Oltre’s Maiden Century (C#54)
Sunday 30 October, 103 Miles
Click here for Route Flyby
With the prospect of another dry day I decided to take my new Oltre XR1 out for its first century ride. I got it about one month ago and have been very pleased with the way it has been behaving so I thought the time had come to give it a real test. It’s been away for a few days so that Cousin Sean at Madgetts Cycles could do some minor adjustments and give it the once over. These included tweaking the headset, re-indexing the gears and re-aligning the front derailleur. Now it positively purrs.
The Oltre is something of a thoroughbred in my Bianchi stable. ‘XR’ stands for Extreme Racing so you get the idea. Its frame geometry is rather more aggressive than either the Infinito or the Impulso and it has a shorter wheelbase. All this means that it is quick – very quick. Push the pedals hard coming out of a corner or switch to a higher gear, get out of the saddle and give it some welly and it responds beautifully. I can almost feel the back wheel pushing me forward like the release of a coiled spring. Despite the sharper frame angles, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how comfortable it was over the longer distance. Sure, I can feel the roughness of the road surface a bit more than with the Infinito but not so much that it spoils the ride. In an ideal world I would love to own its big brother the newly introduced XR4 which comes complete with Bianchi’s vibration reducing countervail technology but, price-wise it’s a tad beyond what I’m willing to pay. My XR1 is equipped with Campag Chorus gears and brakes together with an SL-K 52/36 chainset and Fulcrum wheels. Taken together, a great combination. And I reckon it’s about 15% quicker than the Infinito – even with my ageing legs!
So today we set off together to ride south west across Suffolk and then into East Cambs before heading back north eastwards to skirt the edge of Bury St Edmunds and thence back home. Within a couple of miles the morning mist had turned to quite dense fog and fortunately I had brought some lights with me to warn other road users of my presence. Sadly the dense fog was a feature for more than half the ride which limited what I could see around me. It reminded me a bit of Stage 5 of the Tour of the Pyrenees when I climbed El Canto in the fog (see blog for 6 October).
I spent a large part of the ride just thinking random thoughts with not much looking around. My thoughts covered quite a lot of ground including what I felt about riding these centuries, why I liked Bianchi’s so much, what could I do to make myself go faster and so on. Over the year quite a lot of people have asked me quite a lot of questions about the century series so I’m toying with pulling together some of the questions and writing them up, with the answers, in a sort of mock interview. But never forgetting that the rides matter far more than the rider.
Passing a rather fine display of autumn colours I thought a photo of the Oltre at work was appropriate. It was also a rare moment when I could see more than a hundred yards or so. As I’ve said before readers, this autumn is really shaping up to be quite spectacular colour-wise so let’s hope that the frosts and the winds hold off for a while longer to let the tree and hedgerow leaves do their stuff and put on a good show.
One of the things that entertain me on my rides are the various village signs that I pass. Some of these are spectacular works of art. They tend to reflect aspects of the history and culture of the village and it’s quite fun to try and work out the messages that the signs’ images are trying to convey. The sign at Weston Colville for example shows that farming is important and also that there’s a cricket club. I’ve learnt that the first recorded match was played in 1867 when the Weston Colville Thirteen took on Mr Bullock’s Thirteen; Weston Colville won. Frequently, these signs show the same images on both sides but Weston Colville bucks the trend and I discovered that there must have been a wartime airfield in the vicinity. Said airfield also housed 2,000 foreign refugees at one time before it was closed and the land returned to farming in 1952. And the reading room in the background of the photo invites some more questions. So there you are. Even on a foggy day there’s lots to learn while riding around.
Further along on the ride I reached the village of Ousden which also has a nice sign. And if you’re wondering what the owl signifies then look no further. Ousden is an old English name, the translation of which is ‘Valley of the Owl’. Simples! And from a rider’s perspective Ousden also has one other delight, that rare thing in Suffolk – a hill! It’s about 1.7 miles long with an average gradient of about 2%. But towards the end there’s a little kick up which touches 10%. According to the Strava Guru I’ve ridden up it ten times over the last four years. And do you know what? The Strava Guru said that today I achieved my third best time on the steep bit. In the flatlands of East Anglia I’ll take that! And you see, I told you that the Oltre was fast. Not that I was forcing it!! Passione Celeste.