29 · non-binary (they/them) · neurodiverse · spoonie · queer femme · NSO & trainee zebra · polyamorous · burned-out activist · geek.

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tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
A bit delayed, mostly because I forgot, but also because I've been ridiculously busy: last weekend, I joined in with the Friday Night Ride to the Coast clan again, this time for Manchester to Morecambe, largely on account of it being somewhat more convenient than any of them there London ones, but also because a YACFer passed away last year having had a heart attack on the Manchester-Morecambe last August, and I wanted to go along to pay my respects, as whilst I only vaguely knew him, I did remember him being extremely kind to my family and I years back following my dad's death.

Ahead of the ride I offered to do a 'ride-in' from Stockport to the city centre; one person took me up on it, and we met halfway from my house to the pre-meet meeting point of the pub on Piccadilly station - conveniently, he even suggested a spot very close to where I was planning to remove myself from the main road, so as to avoid cycling through Longsight on a Friday evening (which, for those who are fortunate enough not to know, is a free-for-all: motorists will stop suddenly and open their doors without looking in the mirrors, not even at the side of the road; pedestrians emerge from behind parked cars wearing clothes not terribly suitable for lighting conditions, also without looking where they're going. Drivers will pull U-turns, without using their mirrors, and absolutely nobody except bus drivers treat traffic lights as anything more than an advisory. It is generally best avoided.)

After an hour or so in the pub eating chips and watching people arrive from various bits of the country, we negotiated the traffic of the city centre and headed to Albert Square, the start point of the ride, getting there at about 23:40. There was a short safety briefing about riding in groups and along unlit country lanes in the middle of the night, and then not long after midnight, we all saddled up and headed off into the night…

Apparently the road up to Bury - our first stop, for a moment of silence for Alan and laying flowers in his memory - was "a long uphill slog", though I can't say I really noticed. Which was a really nice thing, given I usually profess how much I abhor hills :)

We took a rest there and were warned about the long hill to follow; this was more noticeable, though not as difficult as I was expecting. Up to that point, I'd been in the very front group of riders; I did slip behind a little here, but was far from the last to the top. Almost as if all the cycling this year has actually helped me get fitter, or something ;)

At the top of the hill, there was a regrouping, and the phrase "Quick health and safety announcement. We have a steep descent now, with a 90 degree bend at the bottom… good luck." was uttered, to most people's amusement. This was one of the things that got texted to various friends and my mum who had asked for or who usually get/send me texts during their silly bike ride adventures; one of whom was [personal profile] damerell, who texted me back to whit: "The great Jobst Brandt said to me once "you descend like a maniac" means "I could not match you". So it is praise when I say it, you descend like a maniac." My reply, to him and the others, was a simple: "Nailed it."

Of course, what wasn't mentioned (or perhaps it was and I was too busy texting to hear - more likely, if I'm honest) was how after the 90 degree bend, the road went directly uphill again, in the fashion that you can't use any speed you built up descending as momentum for climbing, so it's a tough job getting up there. I also nailed that, however :)

At the top of this third climb - and we're talking somewhere between 2-3am here, there was a pub in the middle of nowhere, with people outside it chattering away, one of them trying to control a large dog which I had initially thought was gunning for us cyclists - only to be informed later by one of the other riders that actually, it had its eyes on a wild roaming sheep who was being very daring and standing stock still on the other side of the road as if to say "I dare you!" to the hound. It definitely added something to the final push up the climb…

That one was more difficult. In fact, just as the person I was riding next to was saying "[personal profile] kimble is fearsome on the downhills, but we all catch her up on the… oh." - she calmly and silently powered past us… on a recumbent.

By the top of the moors, we stopped for a longer rest and to admire the views, and then hammered down the main road to the middle-of-the-night stop in shape of a McDonalds, where I confused the staff by asking for hot apple pie rather than something… less vegetarian. I'm guessing they're not used to serving apple pies at 3am.

The ride was… bumpy, after that. Up but then down, up again, down again… all on pitch dark country lanes, often in silence, just enjoying the ride and quiet company. In Longridge, we regrouped, caught our breaths, did some casual astronomy, and made friends with a black cat who was quite curious about happening upon 23 cyclists at 5am.

We hammered on, pausing again to regroup in Inglewhite, where I picked up another answer for the British Cycle Quest - incredibly, the planned route took us right past the location and when I emailed the ride leader ahead of time to say "soooo can we have a rest there so I can write down the answer?" his response was "actually, we usually pause there anyway…" (and all that despite not knowing of the BCQ!)

The next pause point was a short discussion over sticking to the route or following a coastal cycle path, which I ducked out of to hide behind a conveniently placed wall for a comfort break. Cue, as we saddled up again, my regular complaint following such breaks about how wonderful bib shorts are for comfort and warmth, and yet awful when it comes to a need to relieve oneself mid-ride, and more importantly my cycling wardrobe's awful lack of halter-neck shorts, a newish invention by dhb that make me go "why didn't I think of that?!" and "why are dhb so damn expensive?!" - and they aren't too bad, compared to, say, Rapha, but still rather out of my price range, on the whole.

The group had decided that the coastal path was likely to be dry and not muddy, and thankfully were right, as that's the route we took from that point most of the way to Morecambe itself. The views across the bay to the fells in the Lakes as the sun rose above them were utterly stunning, and frankly, I would cycle all the way back to Morecambe again just for that view.

From there, we rode along the cyclepath to Morecambe, and the final kilometre of the ride along the promenade to the infamous Eric Morecambe statue, which I was informed I had to pose not just next to, but climbing on, for the "forumites on a statue" thread:

(Thankfully, it was not a con!)

The final 7.5km were ridden from Morecambe back into Lancaster, where I ate breakfast from a plate bigger than my face, and then sped off to the station to play bicycle jenga with [personal profile] kimble (who showed me that, much to my amazement, it is possible to hang a recumbent up on the daft bicycle storage space on the old Virgin Voyager trains).

The journey back home from there was fairly non-eventful, despite a slightly antagonistic fellow passenger, who looked directly at me as we got on the train in Preston, before parking himself down on the quite uncomfortable fold-down seats positioned in the bicycle space, leading to the following conversation:

"'scuse me, please could I put my bike there?"
*grumbles unintelligibly, doesn't move*
"This *is* the bike space… and this is a bike. You're not a bike. Please can I put my bike there?"
*shuffles over one seat, grumbles unintelligibly again*
I put my bike in the bike space, strap it in, and take a seat on one of the nicer, vastly more comfortable seats opposite.

(And, an hour and a half later, this conversation:)

"Why can't people just RIDE their bikes anyway? They're not ACCESSORIES."
"Mate, YOU ride 120km through the middle of the night and then resist the urge to get a train home, I DARE YOU."

After that, it was… really quite peaceful. I slept the remaining 10 minutes into Manchester, cycled across the city centre, and then hopped on another train home, just about staying awake, walked in the house at about 2pm, and went to sleep on the sofa leaving my brother to explain to his friends what I'd been up to :)
tajasel: Katie, wearing a helmet and bike glasses. (bike bike bike)
Strava's distance challenge this month is 120km; I couldn't decide on a place to go, so at 09:15 this morning, I set off from work just outside Manchester city centre and decided to see where I felt like going.

Opted to turn right at first major junction on reasoning that I'd never turned down that road before; passed through Sale and Altrincham, then Warrington. Began to get rained on. Started thinking about maybe heading for Formby and going to that beach with statues on, but then spotted a signpost for Daresbury, the birthplace of Lewis Caroll, and remembered that one of the British Cycle Quest clues is there, along with a visitor centre which I reckoned would sell me a brew to help me warm up. In actual fact, it was attached to a church, and the brews were provided at a suggested donation of 20p, or 50p with biscuits. They got the handful of spare change from my wallet, and I had lovely stem ginger biscuits and alright (instant) coffee.

Whilst there, I examined the BCQ question book and decided to pick up a second answer in Chester. Arriving there with 65km on my GPS, I stopped for lunch, decided I was cold and wet and would be happier heading in the direction of home instead of somewhere else, so scrapped my "ride 100km, look for a train station, and get a train home" idea, and aimed for the Cheshire Cycleway to get me out of the town centre and vaguely north-east-wards again.

But of course, Chester has a lot of cycle routes, and I picked one with signs saying Connah's Quay in one direction, and Chester Town Centre in the other, thought to myself "well, I've just come from Chester so it must be the other way", and set off.

Sometime after this, I pass a sign welcoming me to Wales. I stopped to consider if I wanted to attempt to navigate Chester town centre again, decided I didn't, took a silly photo of myself at the border, and figured I may as well see how far I could get around the North Wales coast before hitting 120km.

Katie looking quizzically at Welsh border sign

116km landed me on the doorstep of a lovely cycling shop/café called Bike Hub in Rhyl Harbour, with divine blueberry cheesecake.

Cheesecake, a cup of coffee and my helmet, with Rhyl Harbour in the background

They didn't believe me the first time I said I got lost and was aiming for Manchester but took a wrong turning in Chester, only when I showed them the photo of me at the border.

120.0km exactly landed me at the entrance to Rhyl train station, with six minutes until the next Manchester train, and four minutes to a Chester one.

Of course, the Manchester one was a Virgin Trains service, which have mandatory bike reservations even when there are no other bikes on board, and a overzealous guard enforcing the (not-always-enforced) rule, so I ended up on the Chester train, and then changing again in Crewe.

122km later, I arrived home from my slightly-more-Welsh-than-usual commute, and am now in bed with my Kindle. It has been a grey and geographically-challenging but very fun day :)
tajasel: Katie, wearing a helmet and bike glasses. (bike bike bike)
Today, I did the August Strava Gran Fondo of 150km, and also established that my upper limit for a day of cycling is probably about 145km.

Had I not been very conscious that:
a) it takes a very long time to cycle 150km
b) I had set off 2 hours late anyway
c) my mobile battery is terrible and if I'm out of the house for 12 hours without access to electricity it basically needs to stay in airplane mode all the time.

…then I probably would have tweeted sentiments approximating the following (and a few other things that I have since forgotten):

  • You know you're in deepest darkest Cheshire when the only business you've seen for miles is hydrotherapy for horses.
  • "I can do 150km easily enough in Cheshire, it's quite flat" is probably true when you don't forget that Alderley Edge is built on an actual cliff.
  • Motorists who use unlit country roads at night, see white light coming towards them and don't dim their bloody high beams are THE WORST KIND OF MOTORISTS. Off-road cycling whilst temporarily blinded and unable to see the edge of the road was not on my agenda and I'm a bit grumpy about that, er, emergency motion?
  • 1km from home, 11pm, drunkards yelled "Tour de France is over luv!" at me and - I'm quite proud of this one, because I'm not very witty very often, and never spontaneously - I replied: "I'm on the Vuelta mate, which way's Spain from here?"

Places I stopped:
  1. Sandbach Waitrose - tasty, had treacle tarts and excellent bike parking. Had been intending to go to café opposite but menu was not gluten-free friendly (for my lunch companion), nor was it budget-friendly, and I'm not sure my Lycra would have quite fit in with the rest of the clientele's attire…
  2. Co-operative Food, Audlem - had meant to go to Priest's House Café, following excellent reviews from other cyclists, but arrived 5 minutes after they closed. Had roadside picnic instead. It was alright - potato wedges, orange juice and Jaffa Cakes. Who needs nutritional value anyway.
  3. Hazel Pear, Acton Bridge - tasty and very cheap food, cold drinks, handed me water without me needing to ask when I just stared glassy-eyed at the menu unable to think. Later on, not only let me charge my phone behind the bar but also went to find a charger to do so, since I didn't have mine. Highly highly highly recommended.

That will have to suffice for a ride report because I didn't take any photos, and I'm really really tired…
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Yesterday I rode my first Audax sans-[personal profile] damerell, and have now officially failed to finish more Audaxes than I have successfully completed, which is not quite the achievement I was hoping for.

It was meant to be a very hilly ride - starting in Marple, up into Glossop and Hadfield, past the reservoirs and over Holme Moss (one of the categorised climbs from the Tour de France's Grand Depart in Yorkshire last summer), then down into Langsett and Midhopestones and Strines, and then back into the Peak District through Edale, Chinley, New Mills and finishing again in Marple.

Well, it was a very hilly ride, and I did make it up to the summit of Holme Moss, with a bicycle, using only the power of my legs.

At the summit of Holme Moss

I also enjoyed descending the hills, and spotting road paintings leftover from when the TdF came past last summer.

Ey Up! / Go Yates Go! Allez Allez Jens!
Shut Up Legs Vive Le Tour!

However, I did come undone a little on a hairy descent out of Midhopestones - taking a corner much wider than I should have and probably somewhat faster too - I know that I was going for 66kph on the approach to the corner; I was braking heavily so probably didn't hit the ground at that speed, but still a little too fast. Unfortunately, on a 25% reverse-incline with a tailwind, there's a lot of factors against you...

So that goes some way to explaining why my front wheel was the wrong shape when I dropped the bike off at my local bike shop this morning, and also why I've got a small-ish rugby-ball shaped lump on my elbow, and why I had the help of Northern Rail to avoid the final big climb of the day (Mam Nick) - which is why I officially didn't finish the ride.

On arrival at the ride rendezvous point, the ride organiser (an old family friend) offered to take me and my bike home and deliver me to the A&E department up the road, where I hung about for three hours or so, had a number of X-rays, and eventually got sent home with painkillers and the good news that nothing was chipped, fractured or otherwise broken.

I have acute neck/shoulder pain today, leaving me wondering if I did bang my head after all (I knew that I hadn't lost consciousness, but didn't know if I'd hit my head or not) - but I'm at work until Saturday morning so unless it gets any worse I'm just going to assume whiplash.

Incidentally, how to make a hospital receptionist really struggle not to laugh at you:
"What's the problem?"
"I came off my bike and my elbow is the wrong shape."
"Was it an RTC?"
"No, just stupidity."

Think I'll stay away from hills for a little while.
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Written end of July 2015, post-dated to the day of the ride for some kind of historical accuracy.

The website I use to log my cycle rides, Strava, has monthly challenges one can enter, which include km-per-month (starting at 250km and increasing in increments of same up to 1250km) and also a "Gran Fondo" - usually 100km in a single ride, but during the summer months, they encourage you to get out on your bike more by progressively increasing the distance to 115km in June, 130km in July and 150km in August. In June, I hit the first one by adding the extra distance onto the end of the Great Manchester Cycle, but for July, I invented my own ride: getting myself from home, across the Pennines and to a lovely cycling café I discovered in York last year.

Fisheye photo of Katie, standing with their bike ahead of their big ride to York

I set off at about 9am, and immediately my GPS began to worry me, telling me that Strava's estimated ride time of 5.5 hours was out by an hour and that I should have left at around 8am instead in order to get there at the same time as the Yorkshire-based friends I'd planned to meet. Indeed, a quick bit of mental arithmetic as I made my way to the main road, and I began to realise the GPS was probably right; I usually ride at about 20kph, so I was looking at 5 hours just for the first century, never mind the final 33km after it.

I figured, nothing I could do for it except update the friends and say I'd just let them know when I was about an hour out of York, so they could make their respective ways to the cafe.

About an hour later, I realised things had gone slightly wrong again: as I passed a sign labelled "Woodhead", I realised that I wasn't on the right road. I mean, I was, in that my GPS was telling me that I was going in the right direction - but my grand plan for crossing the Pennines was to use the utterly beautiful Snake Pass, not the HGV-filled Woodhead Pass.

Thankfully, I struck lucky with the traffic - I guess that's the perk of riding on a Saturday morning:

Another lone cyclist, on the Woodhead Pass

In the end, I think I probably made the right call route-planning over Woodhead; it was actually remarkably not-very-steep at all, more of a windy and slow ascent, and quite pleasant on a quiet morning.

There weren't many photos for the rest of the ride; I was conscious of time creeping along, so my only records between then and the café were a video of some roadside chemistry in the form of sachets of electrolyte drink and 1500mls of water, with the recording stopped rapidly, as I realised I was shaking my bottle too hard and it was going to explode - and a celebratory snapshot of the sign welcoming me to the County of North Yorkshire.

I texted shortly after, from Selby, giving the one hour warning to friends and my mum, who had decided when I was somewhere near Barnsley to hop on a train and see if she could beat me there - she did, although I think TransPennine Express gave her quite the unfair advantage! - and almost exactly an hour later, I pulled to a stop outside the café, and looked down at my GPS/clock just in time to hear Kieran say "And what time do you call this?!" - to which I happily replied: "5 hours and 11 minutes of moving time since I left home, so about 20 minutes earlier than expected!"

(OK, so I was also about an hour later than planned; I blame the Yorkshire hills and my faulty lungs for that. The "moving time" is the important figure to me!)

So then there was all the food, fruit juice, delicious cake, and a celebratory photo at York station before getting the train home:

Celebrations with the bike in York

Next adventure: Dark Peak Grimpeur, a 106km randonneur with many many hills - my first Audax not on the back of [personal profile] damerell's tandem. Hoping to take the camcorder out that I received last Christmas with the intent of video-blogging my time in Finland, and doing an on-the-move ride report...
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Written July 2015, post-dated to the day of the ride for some kind of historical accuracy.

Last month I did the Great Manchester Cycle for the second time; the 52 mile distance again, but the difference this time being that I started cycle-commuting earlier this year, and whilst I only started riding real distances... well, on the day of the GMC, it's definitely helped with my fitness levels to be on my bike almost every day for the best part of six months!

The day was plagued from the beginning, with a puncture before I even started; thankfully, Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op were on hand to give me a new tube and get me to the start line with minutes to spare...

Bicycle being fixed by a mechanic At the start line of GMC 2015

I was riding with a colleague, at least up until mile 10, where she overtook a few slower cyclists ahead of us, and I wasn't able to catch her straightaway, and since she has a faster pace than I do, she was long gone by the time I'd passed the slow bunch in front of me. We exchanged a few texts along the route, but in the end we didn't see each other again til the finish line.

About a third of the way into the second lap of the 13 mile route, I heard a familiar hissing from my back tyre and realised I had another puncture - upon inspection, there was a stone pushing its way through the rim of the tyre itself, one that looked remarkably like those on the towpath between my friend's flat and the start of the ride... I concluded that whilst my puncture from the beginning of the day had been fixed, the stone that I could see had been the cause, and having not been removed, had done double duty. Fortunately, it was a slow puncture, so I hopped back on the bike and thrashed my way along one more mile to the feed station, where other mechanics from EBC were hanging out ready to help people, and so my bike ended up in surgery again:

Bike being fixed... again!

I also took a moment to natter with the St John Ambulance volunteers (unfortunately, since it turned out that unlike in 2014, entering the feed stations didn't stop your ride timer...) and had a bit of a stretch.

The final two-and-a-half laps continued without event (or photos) - I beat my way around the course and finished, unofficially/according to Strava in ten minutes less time than in 2014. I got stuck behind a slower rider again as I went for the finish line so couldn't do a sprint finish - but there's always next year!

After the ride, I then rode up to Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op's shop to pay for the gear that I got off them, since their stands on the ride were cash-only; whilst there, I decided to buy a front tyre so that I had matching tyres (as the replacement given to me during the ride was a skinnier, slicker tyre than my previous ones, and I wanted front and back to match - plus it generally being a good idea to know how much wear your tyres have had. I then rode back to the stadium where the ride started and finished, as of course, having paid for the second tyre, there were none in the shop as they were all made available for the ride ;)

In the trip back up to the stadium, I ended up puncturing again, though thankfully the front tyre this time - and EBC, to their credit, replaced the tube for me for free when I got there - I ended up buying one tube and two tyres, and getting two free ones - the first because they caused my second puncture in not removing the stone from my tyre, and the second just because I'd already been out of my way to the shop once that day and they felt sorry for me ;)

Admittedly, part of the jaunt down to the shop was to pick up extra mileage for a Strava challenge, and so during the day I ended up riding just over 115km, or 75 miles - in about 4.5 hours. I was very impressed with myself - and very, very tired. (Also grateful to have apparently found a post-exercise protein shake that doesn't taste like death - the High5 banana/vanilla flavour, when mixed with milk, is actually quite palatable, and I had pleasingly DOMS-free legs the days afterwards, hopefully not a coincidence as I then went and bought another 12 sachets of the stuff for future rides!)

Exhausted post-ride, but happy!

Said [twitter.com profile] benjimmin of the above photo: "You are the most dignified person that exists."

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