Friday, May 5, 2017

How do we find the time?

While we were up in the Lakes riding our bikes at Easter, someone on twitter asked me a question. A question to which I didn't have a concise 140 character reply.

......"How do you guys fit in all the cycling".......... 

I'll start from the beginning. Before kids I was a cyclist, climber, runner. I had plenty of time to do as I wished.

When my wife and I had kids I chose to be the primary carer.

My aspirations in terms of career, and achievement in sport were no longer major goals.

If my main role was to look after and nurture our kids, then that was fine by me. I worked, but part time. The kids came first. Though I don't miss nappy time.

I dragged them round in bike trailers, we walked up hills, they threw pebbles on the beach. We made time to get out there rather than spend all of our days watching CBeebies.

As my daughter grew up she moved away from the outdoors  and found other interests. Happy daughter.

Tom from his first big ride was smitten with cycling. Obviously we'd go riding together, but if I tried to sneak off to do a longer faster ride, Tom would insist on him coming out too.

Tom by the age of 7 was riding big distances. Like any 7 year old, big distances take time. So Tom and I would disappear for a weekend, a week, or even over most of the Xmas festive season to ride our bikes. My wife wold drop us off places, and sometimes pick us up from others. She is supportive of what we do, and immensely proud of Tom's achievements. She does go off on one though when we leave tools, bike parts or muddy clothes lying about.

Each year Tom has wanted to ride further and longer. We planned a big ride last summer, and in preparation for that we rode 2-3 nights after school and at least one day at the weekend if not both.

By the end of 2016 Tom's total for the year was around 5000 miles an average of 12 hours cycling every week of the year. That still gave us plenty of other time for family stuff. Oh and for Tom to play with his pals after school once a week, do his homework and get a top report from school.

This year has been an odd one, we've ridden our bikes, but haven't done anything like as many miles compared to last year. The last few weeks I've been doing a bit more work than previous, but we've still managed the odd trip.

Speaking of work, I've been looking around for something full time,that still had some flexibility.

I'd heard of a job that would tick those boxes, but would clash with a trip we'd penciled in for this summer. There was a decision to make.

I spoke with Tom, he still wanted to do the ride. The full time job would have to wait,

From the top of Norway across Europe to the foot of Spain. Another big ride that I'm sure we will talk about for years to come.

The main reason I've written this lengthy answer is I've been to two cyclists funerals this year who died too young, Charlie Craig and Mike Hall.

There is a temptation, to what if, dream, make half plans for the future, procrastinate and not get out there and do as Charlie and Mike did.

Find the time to ride. #rideforcharlie #bemoremike

Monday, April 24, 2017

Lakeland 200 - Easter Pt 2.

Like the Highland Trail 550 route, Tom had some previous with the Lakeland 200. He'd already ridden the section from Staveley to Wastwater.

Tom wanted to recce the route rather than go for a sub 40 hour time, so that is exactly what we did.

We'd driven up the evening before and camped in Eskdale. An early start, and by first light we were riding past Burnmoor Tarn towards Wasdale.

Our theory behind starting in Eskdale was that we would get to the Black Sail pass fresh.

Fresh or not, there is a whole lot of pushing or carrying before you get over the top and down to the Black Sail YHA.

We stopped for some food there before heading up and over Scarth Gap and down to Buttermere.

Next comes Honister Pass. Riding and not pushing, Tom is happy.

Compared to our Scottish set up, we carried a lot of our luggage on our backs rather than on our bikes as there is a significant amount of hike-a-bike.

We lunched just before Keswick then kept going, here passing Blencathra on the Old Coach Rd..

We rode until dusk and found a place to camp above Ullswater.

Day 2 and we had a bit of a lie in.

It was not long though before we were going uphill though. First up Boredale Hause.

Then after a fast loose descent comes the climb from Hartsop to High Street. I'd like to say it was an easier climb doing it early in the day, but it will never be an easy climb.

Here's Tom enjoying the summit.

He razzed down the hill then climbed Garburn with barely a dab.

We'd missed Wilf's at Stavely, but the chippy was open for Scampi Chips and Gravy (Tom's choice).

Fuelled, we then headed over in a Coniston sort of direction.

Nearing 9pm we found a campsite in Chapel Stile, then went for a couple of drinks.

Next morning, an earlyish start with Fig Rolls for pre-breakfast.

Followed by a full breakfast in Coniston.

Then the last biggie, Walna Scar road.

The loop round Caw (and a fairly dry Stephenson's ground)

Leaving just the easy climb round Harter Fell and then a steep descent back into Eskdale.

Whilst as Tom said this ride wasn't about getting round super fast his total riding time of 28 hours isn't much slower than when I did a sub 40 hour ride in 2014.

The Highland Trail Revisited.

Tom has been determined since our last go at the Highland Trail 550 back in 2015 that he was going to finish this challenging route.

We opted for a start in the Easter holidays which seemed to offer a fair weather window, though as it turned out, not quite so fair as we had hoped.

As before we stayed in one of the camping cabins at the By the Way Campsite in Tyndrum 
the night before, and here is Tom getting packed to leave at 4:30am.

Just after 5am we were riding. The route was familiar for only a short way, as the course had changed since 2015. Now instead of following the West Highland Way, it swings left along the Allt Kinglas river towards Loch Lyon.

The riding was great. The weather a mix of pleasant spells interspersed with wintry showers.

 Not the weather you want to sit a round in so we didn't stop until we'd ridden 50 miles on the Sonder Frontiers.

Ben Alder Cottage was a great place to have lunch.

The climb from Loch Ericht to Bealach Cumhann gave me my first tubeless puncture. A pinch flat on a water bar. A few tense minutes ensued as we plugged the hole and waited for the sealant to do its thing.

Puncture fixed, onwards and upwards.

Back in 2015 we stayed at this Bothy, I think we arrived after 18 hours riding. This year we arrived in just over 14 hours. Tom was riding strongly. We contemplated maybe riding to the next bothy or even Fort Augustus, but instead quit while we were feeling fresh. 82 miles done.

We had some hot food and drinks courtesy of the Alpkit Kraku stove and MyTiMug650, and then a great night's sleep.

The first climb of the day, over the Corrieyairack pass was cold and windy, and it was here we had the first snow showers of the trip.

In Fort Augustus we bumped into Huw Oliver (another veteran of the HT550) at the petrol station. We both commented on how much colder it was than we'd expected. We ate sausage sandwiches and Tea, then continued North.

At Invermoriston, only a few miles down the road, it was time for more hot drinks and cake.

At Loch ma Stac Tom did his best to ride the beach, with a great deal of success.

In between the showers the views were amazing.

.....and there were Deer everywhere as we headed towards dusk.

Before the last descent of the day, one last photo.

Then the heavens opened. By the time we got to Contin, our resting place for the night, we were damp and cold. Another 70 miles done.

At the campsite we threw up the tent and cooked in the washing up area.

Our sleeping bags were not a match for the cold that night, and though Tom slept a bit, I had very little sleep. I checked the weather forecast that morning, and there was more wintry weather forecast.

If we had set off into the Northern Loop from there we would have been winging it, we didn't have a safety margin in our equipment if anything went wrong. We were warm enough moving, but cold when we weren't.

A difficult decision was made. We'd be coming back another time to ride the Highland Trail 550.

On the train home we plotted what we might do with the rest of Easter........

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Cobbled French February Weekend

It is the time of year again when we want to be doing longer days in the saddle. The forecast for here in Derbyshire at the weekend was heavy rain, interspersed with rain and wind.

I flick through my instagram and see pictures of friends riding in Australia, the USA and Mallorca, and no rain.

We needed a break from the rain.

So where can we get to, leaving here after school on Friday and returning in time for school on Monday morning with no rain and good cycling? The answer this weekend was the North of France, with the cycling being some of the Paris Roubaix pavé.

 Ann dropped us at Busigny which is near the start of the cobbles.

Soon enough we were upon the pavé.

Sunshine and blue skies. Tick.

We rode south.

We stopped for Tom's favourite.

Shortly after we rendezvoused with our friend Sophie, who we'd first met on the French Divide.

Below Tom and Sophie at the end of the Arenberg cobbled section.

The original plan was to ride to Roubaix, but one of Tom's hands was quite sore after 110 kms, so we called it a day at Orchies.  Strava here.

On Sunday it was my daughter's birthday, so no bikes, instead there would be pastries and the search for a birthday cake.

Our friend Céline who lives in Lille had kindly offered to show us round and find these things as well as show us the sights.

Here's Tom with breakfast.

Tom and Céline.

A rare picture of the Birthday girl with her Merveilleux Birthday cake.

Family, friends, bikes, cake and no rain, except on the drive back home. To be repeated.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

11,000 miles - February Talks.

Some details of the talks Tom and I are doing over the next couple of months.

In the last 6 years Tom has cycled 11,000 miles. We'll be talking about some of the highlights of his cycling so far. 24 hour mountain bike racing at Strathpuffer, a 2000 mile ride through France last summer, Oh and if I forget to mention it, ask him about the time he fell asleep on his bike.

The first on the 16th of February is at Craigdon Mountain Sports in Edinburgh, from 19:00 to 21:30. Hosted by  Markus Stitz from Bikepacking Scotland. Tickets for which can be purchased via this link here along with further details.

Next up on the 19th of February, we are talking from 19:00 -22:00 at the New Continental in Preston.
Tickets are available via this link here. Alpkit will also be there that evening to show of some of their bikes and gear.

Oh, and though March isn't in February if you can't make either of the above events we'll be at Shaff doing a shorter talk to accompany the showing of "Tom Seipp - A Mountain Journal Short" (as seen on Channel 4's Life on the Edge)

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Strathpuffer 2017

Tom has been looking forward to this year's Strathpuffer ever since we were successful in getting one of the sought after solo places for him. Aged 11, it would be the third time he has ridden this event.

The weather at Strathpuffer is normally a major feature in the event. In 2015 we had snow, in 2016 there was mud. The forecast for 2017 was benign though, which in some ways was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe this would be the 'puffer riders would remember as the "easy" one.

Tom again was riding an Alpkit Sonder Transmitter, whilst I was riding their carbon fat bike, the Vir Fortis.

Our plan was simple, to try and better the 13 laps that Tom had ridden in 2016.

The first three laps this year were ridden in 2:46:53 compared to 03:36:55 the year before, so we were off to an excellent start. On the fourth lap though I had a flat right in the middle of the super muddy bit. I decided to push the bike back to our camp where I could wash the tyre and wheel in the river before inserting a new tube which cost us a good 20 minutes.

Other than that mishap our lap times were 15-20 minutes faster than last year's.

Photo -courtesy of Gary Williamson
Once the sun went down, unsurprisingly it started getting cold. As the night progressed some bits of the course became covered in black ice.

We'd borrowed some Exposure Six Pack lights to supplement our Exposure Toros. However they were so bright on their low setting that we never used our own lights. Recommended.

On lap 11 somewhere around 10pm Tom's sleep monsters started to take hold. He'd hoped to ride without sleeping. It became clear that this was not going to happen. Just before 11pm we stopped for sleep. We had just under 4 hours sleep, or at least Tom did. Revived, we were back out there before 4am.

On the lap after our sleep, we both had a couple of near crashes, the cause, there was now loads of the course covered in black ice.

We rode a little slower than before on the icy sections to avoid mishap.

Still, with 22 hours on the clock we'd bettered last year's 13 laps. Time for a sit down, and some food and drink.

We weren't done though, we'd worked out there was still time for another couple of laps.

At 10:36 we finished our 16th lap. Strava stats -103.6 miles, 12,403' of climbing, and a moving time of 17:15:53. That was good enough to secure 33rd male solo out of 90 competitors.

Once again Tom got a trophy and prize for the youngest rider, and I, a bottle of beer for being his wingman.

We would like to thank the organisers and marshals at Strathpuffer. The race is definitely a must do, and a highlight of our year.

Thanks also to Alpkit for the bikes, and Exposure for the lights.

A big thanks to my wife who gave up her weekend to stand about in the cold and looked after Tom and I, and thanks to Dean who helped out with pit duties.

Finally a thanks to the other competitors and spectators for cheering Tom on.

See you in 2018!