Monday, 31 August 2015

Riding Again

I spent Friday moaning about my own injury in a decidedly needy manner, so perhaps to put the record straight I should pick up a story that I had ready to share with you before the crash.

You’ll no doubt remember Martyn Ashton and the accident that paralysed him from the waist down and looked to permanently put him off a bike. A few weeks ago a video hit the internet that made even a cynical non-sentimentalist like me get a whole load of feelings.

I think the look on his face sums up what it means to love riding bikes. Not all of us are able to make it a career, like Martyn, but it’s easy for it to be the thing that keeps you happy and sane and makes you grin.

I’m late to this story thanks to the circumstances, but I still wanted to share it. I might not say the same for the 100s of alerts I have from the last few weeks.


Friday, 28 August 2015


You may have noticed a considerable silence on here over the last few weeks?

I imagine you were surprised, expecting tales of summer riding and fun and given that three had been quite a build up through the Spring.


This happened:

A photo posted by @andy_c_11 on

Followed by this:

A photo posted by @andy_c_11 on

I’d clipped a curb on the way home from work, and crashed off, bruising and cutting one knee, half crushing my wedding ring, and, at best guess, trying to put my shoulder through a metal bollard.


No summer rides in the sunshine, no holiday to the South of France to ride in more sunshine. All plans went on hold in favour of long days on the sofa watching Netflix. My shoulder muscles withered as I waited the bones to heal. My mood darkened as doctors told me 3-6 months before I could even ride to work again. I couldn’t bring myself to watch mountain bike videos, but managed to follow the Tour de France live on the telly. I walked miles around North London to keep a bit active, discovering new parks and listening to podcasts, to distract myself from not being able to ride (or really dress myself etc). I bought a turbo trainer to ride inside and tried to stay motivated riding nowhere in a spare room, unable to reach the handlebar and watching yet more Netflix to time my efforts.

I stuck to a solid intervals session based training, keeping my rides short (through boredom and a bruised knee) and sweaty, hoping to stay fit and to improve my mood with some endorphins. Some days it works. I went back to work on the Tube which I actively avoid by riding, and worked on movement in my shoulder to be able to use a mouse. I got inspired to change the commuter bike to a former geared incarnation, but with a road cassette and mech, so ordered the parts and fitted them carefully. I’ve started watching bike videos online again.

So now, 8 or so weeks in, I’m out of a sling and still hugely frustrated. I have permanent metalwork in my shoulder, still can’t reach over my head, and have a six-inch scar across my collarbone. I have no feeling in the upper part of my chest as the nerves were cut during the operation. My current exercises are designed to start to rebuild the muscles and it is starting to feel like I’ll get there again.

My target is a trip to Bike Park Wales in mid-November and a winter of making up for lost time. I know this is hardly a life-changing injury but even one like this has impacts that go way beyond just not being able to ride a bike for a few weeks.


Monday, 29 June 2015

Light Ribbing

Regular followers of this webseries will remember I had a bit of a crash on Tuesday. Here it is in slightly more brutal slow-motion.

Well, this still hurts a lot so I was after a smooth easy ride this weekend to keep my legs working without hurting myself more. I filled myself with painkillers and set out to link up the ride from last Saturday with my usual riding areas in Hertfordshire.

It was hot and dusty out which always makes for a good day, even if adding extra obstacles in the shape of dog walkers and horse riders. It made me dream of bigger days in the mountains or flowing jumpy trails, but I made do with the dry fast lanes just north of London and made it home with pain in my chest, but having more than survived.


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Four Cross

While it could be argued that four bikes are too many, there are some occasions when it feels like exactly the right number. Within the last four days I have ridden each, and each was right for what I was doing.

On Saturday I pre-empted a boozy afternoon with a ride. The plan was to explore a new bit of Hertfordshire, slightly further away and finding new bridleways and tracks to add into the repertoire. I’d even bought a map.

The ride from Wooton Under Stone headed north across some excellent stony tracks, some fields that would be impassable in the winter, with a quick visit to Cromer windmill then it turned East on an intriguing Roman road slicing across the map. This shot me dead straight for a few miles, with that strangely reassuring feeling of rolling along where people have travelled for thousands of years. After this I headed through Nasty (there’s got to be a joke in there) and hit some excellent spots of bridleway taking me back to Wooton Under Stone in the rain.

It was highly satisfying to do a new loop to add to the list. To extend my knowledge and explore. The ride was on the hardtail as it seemed suited to bridleway cruising, and I headed back avoiding the road closures for the Women’s Tour of Britain with arms burning from the nettles.

With one bike ridden the BMX was next up and Lordship Rec was the target to blast out a hangover and get some jumping in. This went entirely well, with another double nailed and the only issue a minor crash as I landed missing a pedal at one point, bringing the weekend injury total to a couple of scraped shins.

The third bike got some time with the usual ride to work, where I was able to investigate what I see as the issue with organised events on open bridleways by looking at the Strava fly-bys from my recent ride in Shropshire on the Long Mynd. Our route is in red and you can see us leaving from Marshbrook after the event has been going for a little while.

Draw your own conclusions.

One bike left to ride, so with a friend’s fencing finished I took a day off work and headed to meet him and introduce him to the fun to be had at Swinley Forest. I took the full susser to hit the jumps and get a bit of a sunny woodland big ring bash. We rode one full loop and another shortened one and it shows how much fun the tail can be, especially when you attack it with a friend and push each other a bit to go faster and bigger.

So four bikes in four days, you could almost argue that I need more…


Monday, 15 June 2015

Breaking the Chain

Another weekend and more exciting cycling. Least interesting was my riding, I headed into the Chilterns, where I started with an long ride that I’d done in the wet before, hoping that the recent good weather would hold and that reversing the direction would help to make it better.

It drizzled in a steady non-ending way so that wasn’t a great start, but the ground had dried and was only wet on the surface so it ran faster and wasn’t the slog I’d found before. The ride also worked well in reverse, actually allowing it all to be ridden when I’d had to push a couple of climbs on the first go. Definitely solid Chilterns epic to be redone.

On Sunday I rode a favourite, acting as a guide, and at a lower speed than usual. This allowed me to hit some of the tough hills fresher and in some cases faster than ever, ending up with a riverside pint.

Then there was the pro racing scene, with drama all around.

The Dauphiné came into the final day with Froome 18 seconds behind the leader Teejay Van-Garderen after a week that had ridden him into position. With a final solid attack he made up the deficit and raced to a second title in that race. He is now targeting the Tour de France and looks to be in great form.

Then there was the third round of the Downhill World Cup in Leogang. The women’s race was a moderately predictable affair with Rachel Atherton on the top step, Tahnee Seagrave in second and Ragot in third. Manon Carpenter continued her bad luck, looking to be blown off course on the final jump, crossing the tape and ending up disqualified.

The men raced to more exciting action. Loic Bruni held the hot seat for most of the day but would not hang on for the end of the day. Gee Atherton could only get to sixth, with the big excitement in the top three. Remi Thirion took crazy line to take third, behind Aussie Kona rider Connor Fearon putting in the ride of his career so far to take second. Then it was just Aaron Gwin to come down the mountain. He powered out of the gate and instantly broke his chain, so his day was surely over?

Gwin has taken the chainless crown from Neko Mulally and showed just how incredibly skilled he is, destroying the field and powering through even the pedally middle section with flow alone.