Bike stuff

June 16, 2012

I’m starting to realise just what a sociable sport cycling is! Already on one of my very first forays on my new racer I was quite surprised to be caught up by another cyclist who kept me company until our paths parted.

As I’ve already written for the last couple of months I’ve been part of a group that meets on Sunday mornings to cycle together and I’ve really enjoyed the social aspect of it. Cycling seems to lend itself to chatting (unlike running where it is really difficult to hold a conversation due to the general jostling around of your body!) and there is something about the way that you ride along side by side without eye contact that makes it easy to strike up a conversation. So I’m kind of sad that the sessions with the group are finished now (or are almost finished, but since I am now in Namibia I can’t go along this week!). At any rate, I have concluded that while I love (and prefer) running alone, I like to cycle with others, so over the summer I’m going to have to find out how I can sustain that.

Well that was a kind of aside. What I really wanted to write about was my first ever bike race. Last Sunday (during my 40 hours at home between business trips) I took part in the self proclaimed oldest bike race in Denmark. There were three distances, 125km, 50km or 28km. I decided to go for 50km as being a reasonable distance considering my current level of ambition – and the fact I had to catch a flight later the same day.

As it approached I found myself a bit nervous and unsure of what to expect. Though, to be honest, I think the general stress of my brief weekend at home was a contributing factor. Anyway, there I found myself on the train with my bike first thing on Sunday morning. In true Danish style they were offering free train travel for participants so I loaded myself and my bike into the bike-compartment along with a few others who were obviously heading to the same place.  Now, as a Scot I am used to the idea that complete strangers strike up a conversation with you on the bus, the train or anywhere else for matter, but after more than 20 years in Denmark I have learned that this is definitely not the norm here.

Well, apparently unless you are wearing padded shorts, a helmet and have a bike with you – or so it would seem. I had only just

Speedplay Light Action

settled into my seat when the guy next to me started asking me about my pedals. Now I should mention here that my pedals have received a fair bit of attention in the few months since I got my bike. If you have been following my blog you will have realised that I’m just not that into the gear. I’d never had click pedals (if that is what they are called in English) before, so I simply took the recommendation of the bike shop (Speedplay Light Action in case you’re interested). I’ve been extremely satisfied with them: I had some apprehension at the start about having my feet clamped to the pedals, but in practice I haven’t had any worries or problems with it at all. Then again I have nothing to compare them to! Anyway, I’ve had several experiences of people – well, only men actually – asking me about my pedals. So it wasn’t that much of a surprise when this guy also asked me about them. Though he did go a bit further than most and had me lift my leg up so that he could examine the clamps on my shoes! The conversation continued from there and I surprised myself about how much I actually was able to keep up with the bike-talk. Apparently I’m learning something!

The race itself proved to be a lot of fun. The first few kilometres were a bit hard work with constant overtaking but after that the field thinned out and I got into a good rhythm. And then guess what? At about 15 km I fell into step (or do you say into pedal in this case?) with a woman who was cycling about the same speed as me. So we got chatting and kept chatting for the rest of the race and crossed the finished line together! And if that sounds like we must have been taking it easy then think again. I think we probably pushed ourselves more than if we had been alone and when there were windy bits, we took turns to go in front which really helps a lot.

Of course the great thing about competing for the first time in a particular kind of race is that you are guaranteed a new personal record! Because I’m so new to cycling I have no real idea of what is good or what is bad, and had no real expectations as to what time I was aiming for. I had some kind of vague idea that I wanted to get under 2 hours for the 50 km, so I was more than pleased with my 1 hour 50 min. I was even more pleased when I later discovered I’d come 23rd out of more than 800 (female) participants. I suspect this is mostly because the really good cyclists do the 125 km route, but no matter, it was a bit of a confidence booster for my first bike race!

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