Thursday 16 March 2017

A Giant Leap Out of Hibernation (LGD -423 days)
Saturday 16 March, 51 Miles

Click here for Route Flyby

I suspect some of you are wondering if I’ve been lost. I know this because several of you have made quite pointed comments about missing my blog. Wow! I never really understood that there are real people (you) out there in the real world who crave my writings. Such responsibility.

So, to set the record straight I haven’t been tucked up under the celeste sheets in my Bianchi cave hibernating. I’ve been quite busy since I last checked in on 17 December. I’ve got several irons in the fire/balls in the air/wheels spinning – blah, blah, blah. Some of these are top secret and you will find out about them when and if I’m ready tell you. But one of them, which we’ll get to in moment, was the stimulus for today’s writings.

So far this year I’ve ridden about 2,500 miles – a mix of road riding and turbo spinning. I’ve been watching Series 5 of Engrenages (Spiral) a Parisian cop show. It’s in the vein of those Scandi-Noir series that I enjoy. It’s as much about the characters and their complicated, by standards, lives as it is about the plot. It’s faster paced the Scandi stories – well the main characters are French – so tend to be a bit more in your face than say Kurt Wallander and his chums. Oh, and just in case you’re wondering I have only been watching it whilst I’ve been on the turbo. I have yet to master the challenge of watching a film on my bike. In fact I haven’t even started. But here’s a thought – how’s about House of Cards with Kevin Spacey, sponsored by Garmin? It could work.

Spring is here - at last!
Anyway, we’d better move on just in case you think that I really have lost the plot over the winter. Today was what I consider to be the first proper day of spring – blue skies, sun, light(ish) winds and warmth. At 15°C it was positively roasting. So I decided to head into east Suffolk and have a look at some lanes I haven’t visited this year. One of my developments over winter has been to acquire a set of Tannus tyres. Now this might excite the bike gear snobs and fashionistas but listen up. Tannus tyres are made in south Korea and are basically a solid rubber compound. Think about it. What does that mean?

Yup, no punctures!! I can now even ride over glass with impunity. Weight wise there’s not much between them and a pair of standard tyres and tubes. Plus I can save some weight by not having to carry spare tubes, a puncture repair kit or even a pump. And the thought of not having to faff about on a cold, damp ride is worth quite a lot to me. It’s meant that I’ve gone out on days when I would have bailed and jumped on the turbo. Yes, they are definitely slower than air tyres, there’s no doubt about that. But for me, at this time of year, it’s all about miles in the legs as Eddy Merckx used to say. It’s not about speed. I’m old school on this. Wear-wise they seem to be holding up pretty well – they’re claimed to be good for at least 6,000 miles. I've heard of some riders who squeezed 9,000 miles of them. Thinks about it – 9,000 winter miles on all roads with zero punctures. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m more than happy to sacrifice a bit of style and speed. I’ll report in again when they’ve had a good thrashing over next winter.

Now I promised earlier to share one of my top-secret winter activities with you. Just before setting off on this afternoon’s ride I click the ‘Confirm’ button on my screen to authorise a certain purchase and the release of precious funds from my account. Okay, I’ll get to the point. What I was doing was signing up for another cycling tour. After 2015’s Lejog and last year’s Italy and Pyrenees tours I decided that the time had come to go for the big one.

I’ve had this in the back of my mind for a while and I’ve been doing quite a lot of research over the last few months. Today I decided that it was time to put up or shut up. So before setting off to ride, I registered, paid my deposit and put up. What’s that? I haven’t said what the tour is. Silly me! Well, I’ll be riding from Los Angeles to Boston in May and June next year. 3,500 miles in 47 days. How about that?

I’ll be riding with Cross Country Tours who’ve been doing this for quite a while. I’ve looked at quite a few options. I quickly ruled out going solo with a tent etc. That, in my view and at my age, would be madness. I enjoy my creature comforts too much to do this. Some tour companies provide tents for you to use and transport them between stages each day. And a few even expect you to put them up and take them down. Sod that! With the prospect of riding in 30-35+°C temperatures across the desert I want to know that on arrival there will be an air-conditioned room, shower, bath, ice machine, cold beer and a proper bed ready and waiting. Like most folk I enjoy a barbecue but there’s no way I’m going be toasting bangers or marshmallows and singing “Ging, Gang, Goolie” round a campfire night after night. Especially after riding 80-100 miles. By the way, if you’re not of my generation, tune in to this You Tube rendition to see where I’m coming from.

What tipped the balance was the friendliness of the Cross Country marketing resources and people – they really did resonate with me. I also spoke to two of their alumni who did the tour last year. Ian Carey and Rich Gower are both British riders who were delighted to share their experience with me. They both blogged their own rides; Ian’s is here and Rich’s is here. They don’t ride Bianchi’s but I’m not going to hold that against them. They’re two riders who seem to have had just the sort of blast I’m hoping for.

Although May 2018 seems a long way off I’ve got no shortage of ideas and a lot that I want to do to make this ride a really special one. So I’ll keep checking in on the blog and let you know how things evolve and maybe even share a few more secrets. I’m also going to count down the days in the headline of each post (LGD, Le Grand Depart). Today is LGD -423 and counting.

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