Saturday, 24 August 2013

Yankee Doodle Dandy Highwayman

Adam Ant WAS the Dandy Highwayman. 

He isn't so dandy these days but the term "Dandy" as in Yankee Doodle Dandy is...well, according to wiki...

"A dandy (also known as a beau or gallant) is a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and leisurely hobbies, pursued with the appearance of nonchalance in a cult of Self. Historically, especially in late 18th- and early 19th-century Britain, a dandy, who was self-made, often strove to imitate an aristocratic lifestyle despite coming from a middle-class background." Dandy on Wiki

Isn't that a hipster?


Well, if the cloak fits...

The song Yankee Doodle Dandy... was a swipe at the new rich in the US for being bumpkins. "Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni..." was not about pasta. Macaroni Style on wiki 
Don't get upset. 
This is a good thing. 

I like to think that no self respecting Yank would wear this shit...

If you need a stick to put on a hat you're doing it wrong

Dressing nice, speaking well and exercising shouldn't be alternative pursuits of some subculture. 
Why shouldn't we all aspire to these things? 
To make an effort.
To add romance to our wardrobes.
Make our bodies fit for purpose. 

Dandyisim in the fitness community  

"You can't turn up for a group run in THOSE shoes. They will write pasta songs about you." 

North Face have turned into a global clothing powerhouse by embracing the spirit of the dandy. Pursuit of leisurely hobbies... erm, fashion.

Where are you going? Everest?
Nope. PTA meeting.

Rapha in the cycling community have based their whole empire on dandy. Its all about lifestyle, style and image and not so much about hard graft. Now, as the kit makers for Team Sky, they have pro status but I would bet my monocle and cape that all the other teams think they are a bunch of dandy highwaymen.

And just what is wrong with that?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Support Your Local Bike Shop

Placid Planet Bikes, Lake Placid, NY
When I was growing up everyone I hung out with spent half the summer milling around Recreational Vehicles and Equipment in Fairport, NY. site here

Despite the incredibly misleading's a bike shop. Howard and his staff were always helpful and put up with our bazillion questions. It was and is a hub for a like minded community. I still think of it fondly today. If its a skate shop, ski shop, bike shop, hobby shop whatever; these kind of locally owned shops are not only valuable to the local enthusiast but also incredibly important to the local community.

I seek them out on vacations. Last year when we were on a ski trip in Lake Placid, the people at Placid Planet bike shop were very helpful and knowledgeable. It's comforting to know that if you are passionate about something, like minded people are lurking in just about every local bike shop. They might be a little harder to find than the big chain shops but they are there for you to discover. 

Local bike shops or LBS's don't just sell bikes. They organise events, run classes, clubs and can offer a pretty educated opinion on just about ANYTHING.

These days my LBS is De Vere Cycles in South London. site here

Maurice Burton
I really lucked out with this one. It is run by former British Champion and pro Maurice Burton and his family. Great bio of him here...Maurice Burton  Facebook page here...Team De Ver Cycles

I went to see him yesterday with my son Oliver. I had been putting together a bike and without boring you I messed it up.

I carried the thing through the door to his shop and Maurice walked out shaking his head like "What have you done...".
I explained what I TRIED to do and he explained in very nice terms that I was an idiot and should have come to him first BUT they could sort it out.

He showed us some Cervelo frames that had just come in and explained the carbon fibre process at Time bikes in Lyon, France where he'd been to the factory.

Maurice is a champion. His posters and photos are on the walls and the place is half high end bike shop and half museum. His son Germain is also a British champion and blossoming into a very accomplished rider in his own right...Germain Here

Germain Burton wins the Bec Hill Climb at just 16 years old

This isn't just a bike shop. It's a community. Besides that, for someone like me its heaven. Having Olly with me (who has said he wants to take up road cycling) to be able to bend the ear of a man who is raising a family of cyclists it is pretty special.  De Ver also has a club that does weekly rides and the usual club shenanigans. They also organise a training camp in Lanzarote in the spring every year for some valuable winter training and what looks to be a lot of laughing.

I feel really blessed to have De Ver Cycles on my doorstep just as I did RV&E when I was growing up. These types of shops ARE the community.  I am very proud to call them "my bike shop".

Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Load of Old Cobblers

Cobbles - Flanders

Shortened from cobbler’s awls, for balls (testicles or nonsense)

The Tour of Flanders has been a bike race for 99 years. The 100th anniversary of the event will be the 2013 edition at the end of March this year. It is 256km long or 160 miles. Most of the first 110km or so is flatish.I've signed up to do the thing as a challenge. The day before the real bike riders do it.
How do you train for this nonsense?
It is longer than any event I've done. The weather will be...well, never mind the weather. I've never done an event that was actually perfect weather. Forget the weather.
The cobbles? Who the hell has access to cobbles to train on? Why would you if you could? I don't think I could afford the money for inner tubes.
Muddy, long and bumpy.
The history of the event and the atmosphere are something I want to experience first hand. I want to ride on the roads, see the places and the people that make up this monumental classic.
It will be silly hard but I guess that is the point!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Reasons To Be Thankful

This year is not quite over but it has provided a few years worth of momentous occasions already. There is an old Chinese curse that says "May you live in interesting times". Thanks for that.
This year has had a few. I'm just going to list them because I don't want to ramble and leave anything out.

My reasons to be thankful in no particular order:

My health - I set my self a big challenge this year to get on the bike with purpose and do the Etape, a stage of the Tour de France. Not just any stage, the Circle of Death. 200km and 22,523 feet of climbing. One day in July saw this become a reality. After 10 hours and 7,000 calories (7 months and 3,000 miles of training). It has given me a such a lift and renewed my sense of wonder that regular people can do amazing things. The French people on those cold mountain tops in the Pyrenees to give us encouragement will stick with me forever. For that I am thankful.

Mont Ventoux - part of a great year on the bike
Job - These are interesting times. I've seen colleagues come and go over the years. I know a business is a business and I am thankful to be able to contribute. 

Family - I have a wonderful family. They drive me crazy and I love them for it. I never know what to expect with them and it has made my life what it is today to be a part of theirs. I miss my family in the US and the contact I have with them although limited, is very precious. I am thankful.

Friends - I had some tough times this year. Most recently, I got knocked out cold by a van while riding a bike home on Halloween. Fortunately our friends stepped in to help with the kids, collecting the bike and support. Even friends on the other side of the Atlantic and around the world. When people reach out to you when something bad happens it says so much. I really appreciate all the kind words and support. I feel that this incident, like no other I can remember, has made me truly grateful to be sharing this planet with so many wonderful people. Thank you.

The Olympics - The city we live in had the Olympics this year. I signed up to volunteer a billion years ago and was accepted to do the road cycling events. These were just two weeks after my bike ride in France so I didn't have much time to think about it. First day of the Olympics, first medal event, Mens Road Race. I was on a road crew outside Leatherhead (of all places) train station. The people of the town were excited, we were excited but nothing could prepare me for what would happen. Seeing the train loads of people walking down from the platform in all their national colors, Belgians, Americans, French, German, Russians, Brazilians...I almost cried. All these people from all over the world came to watch the Olympics in the city we call home these days. Today, on these roads and over Box Hill and Richmond Park where I have ridden so many miles was just amazing. Once in a lifetime experience. For that I am thankful.

Our road crew

Mens Road Race

Bradley Wiggins - I couldn't mention The Tour and the Olympics without mentioning Wiggo. In a time when champions are likely to be cheaters, it's heartwarming to see someone dedicate themselves to a goal. Inspired no doubt by a horrible father he grew up in London to go on to take international cycling and make it his own. Olympic track, road racing, Olympic road racing. 2012 was a good year for Bradley Wiggins and he has helped put cycling in the news for all the right reasons. Thank you.

Sir Brad

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Back to life, back to the new reality

I've been healing and fixing and everything functions to a point.

Imagine if you didn't have to train to be able to ride for long distances. Anyone could just jump on a bike and go fast. No soreness or fatigue. Just boogie wonderland. OK, this isn't Washington or Colorado so I'll stop with the pot smoking questions.

You can't. You train to perform. The events are the moments of truth where you display that training.

There are setbacks. Injuries, vacations...extended periods where there are no hours to train. I find it the hardest to train right after one of these. Mentally, I can remember what it feels like but because it hasn't been part of the immediate routine, the impetus goes. I find it the hardest to actually put a leg over the bike. That is harder than the ensuing ride. Once that is broken I know the rest will only be a matter of time.


The one good thing about being knocked out by the white van a couple of weeks ago is I have no recollection whatsoever of the incident. The way I see it is if I'm going to do all these miles on roads used by things with engines, sooner or latter my card will get punched. I got off kinda light. No recollection = no fear. I can imagine it would be different if I saw the thing coming at me. Every time I went out I'd have long, drawn out sequences rattling around in my brain of white vans being driven by blood soaked clowns coming at me.

Alas, I have none.

The first time out after time off is tricky. It's also about learning where I'm at. Mentally, I can remember the numbers I should be able to produce. I can't hit those numbers right now.
That is OK.
There is also some scars and aches to deal with but fortunately I'm mechanically sound. I can function. I wish sometimes I had a sports shrink to talk to about getting cracked up. A lot of bike riding is pushing to see how far/fast you can go. Being reserved can't be part of it. I guess I feel a little tentative but it is still early days.

My bike works but it does not feel like my bike. It pulls to one side. My teeth hurt and they have moved a little. These are constant reminders.

The new reality.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

I should not be telling you this...

This isn't an attempt at being coy or reserved. I have no right to sit here and tell you what I did on Halloween 2012.

Halloween, the day after a full moon. That woman and those two little boys had been away for a few days at Grandma's house in Wiltshire and were coming home. We would go trick or treating or I'd hand out candy to kids that looked to old to be getting handout candy. That is another story.

I was excited. Excited to see them. It was Halloween! The boys had been counting down to it for weeks and it is without a doubt my favorite holiday. After agonizing over if we had enough candy and rushing around the City of London looking for essentially what I could get at a cheap store at home, I decided we had enough. I jumped on my bike, turned on the Garmin to record the journey for Strava and headed home.

It was dark and raining at around 5ish. I went over Blackfriars Bridge, through Kennington, Clapham North, Common and South and then to Balham...this I remember.

From there I had a 43.39 min rest just before Tooting Bec

and then carried on to St Georges Hospital in Tooting (data courtesy of the clever EMT that put the Garmin in my pocket)...

I don't remember going to the hospital. I remember feeling the rain on my face and someone shining a flashlight in my eyes. I could hear the sounds of traffic and I was snugly bound up. Out of the corner of my eye I could see blue lights dancing in the windows of a building. I heard a mans voice say "Mr Russell. Try not to move. Mr Russell, you've had a very bad accident. If you can hear me then blink."

I blinked. (and wiggled my toes to make sure I could)

"OK we are going to move you in a minute. Do you know a number we can call?" Somehow I managed to conjure up the home number.

Then it all goes again.
I don't remember anything until I woke up after A&E in a small room. Rachel and Matt were in there. I do not remember much except thinking: WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING IN HERE?

Apparently I had been involved in a hit and run with a white van.

I was the hit.

They had been excitedly waiting for me to turn up on Halloween and all they got was a phone call from the police. I can't imagine what that must have felt like. I was out for a long time and a lot of people have not woken up from less. I have no recollection of being hit or pain or anything. To think that they could have gone off for half term break and I never said goodbye properly is pretty upsetting.

I should be dead.

I said goodbye to Rachel and Matt and they took me to the trauma ward.

On the way there I thought about that. I know what I do has risks. I am always trying to minimize them. I ride my bike a lot. I rely on it. Over seven thousand miles last year. It is kept in very good condition and I don't gamble on the roads. Then it dawned on me. It's not me. No matter what I do, there is someone out there who is late or drunk or changing channels or talking on the phone. Someone who thinks driving is a right and not a privilege.

I thought about a woman from earlier in the year. She was a Biology teacher at my old High School in Fairport, NY. . Heather Boyum. She was a triathlete that lived on the same street I grew up on and where I still go home to. She was out on a training ride one Sunday at a time in the morning which should have guaranteed that she was going to have little traffic and not miss too much time with the sleeping family. However, there were two other people out. One on a motorcycle and one in a car who hadn't gone to bed yet. They were drunk and driving around. For fun. Neither of them had a license or were insured to do so but felt that IT WAS THEIR RIGHT to drive.

Her family never saw her again.

I got to the trauma ward and they put me in the room. The Nurse Practitioner came to stitch me up. I might not have felt pain from the crash but someone sticking needles in your upper lip hurts like hell.
I could feel the hole in my upper lip where the teeth went through. Three of my teeth on the top were cracked. One half the original size. My ribs hurt, my neck was horribly stiff and my left hand was swollen. When the nurse had finished I'd had over 30 stitches. Some inside my upper lip.

It was now 4:50am. I had missed Halloween altogether. I was swabbed off a bit, given pain killers and then a shot of morphine. Not a needle. A syringe that you squirt in your mouth. I felt great!

I looked like shit...

I felt this overwhelming sense of joy to be alive. I walked around the room and talked to some of the others that were awake. I sat with them and listened to their stories. One man had fallen off a ladder and broken his back. One had fallen down the stairs and broken his neck. There was another one with a broken neck. One with a head injury that had been riding his motorcycle and swerved to avoid a badger. One man who got hit at speed while crossing the road. He said "There can't be a god". I sat down. I needed to hear this. He asked me if I believe in god. I told him that no matter what you believe in, everyone in this room should be dead. If it wasn't for a few inches here or there we'd be in another part of the hospital. He then went on to say "Whetherspoon Pubs do a good value Christmas lunch". He was just gifted the miracle of life and he is getting moist over the savings he will get during the holiday period? Ah, morphine.

I found out that I would have visitors later that afternoon. I didn't get to spend Halloween with them but they boys were coming to see their Frankenstein father and I was excited. So I didn't make this Halloween. There would be others! I was so happy to be alive.

They came in around 5pm. They walked towards me. I could see on their faces the horror and relief. They were kind of gentle and respectful (which is completely out of character).  They brought some clothes and slippers (Monster feet. They were an instant hit). We went to get some sandwiches and things downstairs. It was really hard to eat with stitched lips and sore teeth but so lovely to see them.
I couldn't stop looking at them. All of them. I didn't care if I looked like a freak. I was so full of life it was just a magical feeling.

We said goodbye. Because I'd been knocked out for some time I'd have to stay in another night. They left me with a phone charger, treats and a copy of Private Eye. Between that and the morphine I had a good night ahead of me. HOWEVER, there was another person brought in in the night that made sure that all of us, including the lovely hospital staff knew what a foul person he was.

The next day I got a cast put on my left hand. I hung out with the ward gang and joked with the amazing nurses and doctors. We'd all secretly dreamt of tickling the feet of the foul mouthed horrible guy with the broken neck that was brought in during the night. We resisted.
Later that day I was discharged and went home. The boys put on their monster feet and all of us in monster feet sat close together on the couch.

In the last few days I have been noticing how beautiful things are. All the lovely people in my life that are so special. Even the little things. I know I take things for granted sometimes. I am going to work on that the most. Whatever I hold on to from this event, I hope this feeling of appreciation stays with me until the end.

Cut off in ER: the delights my family would get if I didn't come back

Poor bag

Where's my bloody keys?

Fairport T

The police may never find the person that hit me. That burden they must carry now is heavier than any fine or jail time could make them carry.

Besides...I am not dead. Whoever you are, you could be found.

No, I am just over the moon to be alive and have the chance to tell you this story.

I'm on the mend and mending well.

Those are swollen lips not a Facebook pout

Postscript: Do KOM's on Strava count if you are in an ambulance? I mean you kind of earned them...

Saturday, 27 October 2012

All I need is the air that I breathe

There is all manner of bike parts clogging up my shed which is already about to be de-roofed by the amount of crap therein.

I look around the house and there is paper on the fridge, bulletin board, piled on the desk. Some of these have been organized into neat folders and binders never to be used or seen in daylight again.
We moved in to this house eight years ago and there are boxes in the attic that have been opened once since they were packed at the last place.

It goes like this...
Hey a box.
I wonder what's in here...
I don't need that right now...
but I might.

I never do.

These piles of papers are all carefully organized in a clever filing system. The papers get put on the desk. If they are really important they go on the bulletin board where they instantly disappear.
The Bermuda Rectangle.
They stay where they are put until the date goes buy then they are either...
1. put into a file (buried)
2. thrown away
I can't remember any of these ever getting thrown away.
I'm afraid if I die my family will put me in the attic.
It's not a mild fear, I'm actually terrified of the prospect of sharing the same fate as the baby toys and sports equipment stuffed up there.
I can see it now.
"Just put him up there next to those bloody golf clubs. I never once saw him go golfing. He can sit next to those things and rot until he's ready to come down and sort these stacks of papers out."

There is a TV show called Cash in the Attic where they get crap out of your attic and sell it to some shmo then they take it home and put it in their attic.
Stuff just gets passed around like some horrible game of tag until you die then your next of kin gets all your stuff.
By then they have all their own stuff.

Crap in the Attic leads to another show called Hoarders.
Some people in this house are destined for a future episode...

Presenter: So ______. Lets take a look what you have...stacks of papers... man in the the police know about the man in the attic?

______: No

Presenter: Don't you think it's time to get rid of some of the stuff?

______: Ok. How much for the dead guy in auction?

Presenter: I think you might be looking at jail time.

______:He comes with golf clubs that have never been used.

Presenter: I just need to make a phone call.