Guest Article: What The Bike Means to Me

Guest Article: What The Bike Means to Me

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It is less than a week from the longest night of the year for us lucky cyclists in the Northern hemisphere. Articles about lighting systems and losing form are what we cough up. @Strathlubnaig has even shorter days than most of us, works at sea, gets out on the bike and writes about it. Rule #9 or not, when is it ever a bad idea to ride a bike? 

VLVV, Gianni

Two weeks offshore, trying to save an oilfield. I return to the beach and try to remember where I parked the car. Driving home I notice not much has changed since I left except there are even less leaves on the trees, more mud on the roads, it gets lighter later and darker earlier.

I arrive home in the dark, but my thoughts turn to The Bike. I check the forecast, and the following day is to be commuter chaos they say, windy and torrential rain, more floods they say.

Perfect day for a bike ride then.

In the morning it takes forever to get light. It is bad enough at 56.5 North at this time of year, but the Great Cloud Belt which can seem to perpetually hang over us like some Biblical Punishment makes it seem worse. In fact, it is worse.

I pull open the closet door under the stair where my kit lives. I pull out some bibs and a jersey, then look at the twilight-like conditions and change the jersey for a slightly brighter colour. Safety first. The kit is clean and laundered, it smells fresh and hopeful, full of optimism. It is around 8 degrees out, so a merino undershirt goes on too, and a pair of Ron Hills over the top of the guns.

I dig out the spare tubes and the little tool kit and slip them in my back pockets; tubes in the right, tool in the centre, phone in the left. Out the door I go and into the garage where The Bike sits, waiting patiently and stoically like a loyal Edinburgh terrier, unmoved and untouched for two weeks. The small meter still has the last ride on screen. That seems like an age ago. Using the track pump I check the tyres and stick a bit of wind in. I spin the pedals and the chain flows through the cogs smoothly and silently. All is in order. Helmet and glasses on, I wheel her out and down the drive, clip in and away. How will my legs be, I wonder. Two weeks of gym bike on the rig, not the same at all.

There is a fine feeling of comfort and joy. It is raining, the sky is sombre and low clouds scud across our nearby mountains, pregnant with more rain. Bring it on. Down the road and I head off the long straight which leads to the first climb. My mind slips deftly like the gear changes into ride mode. Work issues, family troubles, general worries and other concerns always exist but for the next two hours such things will be dulled and even forgotten. Riding The Bike is like codeine and I am grateful to be back.

// Guest Article

  1. @Gianni

    What are Ron HIlls? Cousin of Bib Knickers, the Glaswegian welter weight, fighting to a 16 and 2 amateur record?

    Nope – droopy arsed running tights much loved by Scottish Velominati who think no one’s looking.

    Used to be worn by half the population of Arbroath in the early 1990’s (the other half wore wild animal pelts).

  2. Lovely piece of writing. As Shug Donald of the Regent CC used to say about rain, “The only thing that keeps ye dry is the fucking hoose.” So true, but if you live in Scotland and only ride in the dry, you’ll rarely ride.

  3. Great bit of writing.  Love the last couple lines.

  4. Great stuff thanks – well done on dominating the early winter.

  5. And there was me thinking you were A**n ‘Hard as Nails’ W****n! Great piece of writing mon gar..

  6. Cracking piece – sums up winter rides on a warm winters day in Scotland! 8deg? Almost a glove free day…. Thanks for writing this and I’ll give you a wave one day. Hi from windy Fife!

  7. As I read this I am listening to the slates rattling on the roof and rain pelting the windows, tomorrow I should go for a ride.  Thanks for the inspiration and I’ll see you on the roads when we organise it again.  Hope to keep up next time though, chapeau my friend.

  8. The last two weekends I’ve been out in the Edinburgh area it’s been not much above freezing. My road bike is in hibernation now, tucked away til March i imagine. It’s just  me and the cx or mountain bike for the next few months.

  9. @the Engine

    @Gianni

    What are Ron HIlls? Cousin of Bib Knickers, the Glaswegian welter weight, fighting to a 16 and 2 amateur record?

    Nope – droopy arsed running tights much loved by Scottish Velominati who think no one’s looking.

    Used to be worn by half the population of Arbroath in the early 1990″²s (the other half wore wild animal pelts).

    The half of Arbroath who had the Ron Hills were the hard as nails Royal Marines from Condor. “Got me Ron Hills, got me Reeboks…” The others wi the ferret pelts were those who scrapped with RM Condors finest on the West Port of a weekend. It’s a much calmer place all round now, gone thru the shell suit phase and the only difference is the look in the eyes of a young marine who has done 2 tours in Helmand and seen more things than any young lad should have to experience.

    Anyway, nice piece @strathlubnaig, sums up many of my winter early morning commutes, 57k round trip, both directions in the dark, using the solitude and lack of a horizon to stop thing about work and all the other ills in this world.

    Thoughts today with the affected families of Newtown, Connecticut and the 2 crappy court verdicts for cyclists being killed by dangerous drivers.

  10. @JohnB A’Merckx

  11. Lovely piece of writing and fantastic article photo.Cheers.

  12. Good time of year to remember that cycling offers us solace.

  13. Nice one, strathlubnaig! Nothing like that first ride after a bit off the bike. I usually have a fear creep in – how are the Guns? Will I still know how to shift? Can I do this? And then it all disappears.

    Yup, a ride, any ride, is really a curative for most things! Hey, who knows how to cure the last screw stuck in the Crank Brothers cleat on my right cross shoe? Hex head it turned round, am able to turn the cleat all the way around, screw won’t move. I’m thinking drilling it out is the next option?

    And when I do finally get it out – what should I use for anti-seize? Is Park Tool lube good enough? Or do I need something special.

    JohnB – just saw that news. I was at a candle vigil for non-violence last night. A local restauranteur was shot & killed last Thursday behind his building. My VMH had been in there just hours before. The gentleman was just 50, had a wife and four children, and was originally from Pakistan. Traveling all that way to die in a dark alley from a bullet. His 15 year old son gave an impassioned speech about the misinterpretation/application/heist of the Second Amendment. What a worthless loss of a life.

  14. Start anew. Better self, service, and cycling. Yeah!

  15. while rig bikes are usually crappy and stuffed away in the bowels of the accommodation in the living hell that is the room about the mud pumps, at least they are the nemesis of the evil that is rig food, definitely a sure way to being too fat to climb. At least it beats running around the bloody helideck

  16. Thanks. I’ve been undergoing an extended period of bike ennui in these dark times. Helps.

  17. @JohnB

    @the Engine

    @Gianni

    What are Ron HIlls? Cousin of Bib Knickers, the Glaswegian welter weight, fighting to a 16 and 2 amateur record?

    Nope – droopy arsed running tights much loved by Scottish Velominati who think no one’s looking.

    Used to be worn by half the population of Arbroath in the early 1990″²s (the other half wore wild animal pelts).

    The half of Arbroath who had the Ron Hills were the hard as nails Royal Marines from Condor. “Got me Ron Hills, got me Reeboks…” The others wi the ferret pelts were those who scrapped with RM Condors finest on the West Port of a weekend. It’s a much calmer place all round now, gone thru the shell suit phase and the only difference is the look in the eyes of a young marine who has done 2 tours in Helmand and seen more things than any young lad should have to experience.

    Anyway, nice piece @strathlubnaig, sums up many of my winter early morning commutes, 57k round trip, both directions in the dark, using the solitude and lack of a horizon to stop thing about work and all the other ills in this world.

    Thoughts today with the affected families of Newtown, Connecticut and the 2 crappy court verdicts for cyclists being killed by dangerous drivers.

    Aye A’Merckx also – we live in dark times sometimes

  18. Beautiful and timely. Thank you.

  19. Very nice piece indeed @strath… there is just a lot more romanticism invoked riding in cold, wet and dark than the beautiful, sunny conditions we are experiencing here at the moment. Don’t know if I want to trade right now though.

  20. Thanks for your comments folks. Just got interweb up again after a nasty nor’easter out here, these FPSOs move a bit. They even closed the gym last night, ffs.

    Ron Hills are still the leg wear of choice for aging climbers and traditional Level 3 rope access guys, you can tell the level of experience by the colour, some pretty mad shades produced back in the 80s

  21. Nice piece.  For a southern hemisphere comparison though, taking a few days off earlier this week, went to the beach for a few days with the other half.  Up at sunrise, already 25C, going to be a hot one.  Big easterly, head off towards Barwon Heads, then alongside the beach on 13th Beach road, planning coffee at Torquay, read the paper watch the surfers for a while before the return slog upwind. Barrelling down the tailwind, thinking – how good is this.  Gotta be a Strava PB.  Someone coming past.  Quite rapidly.  Bloody hell, it’s C Evans.  “Moooorningggg”.    “Gidday”      Hmmm – I might just suck this wheel for a while – but he treats that with effortless distain.   An hour later, the wind drops out just as I turn around.  All is well with the world.

  22. @strathlubnaig (what does that mean anyway?) Great writeup. This time of year in the top hemisphere, it’s really hard to kit up and go. But it always seems like once I get out and acclimatize to the cold, get into the rhythm, it makes the day that much better. That said, it’s 2C here, and I live at 57M, everything “up” from here will include snow or snow/ rain mix. And it’s warm in front of the computer.

  23. Can I get some glove suggestions for 5C and below, I’m getting sick of curling up in the fetal position as my hands thaw.

  24. @DerHoggz

    Can I get some glove suggestions for 5C and below, I’m getting sick of curling up in the fetal position as my hands thaw.

    http://www.velominati.com/general/reverence-lobster-claw-gloves/

  25. @scaler911 A strath, as we all should know, is a scots gaelic word for a valley (wider than a glen) and lubnaig is the name of one of our local lochs (or lakes). It is a small corner of western Perthshire famous for its cattle thieves and haggis rustling.

    Gloves – get yourself some Buffalo mitts, good to -10C with ease, even when wet.

  26. @scaler911

    @strathlubnaig (what does that mean anyway?) Great writeup. This time of year in the top hemisphere, it’s really hard to kit up and go. But it always seems like once I get out and acclimatize to the cold, get into the rhythm, it makes the day that much better. That said, it’s 2C here, and I live at 57M, everything “up” from here will include snow or snow/ rain mix. And it’s warm in front of the computer.

    But why is it wet there too?

  27. Where’s the picture at the top strathlubnaig? Looks familiar.

  28. @thefarmer

    Where’s the picture at the top strathlubnaig? Looks familiar.

    I could tell you now, but that would spoil the fun, see if anyone can Name That Road. Clue – it is in Scotland.

    Will post in a day or so if no one gets it. ‘Tis a fine stretch of asphalt too. And quiet.

  29. @Marko

    @DerHoggz

    Can I get some glove suggestions for 5C and below, I’m getting sick of curling up in the fetal position as my hands thaw.

    http://www.velominati.com/general/reverence-lobster-claw-gloves/

    Agree on the Lobster Claws.  Bought myself some last year after that Reverence article and one of my rides with them was at -8C with no hand issues at all (and I have pretty poor hand circulation).  As for other articles of clothing, on that ride for example on top I was only wearing a base layer and my Castelli Espresso Due jacket.  Not cheap, but at 5C and below keeps you quite comfortable.  Gets hot when it’s closer to 10C though.

    Can’t get the link button to work.  The link is: http://castelli-cycling.com/en/products/detail/520/

  30. @strathlubnaig Can’t name it but what a bonnie ‘gap’!!

  31. Winter cycling when living in London sux. Most motorists seem to have received a lobotomy as an early christmas present, everybody is out for family walks in Regents Park (therefore using the baby pram as an effective way of forcing priority at crossings even when the traffic has the green light), it gets dark, cold and damp really quickly and the light quality is such that even if you’re lit up like a lighthouse, you’re still invisible to other road users, apparently.

    Bring on the spring/summer…

  32. @strathlubnaig

    Thanks for your comments folks. Just got interweb up again after a nasty nor’easter out here, these FPSOs move a bit. They even closed the gym last night, ffs.

    Ron Hills are still the leg wear of choice for aging climbers and traditional Level 3 rope access guys, you can tell the level of experience by the colour, some pretty mad shades produced back in the 80s

    I had an electric blue pair and some in navy. As late ’80’s bikewear they were peerless.

    They were also the cause of my first sporting sartorial faux pas – socks must under no circumstances be worn over the bottom of the leg but concealed underneath. Also the stirrups must not be placed under the foot.

    I may be halucinating but I seem to remember that they were part of the PTI uniform at Police College…

  33. @strathlubnaig

    @thefarmer

    Where’s the picture at the top strathlubnaig? Looks familiar.

    I could tell you now, but that would spoil the fun, see if anyone can Name That Road. Clue – it is in Scotland.

    Will post in a day or so if no one gets it. ‘Tis a fine stretch of asphalt too. And quiet.

    Rest and be Thankful?

  34. @the Engine

    @strathlubnaig

    Thanks for your comments folks. Just got interweb up again after a nasty nor’easter out here, these FPSOs move a bit. They even closed the gym last night, ffs.

    Ron Hills are still the leg wear of choice for aging climbers and traditional Level 3 rope access guys, you can tell the level of experience by the colour, some pretty mad shades produced back in the 80s

    I had an electric blue pair and some in navy. As late ’80″²s bikewear they were peerless.

    They were also the cause of my first sporting sartorial faux pas – socks must under no circumstances be worn over the bottom of the leg but concealed underneath. Also the stirrups must not be placed under the foot.

    I may be halucinating but I seem to remember that they were part of the PTI uniform at Police College…

    Yes some great colours, the lime green and the purple were my favourites, matched my Petzl climbing harness and PA’s too ! Aye, Ron Hills were well loved by all, from mullet haired mountaineers to Arbroath PTIs and cadet coppers at Tulliallan, but as you said, never put the stirrup under your foot, ffs…

    And so to the location in the picture, as I sense my brief foray on the front page of this glorious website will soon fade into The Archives, like a bright comet seen for a short span of time, gazed at but soon forgotten…

    It is the A861 between Strontian and Corran Ferry over on Ardgour, looking West, with Garbh Bheinn on the right going into The Clouds. The Tour d’Ardgour makes a very fine Century ride (161km…)

    Cheers all. Good try @TheEngine

  35. @Ron Drilling and use of a screw extractor bit was the only way i was able to remove a cleat with the same issue. Or if you can get a hold of a dremel tool to cut a notch in the top to accept a flat screw driver might work. I always use a very small dot of blue lock tight at the middle of the screw when intalling new cleats but i also check them often as well.

  36. It always good to hear / read  articles like this. You nailed it on free the mind so we can just enjoy the ride. The true pleasure of our sport / passion !

  37. @DerHoggz  try these http://barmitts.com/ with only a thin glove. Way more touch and feel.

    Not bulky at all. Been using em in sub 0 temps. For chicago winters its the only way. My hands are not cold they are sometimes sweating after a ride.
  38. @Salsiccione Good call on the bar mitts , there are a few guys i roll with ( or use to roll with i relocated to NZ for a bit ) but they like um. I use the lobsters with MTN Hardware thinsulate underneath down to -10c . it will buy you two hours of ride time which is always nice. Over the years i have learned to slow the pace down and just run certain level of ” V” . still like to hold my coffe a the end with out leaving skin behind because the  hands are ice cubes.

  39. Just got back from a few days away on business.  Great article…although it’s about time your weather returned to a sensible state of “Dreich”, my parents on Lewis said they had one of the best summers ever!  It seems the movement south of the jet stream that completely wiped out our summer and started me building an Arc in the garden left the Highlands and Isles largely unmolested with a lot of people wandering about in galloshers and MacKintoshes looking a little bemused and sweating!

  40. great read; really fueling my need to get back on and ride.  hopefully tonight.  recently, with the darkness and cold i’ve gone into winter mode.  this means getting up as early as possible to try and get the 6-3 shift in at work.  then home as soon as possible, swearing at stopped school buses i’m trapped behind for cutting into my ride time.  if i’m lucky, i’m out on the bike by four.  it’s dark a little after five so my two hour ride is half-swathed in darkness.  this is also the time when motorists are coming home from their jobs as well.  being that it’s also dark, i try to stick to the bike trails (mostly empty this time of year).  of course, this gets boring.  but it beats the trainer/rollers and still fulfills my need for both some km’s in the legs and a tranquil state of mind for a couple of hours.

    this past weekend, on a trip with the VMH, despite my plans i only got one ride in.  this is very unfortunate and it’s all i can think of now; but damn it was glorious.  a welcome respite from the cold and night riding described above.  we were in farm country; surrounded by smooth, flat-ish roads (with climbs, if you know where to look) with barely any road traffic.  indeed, i was out for almost 45 minutes before i saw my first vehicle.  these were farm roads, only 3-4 meters wide, big enough for only a single vehicle and perfect for riding on (just watch out for gravel/loose chip-seal).  the weather was a steady 10 degrees, with no rain and a gentle breeze.  easy to dress for, lovely to ride in.  quite a glorious time.

    with hopes for getting a ride in today, we returned last night to find our cable/internet down and i am the elected one to wait four hours for the repair man this evening.  so no ride for me, again.  unless i’m willing to venture out into absolute darkness, complete with rain and cold.  but with no ride for the past two days, i think i’ll take it.

    p.s. is there an exception to Rule #30 when you’re on farm roads?  i’m used to occasional dog encounters, but in this case every friggin’ farm had a dog and just about all of them gave chase.  luckily they were mostly behind fences.  three of them were on the open road, however, and it was not fun.  one was on a gravel descent, no less.  definitely had me wishing i had my frame pump sitting under the top tube instead of a carbon road drive in my back pocket.  it was a steel bike with a pump peg…surely there’s an exception to be made!

  41. Such a great article. Motivated me to start cylco-commuting again. This will be logged into my brain bank to be referenced when I truly need it; like when I am riding in the rain, slush, snow, or through a volcano being chased by hundreds of razor-toothed leprechauns.

  42. hey folks thanks for the positive feedback, cheers, and hey !  we are only  afew days until the days start getting longer again so nearly over the hump !

  43. Just discovered your website this moment. Am living on the so-called Sunshine Coast of British Columbia where in the winter months it is practically non-stop rain. Love the passion this site exudes. I am a junkie for road riding but they spray brine on the asphalt when the temps drop near freezing so I opt for fat tire trail riding instead. I am somewhat one with my lovely bicycles and hate abusing them with corrosives. Please forgive me if this is heresy.

  44. @Wayne McEwan

    the so-called Sunshine Coast of British Columbia where in the winter months it is practically non-stop rain

    Ha ha…just like the “rain shadow” on the Olympic Peninsula. They don’t tell you that it’s about 100 meters wide.

  45. @Wayne McEwan Fat tire trail riding sounds like a great thing to do in the winter! What are good winter trails in BC? I’m in Seattle.

  46. @Wayne McEwan from an other Canadian, welcome eh.

    if I even get outside this time of year, it’s on my cx rig.

    That’s a Bonny picture!

  47. @strathlubnaig I have a comment that doesn’t sit in the “twat humour” department. I reread the article and it brings me back to my submitted drivel from earlier this year. This is pure Rule VI gold. My mind can be my own worst enemy sometimes. If it were not for the bike, I don’t know where I’d be sometimes. A veterans affairs statistic? On the docket somewhere? Stuck on the couch in my pyjamas oblivious to the world around me?

    No fucking way. Because I ride.

  48. @Dan_R

    @strathlubnaig I have a comment that doesn’t sit in the “twat humour” department. I reread the article and it brings me back to my submitted drivel from earlier this year. This is pure Rule VI gold. My mind can be my own worst enemy sometimes. If it were not for the bike, I don’t know where I’d be sometimes. A veterans affairs statistic? On the docket somewhere? Stuck on the couch in my pyjamas oblivious to the world around me?

    No fucking way. Because I ride.

    Nice one Dan, good to hear. Canada eh ? Where you to ?

  49. @Dan_R edit my last comment, looked at your profile, seems you are in wild rose country…ex CF ?…guessing Princess Pats ? Chapeau to you, Sir.

  50. Great article.  Have my own version of that but I completely agree with your last few lines.

    Tailwinds!

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