Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Brass Monkeys Postponed

Last weekends Merida Brass Monkeys was postponed due to MOD restrictions in the area where the race was to be held. I was disappointed not to be racing, especially since the weather was kind. However I took the opportunity to get out locally on the South Downs and stretch my legs.

Monday, 21 November 2016

City Cycles Chichester

6 months ago if you'd said I would be running my own Cycle shop by the end of the year I'd have told you, you were mad! This is the story of how I quit my job as a successful R&D Manager and turned my passion for cycling into a job! (By the way I may still be mad!)

I've been a customer of City Cycles in Chichester for over 10 years, valuing Martin and Jacky's honest and friendly service. Frequently I've burst in looking for some rare or unusual part for an important race the next day. To my amazement Martin would usually reach into a cardboard box or disappear into the cellar and emerge with just what I needed! It is that kind of emporium of everything cycling related. Having often dragged my wife in on a busy Saturday, we'd frequently joked, tongue in cheek, that we'd have to buy the shop when Martin and Jacky called it a day!

Fast forward to this summer and on a casual visit for inner tubes I questioned Jacky about a gap on the normally crowded shelves. She told me that they were retiring at the end of the year after 22 and a half years in Chichester.  My first thought was where was I going to come for those 'special' last minute purchases now? When I got home I mentioned the news to my wife and we joked about our often stated dream of buying the shop. Anyway after a night to sleep on it, I went to talk to Martin the next day, to ask if he would sell the business as a going concern. At that point I had no retail experience and knew nothing about the cycle trade or how to run a shop!

One thing led to another and here we are 3 months later. I'm excited to announce that from early December I'm starting out on a new venture as the fresh face behind City Cycles Chichester.  The new team and I will continue the honest, knowledgeable service for which the shop is so well known.

The last few months have been quite an adventure, holding down the 9 to 5 job while dealing with solicitors, accountants, distributors, surveyors and landlords. It has been a steep learning curve with highs and lows along the journey, but the overriding sense is one of excitement.

As we count down to the opening, we've been lucky to find an excellent experienced mechanic and get some great brands on board. We've been offered a lot of support and invaluable advice along the way, not least from Martin and Jacky, who have done all they can to help smooth the transfer of ownership.

So why you may ask do I want to run a bike shop? Even before my parents arranged birthday bike rides for me along the South Downs Way from the age of 11, I already had a love for bikes; riding them, looking at them and talking about them. I have raced XC regionally, nationally and abroad. My background is on the mountain bike, but I was thinking the other day that the only genre of cycling I haven't actually tried is Cyclocross! As well as my MTB racing, I've ridden the boards of the velodrome, competed in local TT's and evening road races after work. I've always built up and maintained my own bikes, spending hours in my man cave tinkering. If I'm not in the shed, my evenings are spent trawling the internet planning my next purchase or adventure. So there is a lot of experience and knowledge locked away ready to be offered as advice and guidance, some of which I have shared through this blog. As well as this, after 20 years sat at a desk, I am looking forward to the human interaction!

I look forward to seeing you in the shop!

City Cycles Chichester
44 Bognor Road
PO19 7TG

Friday, 18 November 2016

End of an era

Today was probably my last 6.30am Portsmouth cycle commute. I said goodbye to the morning regulars. 10 years of history riding together, through the sun, rain, ice and snow. I don’t know their names and all we’ve shared is a split second every morning, a nod of the head and a call of “Mornin’!”

Monday, 7 November 2016

Final XC race of the year

I hadn’t intended to race this weekend, but after victory at the previous event I headed to Crowthorne on a crisp cold November morning for the final XC race of the year. Part of the reason I hadn’t planned on attending was that I was on holiday the week leading up to the race. So I arrived having not ridden the bike for a week. This meant I was fresh, but also feeling slightly lethargic after the gluttony of meals out, sweet treats and generally lounging around.

To compound the lack of preparation I arrived later than intended, so had to cut short my normal warm-up routine. This meant I didn’t complete a full reconnaissance lap. Typically our start was then delayed to allow other races to complete, so we all stood shivering in the cold waiting to be called to the line. There were some unfamiliar faces in the crowd who I hadn’t seen at the previous race. While we waited we got chatting and the two most likely looking competitors shared stories of recent 24 hour events they had competed in. So no concerns about their stamina!!

My kick off the line wasn’t as good as normal and I was engulfed by the pack. After a brief uphill the wide trail sloped downhill into a 90 degree left and a nasty subtle drag up a loose gravel path. I had fought back to third by the bend and my momentum carried me up the slope and into the lead. Out of the saddle I pushed on over the next few undulations to maximise my advantage before we turned into the wooded singletrack. The first few sections amongst the trees were fantastic fun! The dew had left the roots a little slippery, but the damp loamy soil provided great grip as we swung through the fast sweeping corners.

One problem with not having completed a practice lap was that I didn’t know where I was going! This meant I had to hedge my bets slightly as I leant into the blind bends, my elbows in the branches. The navigation problem was resolved when the rider behind came through and I was able to cling to his rear wheel as we continued to loop through the woodland.

The leader nipped past a back marker from another category just as we went into another narrow section of trail. This allowed him to break away by a few metres before I could squeeze past. I chased to get back, but the gap just yo-yo'd. I'd close on the inclines only for him to pull away again on the flat. I was pleased though to be holding my own through the technical sections where the grip on offer continued to inspire confidence.

As the lap went on the gap ahead of me grew and the rider behind came through to take up the chase. Perhaps it was the holiday and lack of riding, perhaps it was just one of those days, but there was no ‘fire’ in my legs. The ambition was there but the lethargy took over, preventing me pushing into the red that extra little bit and I quickly lost the second riders wheel as well. With their 24hour racing pedigree it was unlikely they were going to slow in a race of 75minutes! With once again nobody to follow I lost my way slightly, riding blind and making bad line choices which meant having to snatch the brakes mid corner and lose speed.

I finished the first lap 3rd with nobody insight ahead to chase and no pressure from behind. I could feel the urgency go from my riding. I had to keep telling myself to push, but the legs didn’t respond to the call. About half way round the second circuit I got the hurry up I deserved when I heard a rider behind, it was Ian who had finished 3rd at the previous race, so I knew he was a serious challenge. I picked up the pace and that was the last I heard from behind. I later learnt that Ian had dropped his chain and lost time fiddling to put it back on.

Into the third and final lap my body finally seemed to warm up, and now I knew the course slightly better I actually set my fastest lap of the race. It was too little too late and although I closed on 2nd place my surge to the line wasn’t enough to catch those ahead. Finishing about a minute back, I was beaten on the day by two better riders. Even on a good day the winner was out of sight, but I feel slightly disappointed not to have stuck with second place, at least for longer and made more of a race of it.

However, no need to be glum! It is another trophy for the mantelpiece and it felt good to finish the years XC racing on the podium. I drove home a happy lad after a fun days riding! Next up are the winter Brass Monkey marathon races.