via this: and this:
My first encounters with Richmond Park were in not in the least impressive.
On the Charge Plug single speed I ground to a halt half way up Broomfield Hill and almost fell off. It seemed that gears might be quite useful after all.
Then, having purchased the Ribble (the Plug became the commuting bike) I set off once again to the Park, practising clipping in and out of my new proper pedals on the way.
However, despite this new found professionalism I again ground to a halt, this time semi-voluntarily, after I had wobbled up Sawyer's Hill with its maximum 9% gradient. I pretended to be admiring the view at the top, but passing roadies weren't fooled and they shook their heads in pity (or was it disdain?). It seemed that enthusiasm alone wouldn't make me a decent cyclist, and my relatively high weight (82Kgs) in combination with my puny legs, had me at a distinct disadvantage.
I spent a couple of years 'getting the miles in', entering the occasional (shortish) sportive, cycling to work and generally getting a little bit faster (which wasn't hard from such a low base), even up the hills . But to be honest, my progress was slow and a couple of encounters with cramp almost put me off completely. It seemed you can go a bit faster if you get a lighter bike, but only a bit faster.
And then along came this man: on this:
Don't be fooled by the smiling face, or the pint, this (Nick Von-Vader) is a beast on a bike. No ride is too long, no hill too steep, no weather too foul. He acquainted me with Rule #5 of the Velominati Rules of Cycling ('Harden the Fuck Up') and dragged me kicking and screaming round Surrey and Kent. The gentle delights of Box Hill were replaced by White Down Lane and Titsey Hill, 40 mile rides with 75 mile ones.
At first it felt like I was dying, then (and I have no idea how this happened) I found I wanted more.
The benefits have become apparent quite quickly. I'm losing weight, the stamina and speed are increasing, and my blood pressure (I'm currently on the pills) is lowering.
Tomorrow I'm attempting my first century (+) as we're apparently going to Brighton and back (from Clapham Common). To be honest I'm fairly sure I'll bonk after 70 or 80 miles, but if I do there's always the train of shame. I'll have a better chance if I can persuade Nick to take it easy. Seems unlikely.
I've nicknamed Nick 'El Hobbito' (for obvious reasons) and he nicknamed me 'Quadzilla'. I've got no idea why.
I've discovered the joys of Strava, another aid to motivation, and around a year ago I'd be around 5,500th out of 6,000 round Richmond Park, whereas now I'm more like 4,000th. Pathetic, but less pathetic than before.
[left] I've no idea how this occurred. I can only imagine there must have been a strong tail wind that day.
We vetoed Brighton on the grounds that Nick's poor tootsies were cold and wet, but instead he put me through the wringer (again):
He lured me up Chalkpit Lane, Titsey Hill, Crockham Hill and the fearsome White Lane, the setting for the annual Bec CC Hill Climb event. I think it also feature in the 100 Greatest Hill Climbs book.
White Lane was a challenge too far and as the gradient ramped up near the end I made a doomed attempt to get out of the saddle a la Contador/Horner.
I had to walk the last 50 meters but I remounted in time to fool Nick into thinking I made it.
He snapped me attempting to look fresh as a daisy:
|Note the bulging quads|