence can shape our reality. If I want to achieve certain goals I have to first adopt the can-do attitude. Then I to visualise the success and believe it be unequivocally possible. To do this it is wise to surround one’s self with the right people. Not the naysayers or the ridiculer’s. We have friends and family for that! Rather, with the people that share our aspirations and see our goal as a viable and achievable norm. All that we have to do then, in the most simplistic of terms and with no nod to Nike intended, is Just do it!

You can keep abreast of the unfolding story of how a middle-aged, ex-drug using, lard arse succeeded in changing his perception of what can be achieved on a bike by following this blog. This feed will divulge cycle hacks and shortcuts, inspirational tales, bike purchases, more bike purchases, honest and frank confessions and hopefully a few laughs too. As well as my Cycling stories, it will provide friends cycling stories, your cycling stories and cycling videos too!

This place is a celebration of cycling. It is the home of Silverfox Cycling Club. It is where you will find inspiration, consolation, celebration and delectation in cycling form. It is for the MAMIL’s and MAWIL’s everywhere as well as the younger cyclist who would like a different perspective. It is for the racing snakes and the overweights. The cycling elite and the cycling in defeat. Full of sweat, grime and hard work, it is cycling in its purest form. It is because weridebikes.net. We hope you will enjoy it.

An early example of a “long ride” (10 days after purchasing the bike)

https://www.strava.com/activities/105527064

Beach and Cake

Not your average combination in the UK, but here on the Costa Blanca both are synonymous with a good day’s cycling.  This unlikely combo is what today was all about.  Having researched the hills, country byways (caminos), national parks and lakes of this region, a cycling break would not be complete without a gentle amble to the beach. Perhaps the perfect antidote to a longer day. With promises of rich and creamy gateaux, apple tarts, sticky toffee delights and strawberry or lemon cheese-cake our route and destiny to dine was set.

We started at 4 meters above sea level in Dolores, with our repose being at La Marina…unsurprisingly at sea level. The ride was pan flat passing through La Fondo nature reserve, home to tall windrushes, bulls, deer and assorted wading birds. After 10 miles we were dismounting at the restaurant (La Candela) situated by itself, away from the bustle, directly on the beach.

 

 

We were joined by a charming French couple on an electric tandem, having cycled themselves down from Alicante. Well if e-bikes are your thing, this was a stretch limo version.  Talking of e-bikes, ie those with a small electric motor to power you up hills and gradients, almost every local bike shop rents and sells them, so really there is no barrier to cycling if you need a little extra help.  More power to you !

Having left a suitable time for cake digestion and the last drop of the obligatory Cortado to be consumed, we headed back to the villa, making a good pace, and arriving with sufficient time for a quick dip in the pool, cleansing shower and stroll into Dolores for lunch.

 

Tapas and cerveza anyone ?

Blue Flamingoes !

Well after yesterday’s 50 mile ride with just one hill, (okay it was 25km long and took us up to 493 meters), it was time to go searching for the elusive blue birds which supposedly occupy the marshes just down the road.

Now we know there are pink flamingoes, there are pictures of them everywhere, but that is to be expected when you frequent a world heritage site, the pink and blue salt lakes of Torrevieja.  But blue flamingoes…we’d have to see.

Now I happened to mention in the last blog that we would be doing hills or lakes….well now we have done both, and I have to say that two rides cannot be different in nature if you tried.  For the hills, we struck south west into the Sierra de la Pila mountains, and as Dolores is only 4 feet above sea level required a small level of physical exertion, nothing dramatic, just a long 2% climb with the occasional kick.  Midway we stopped at Albanilla for a short milky Cortado and a wonderful homemade honey cake which gave us sufficient surges of energy to continue up to the plains.

There we were treated to a “moonscape”, in which the barren land was score-marked with deep crevices and ravines; it felt like bandit country from one of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western films with one house villages called “El Tolle” and “El Rebals”. The plains are fertile with olive groves and the black stumps of promising vines.  However, what goes up, does come down, and we enjoyed a wonderful descent, somewhat technical towards the top of the mountain, but full of well crafted bends that embrace you and then send you safely on your way.

A ‘cool down’ cycle across the valley floor and we were ready for a dip in the pool and a well earned ice-cold cerzeva.

Today’s ride was different, we opted to head south into the Murcia region across the valley to the small town of Hurchillo.   From there we climbed, helped by a breeze on our our backs, up to the region’s main reservoir called “Embalse de la Pedrera”.  Well what a view, we simply had to stop to take in the gorgeousness of the glistening lake, bright turquoise in colour and sitting high above the valley to afford us views across the mountains to the sea.

 

We were accompanied by a flight of swallows that darted just ahead of us at road level, inviting us to join their parade.  From there we were treated to a broad road with silky tarmac as we descended to the lunch stop of pork brochette, coke and of course, a Cortado.

From there it was a gentle cycle back to the villa via the local bike shop “Cyclelogic” in Benijofar for a some light fettling of Sean’s front wheel bearings…a friendly bunch, no charge.

So back to the blue flamingoes, did we spot them….well actually not this time, but there will be plenty of opportunities in the future.  Fancy joining us ?  Leave a comment if you do 🙂

Saturday is alright for chilling

Today is Saturday, a day off the bike.  A pattern or theme has emerged this week having ridden across fields and more fields of oranges and lemons that drip from the trees.   It is possible to reach out and grab one as you ride by, but out of respect for the farmer, so far I have resisted temptation.

Yesterday’s 40 mile ride was confined to the local caminos, these are the single track byways that criss-cross the land in a similar fashion to the irrigation ducts that keep the fruits rich and the land fervent and green.   Above us swallows soar silently while Martins swoop and climb seemingly out of sheer joy.

Last night we walked the short distance into Dolores, ostensibly for provisions, but got caught up in the town’s “Friday night is party night” festivities; a few cerzevas and a bottle of Ribera De Duero were consumed to wash down the excellent tapas and entrecôte. I don’t think this part of Spain has heard of inflation since it adopted the Euros, so we came back wondering how we had spent so little on such delicious fare.

Tomorrow we plan a 50 mile ride, either to the hills or down to the world heritage salt lakes, one blue and one pink.   We expect to see pink flamingoes, egrets and other waterfowl in one, not sure if we will see blue flamingoes in the other 🙂.  If we choose hills, I will perhaps have another story to tell of vistas and valleys to excite the soul and pump the blood to every vein.

As it is the weekend, we may treat the lemons that hang in the villa’s garden to a small glass of gin and tonic.  It would be rude not to.

Cyclismo Segura !

Gently Does it

The villa is set on the outskirts of a small town, Dolores, surrounded by fields; we are in the heartland of orange groves and lemon orchards. It’s clean, quiet and tastefully decorated with a view to calmness and tranquility.  The only sounds to break the silent are of cicadas and the screeches of diving swallows.

Our first ride was a relaxed 20 miles, just to stretch the legs, to test the bikes and make sure that everyone is made aware of the rules of Spanish roads; unlike the UK, the drivers are courteous giving copious space and the occasional wave. Every major roundabout has a segregated path for us cyclists. We cycle on the right and are given more leeway than expected.   It feels and is safe.

Our second ride, again gentle, included the obligatory cafe stop for tortilla (omelette) and Cortado (a short, milky coffee). A few steady climbs, nothing too testing, and the smoothness of the tarmac makes hills easy going.  The 40 miles felt significantly less than at home, and so decided to have a small detour to introduce ourselves to the sea.

Now you may think of this part of Spain as “bustling”, but it is far from that…empty roads, empty beach, however with good company, the sun doesn’t go down alone (apologies for the homage to Don Henley).

Mid-afternoon is for chilling; we help ourselves to a small cerveza and muse over today’s ride, while talk turns to dinner with the promise of local tapas.

Ciclista Seguro !