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Please support my 2015 BP MS150 ride!
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Although this blog was originally created by Andy Brickell and continues to be updated by him, the design and layout of the page is credited to his daughter, Mary-Claire Brickell. She's pretty awesome.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Alpe D'Sealy

the real Alpe D'Huez
Off to Sealy with Kevin on a beautiful, if chilly and breezy morning. The last time we did this run was also my last ride before the 2012 MS150, and a strong wind from the south made the final seven miles down route 36 very painful. This time it was just as windy but out of the north, which meant that route 36 would be easy but the hilly section (dubbed "Alpe D'Sealy" by Kevin!) would be at best cross-wind.

We decided to reconnoitre the last few miles of route 36, as the last time they were under cosntruction.  All appeared well, with a good surface and wide shoulder so we parked up and got ready.  It was cold enough to wear some extra gear, but as always there's a price to be paid if you overdo it - having to strip off at some point and then lug everything back.  I opted for arm warmers, Kevin put on some light tights and off we rolled.

The Mexican Truck lives on, but its days are numbered - Kevin was in Colorado recently and took the opportunity to rent a nice Cervelo carbon bike for a 35 mile spin.  He was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the bike's rigidity and sure-footedness on the descents, never his favourite road profile.  Won't be long before he comes to the Dark Side with the rest of us fallen road-racer wannabees.

By coincidence there was an organised ride that morning but they had started earlier, and we soon found ourselves riding through the tail-end Charlies.  I felt a bit sorry for them - many looked like they had just taken up riding and they had chosen a cold, windy day, hopefully they wouldn't be deterred by the experience.

Kevin was as strong as ever on the climbs.  I kept with him on a few but mostly dropped back, but he was good enough to wait for me - and he doesn't quite know the route yet anyway.

We got to San Bernardo and took a quick break by the Feed Store.  The organised ride split here, with a short route heading north towards Cat Spring and the longer routes going south to God knows where, I-10 probably.  Our route took us straight over into the Back Country, but we took advantage of the Cops patrolling the intersection for the organised ride to get us across.

This part of the ride is the most scenic - large farms, rolling fields, cows and birds.  Unfortunately it's also the first time that the route runs north and we began to feel the wind when we made turns, especially when they were at the bottom of climbs.

Somewhere along this stretch we got chased by an evil black dog, who was clearly out for blood.  Most dogs start barking when they see you and keep it up during the chase - they're really only looking for a run.  This hell-hound kept his mouth shut and was inches away from my left foot when Kevin spotted him and shouted a warning.  We hit the gas and left the mutt behind - and then just when my heart rate was getting back to normal a couple of yay-hoos in a truck powered past, half on the road and half on the shoulder.

We reached the intersection with the Cat Spring road, where there was another Cop getting riders across.  Once again we were going against the flow and we had a laugh with the Cop about being rebels.  The next few miles were dead into the wind and we tried to form a paceline, but Kevin dropped me on the climbs so it was hard to be efficient.

Into Cat Spring and I was feeling pretty good under the circumstances, but a quick break at a country store before the big climbs made sense.  We stopped here last time, it's like something out of Mayberry, with cheerful (but incomprehensible!) old codgers having coffee and an irascible lady making chili.

Off again into the hills.  The first climb was straight into the wind and I had to get onto my middle chain ring straight away.  As we got further into this section, I usually pulled ahead of Kevin on the descents (he's not a great descender) only to have him blow by on the climbs, spinning at about 110 rpm.  On one particularly evil double climb I had to go to my granny ring and he pulled well clear, still only on his middle ring.

We got to the end of the hilly section and reached the northernmost point of the ride.  I was actually feeling pretty good, considering that I don't usually attempt the Sealy ride until well into the training season.  We made the turn onto route 36 and immediately felt the tail wind.  Coupled with a much smoother road surface, we had a blissful run all the way back, hitting 30 mph at one point.  True to form, Kevin actually rode faster on this flat than he did on any of the descents!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Alone again (naturally?)

This Sunday morning was the third in a row that I opted for a leisurely solo ride over a Mules thrash, and once again I enjoyed myself while staying within the limits of my current state of fitness. This new preference for riding on my own had me humming Gilbert O'Sullivan's gloomy little 1972 record, "Alone again, naturally" on several occasions. This ditty deals with parental bereavement, thoughts of suicide and other cheery topics, all delivered in a slightly nasal, irish-accented voice. Times were hard. With the weather getting better for cycling I expect to rejoin the Mules soon enough, but for now it's just me and Gilbert.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Just ride, eh? (Prenez votre velo uniquement, eh?)

gotta luv Canada

We're just back from a trip to Seattle and Vancouver (hence the dubiously bilingual title).  In Vancouver I went for a stroll along the waterfront at False Creek and saw this sign.  A day later I rented a bike and rode past it, so I used both sides as directed.

The title refers to a book that Susan bought me recently called "Just Ride", in which the author is quite unkind to weekend road-racers like me (and the Mules?).  Amongst many bike myths he attempts to debunk concerns helmet use. His idea is that wearing a helmet doesn't make you much safer but makes you think you're doing something dangerous.  I've heard this argument a few times recently, and helmet opponents usually invoke Amsterdam as an example, where tens of thousands of people ride their bikes daily and almost no-one wears a helmet.  So in the Just Ride spirit I planned to ride bare-headed in Vancouver, until the bike shop guy told me it was against the law.

The water front along False Creek and English Bay is just beautiful, and I had beautiful weather for my ride, too - sunny, clear and just a little cool.  I followed a well-laid out bike trail all the way to Stanley Park, then rode some trails in the park until I hit a hill too steep for my liking (this wasn't meant to be a Mules slog, just a gentle cruise!) and turned around.

I got a bit crossed up in the one-way circuit around Stanley Park, so I decided to ride back on the street.  From what we had seen, Vancouver was very bike-friendly, and I thought it would be fun to try some urban riding.

This area of Vancouver seems to change character with every block!  I went from low-end commercial to beautiful, leafy residential to high-end commercial very quickly and was soon back at the bike shop.  Great restaurants too...

Bear Creek - Terry Hershey loop

Bear Creek - Terry Hershey loop

Daily commute to work

Daily commute to work
This isn't quite right but it's close. 9.5 miles, about 40 minutes.

Terry Hershey Park

Terry Hershey Park
10 miles of safe, paved cycling bliss - except for all the foot traffic

The Sealy ride

The Sealy ride
45 miles through very pretty Texas countryside. Looks benign but there's a very hilly section at mile 35.

The Katy ride

The Katy ride
It's on the Katy prairie - flat, flat, flat