Hit 50. Fell Off. No Biggie.
Looking at the weather forecast for the coming week, there seemed little chance of warm weather or sunshine at all, so after waking up this morning I was pleasantly surprised to see the ground was dry and the sky a glorious shade of blue.
Time to hit the road on the bike, but first, breakfast. This turned out to be the first ordeal of the day as I hastily cooked a packet of Uncle Ben’s ’90 second’ vegetable rice. Following the slightly bland but relatively ok chicken rice yesterday, I imagined a few additional peas and sweetcorn in the vegetable edition would be just the ticket before heading out.
Little did I expect it to taste and smell utterly disgusting but also to be very dry. Not the best combination for the most important meal of the day. I forced down most of the bowl and downed a glass of water. Eugh. Time to get ready.
My bag was packed as usual, Platypus filled with just enough water to see me through the ride, puncture repair kit, a pump which will inflate my tyre to roughly half the pressure it needs to be and some dried apricots that serve brilliantly for an energy boost. Plugged into my iPhone, Runkeeper tracking my ride and Squeeze quietly beating out of my headphones while my ears fight to hear the computerised voice telling me distance completed, I set off for my first task.
Heading off the main road, I aimed toward a steep, bumpy hill that flows through an easy right hand kink. Initially standing up on the pegs, clipped in with ‘clipless’ pedals, gaining momentum before dropping down. I’m in top gear, peddling like crazy, hunkered down and streamlined using the drop bars, the bike is shaking. Nervous.
Sitting up at the bottom of the hill, I realise I hit 50mph. My half ton virginity lost during only my fourth outing on the new bike. Ecstatic. But I can go faster.
Being new to the world of road bikes – having used a mountain bike my entire life – the sheer speed at which they accelerate and how they generally allow you to travel further at a greater pace is incredible. I’m used to that huge tyre, road contact humming noise from the near three inch width my off road rubber bulged to. No more though, cycling along at a sprint on a 5p sized contact patch makes one hell of a difference. At times, it doesn’t do much for your confidence however. Even entering a corner, leaning the bike and seeing a loose surface puts the shits up me.
A few miles further into the ride, the road I’m intending to head down greets me with a ‘Road Closed’ sign. Great. But one half of the road is accessible, so I try my luck. I’ve done it before, so why not now? There’s mud and gravel, everywhere. I manage to reach the bottom safely, but it’s now properly blocked off by catch fencing and machinery, nobody working mind you. I slow down, looking for a potential route around the fencing and up the other side of the road. I come to a standstill.
The next 2 seconds went through my mind in slow motion. You know those moments where you’re either close to having an accident, or actually about to? Those moments you know something is about to go wrong. I’ve seen, heard and laughed at many people forgetting to unclip from their supposedly clipless pedals and subsequently toppling over when they try to put their foot down. Until this point, they hadn’t claimed me as a victim. But they were about to.
Looking over at the catch fencing and mumbling “for f*ck sake” to myself, I prepare to turn around, lifting my right foot from the pedal. But it doesn’t lift. It’s still clipped in. Then came that slow motion moment as I saw myself toppling rather un-gracefully to the side. I lay there for a moment, saying out loud “Ste, you imbecile”, before getting up. My first thoughts were that it had to happen sooner rather than later, before grumbling at my newly wrapped handlebar tape that was slightly nicked and the gear housing being scuffed. Then I realised I’d grazed my leg up quite nicely, caused the chain to come off and scuffed my precious Northwave shoes. Damn and blast. Now to climb back up the ruddy hill.
The following two miles of my journey turned out to be pretty hectic as well. Following my excursion down the closed road, I was now faced with the A47 between Glaston and Morcott. It was a fairly windy day, gusts blowing across me but the first lorry that overtook me moved me about all over the place. Close to Morcott, dreaded A-Road journey nearly over and I see a red, Nissan Crapmodel in my lane, overtaking a Lorry. Next thing I know, we’re three abreast and I’m giving the car driver various un-complementary hand gestures. Idiot.
Thankfully, the remaining part of the ride turned out to be un-eventful. I stopped off to see my Uncle, show off the bike and have a quick catch up before heading home, leg wound* now hurting. I did the final six hilly miles home in roughly 24 minutes, which is give or take, 14 minutes quicker than on my mountain bike.
I said I’d never become a victim of clipless pedals but today proved that one moment of being sidetracked when you’re stationary is going to leave you in a heap on the floor.
Now all I need is a helmet.