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Take two on the Jennings Rivers Ride

I can hardly believe it’s almost a year since the last Jennings Rivers Ride, but am really looking forward to taking part in the event for the second time.

Partly that’s because it’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful rides in the country but also because I have unfinished business with the route!

Last year the Rivers Ride certainly lived up to its name. The roads ended up turning into rivers as the Lake District threw down some of the worst weather it is capable of. By the time I approached the hardest part of the ride, Newlands and Honister passes, along with two friends, officials had shortened the route for safety reasons. The weather had conspired to stop us completing the whole route.

So this time I want to make sure I finish the 75 mile “Big Day Out” route.

The rain wasn’t the only enemy we faced that day. Sharp pieces of freshly cut hedge littered the road and by the time we had crossed Whinlatter Pass the three of us had already had four punctures.

But despite our troubles the Jennings Rivers Ride was one of the best days cycling I have ever had. The route we undertook was spectacular, the camaraderie with other cyclists great and the food stops well organised and very welcome. And of course it’s all for a great cause – Cumbria Community Foundation.

There’s one final incentive this year. The Tour of Britain will be following in our tracks the next day when some of the world’s top racers cross Honister Pass during the Cumbrian stage of the race. Knowing that we will be going just ahead of them can only add to the atmosphere.

I can’t wait. There’s just the issue of a lot more practicing to do before then.

SIBA North West to support Cumbria Community Foundation

Cumbria Community Foundation has been selected as charity partner by SIBA North West for its 2013 beer festival and competition. The organisation – the Society of Independent Brewers – will donate the cover price of its event guide and has invited the charity to undertake its own fundraising activities around the event.

Bringing together brewers from across the North West, battling it out to be named best in the region, the event will showcase talent from breweries large and small. In keeping with its aim of supporting and promoting independent breweries, SIBA NW is also keen to benefit the community in which the event is held.

It is hoped the beer competition and festival will help to raise more than £3,000 for the charity. Organisers also hope the partnership will help to promote the charity among the thousands of visitors expected to attend the event, which is being held from Thursday October 24 to Saturday, October 26.

Greg Bolton, chairman of SIBA North West, said: “The ethos behind SIBA is to support independent brewers, to provide guidance and help promote their business. In a similar manner, Cumbria Community Foundation helps community organisations to access funding and to increase awareness of the work they do, to potential funders and users. We wanted to invite a charity to take part in the event and allow us to give something back to the local community. This seemed the ideal partnership and we will be delighted to welcome Foundation friends and volunteers to the festival in October.”

Staged at The Beer Hall at Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley, allowing visitors to soak up the atmosphere of an authentic working brewery, this will be the county’s biggest ever beer festival. The contest will see up to 80 of the region’s breweries enter more than 200 ales to be judged by a panel of experts which includes SIBA members, CAMRA experts and national food and drink journalists.

The Foundation will have a stand in the marquee of the beer festival from where its volunteers will sell the Beer Festival Guide for £1. Andy Beeforth, Chief Executive said: “We are very pleased to have been invited to be a part of this event and will be taking the opportunity not only to raise funds to support our community groups this year, but also to tell visitors about the amazing work being done every single day by volunteers all across our county.”

Bicycle tears, Physics and Budgies

The bike is down! The bike is down!

Last Saturday after ten months suspended from my garage ceiling (see last blog) I took my bike off the hook and placed it gently back on its two wheels. Shamefully I had put it there on the night of last year’s Rivers Ride and left it there like a forlorn, dangly monument to a fitter, more agile past. Last year’s Rivers Ride was tackled in monsoon conditions and amazingly, the bike started dripping water from its front forks. Now this was either residual water from Whinlatter last September  or genuine cycle tears because it knew that I was just about to sit on it for 40 miles.

I had signed up to do the Rivers Ride Relay which was four teams doing each of the rides and passing on a bottle of Cumberland Ale as the baton. As you may know I am the pioneer of Extreme Cycling. Now, this new sporting concept (which may become an Olympic Sport in future years) isn’t an endurance event of many hundreds of miles in difficult conditions but is based on overweight ‘cyclists’ doing no cycling for the vast majority of the year then jumping on his/her bike to do a ride of 40/60 or 80 miles up and down hills in a oner.

I was doing the ride with fellow blogger Ian Curwen and Tom Foster a Director at Sellafield.  Just so the Cycling Gods (who for the ill-informed are called Chopper, Grifter and Budgie) could snigger a little louder it was scheduled on one of the hottest days of the year and we were doing the just after lunch slot. Oh joy! The physicists amongst you will be aware of the formula that dictates that 40 miles +slopes + 26 degrees + clinical obesity = comedy cycling + breathing that you can be arrested for. I’d also forgotten to have something substantial to eat (unless Bradley Wiggins pre Tour meal of choice is a bowl of Clusters in which case I was well prepared.) We had also managed to persuade/dupe a colleague called Karl Connor to drive us and our bikes  through. This had the double benefit of allowing us the opportunity to partake in several pints afterwards in Keswick which was the carrot that I needed.

The ride itself was actually (and surprisingly) uneventful which for a blogger is really disappointing. Normally on my occasional forays into the world of cycling I fall off, get bitten by dogs, bricked by feral teenagers or slip in dog poo. On Saturday I cruised effortlessly at 1.3 miles per hour in my bright yellow t-shirt (see photo) looking like Bungle off Rainbow and managed the route pretty well. We then went to the pub and had some chips. Grand! I did, of course,  get my usual pitiful/sniggery/is that fat fella really on a bike looks from the fitter cycling demographic but I did check out their calf muscles and mine were bigger and more defined.   In my last blog I told you that I would be reporting on my ‘marginal gains’ Over the last few weeks my legs have been bitten to pieces by midges.

The resultant scratching has meant that both lower legs have been stripped of quite a lot of hair. I do believe the resultant weight loss and associated efficiency has raised my average speed from 1.2 mph to 1.3 mph.  Result!

So – has the day out ignited my love of cycling? No. Will I commit to a training regime of x number of  miles per week leading up until September? No. Will I regret it in September? Yes – just like last year and the year before.   What is it about me and never learning from experience? Until next time..

A good week

An enjoyable stretch out with the Rivers Ride crew and a new road bike have made this one of my better weeks, training wise.

In fact, given that I did some training, it’s actually been my best week.

The ride was rewarding for a number of reasons, ranging from fantastic weather, the good company (thanks to Tom Foster and Gary McKeating), the beers in the sun upon completion, to familiarising myself with part of the main ride route. Oh and best off all, I managed to climb Whinlatter for the first time ever.

There are a few reasons why I managed to achieve this, of which jelly babies and the thought of a pint at the end are clearly two of the most important.

My new bike might also have contributed. I’ve now moved from a heavy, hybrid bike with wide tyres to a light road bike with slick, think tyres, and I am amazed by the difference it has made. Climbing hills has gone from being a chore to a challenge.

I’m delighted to say that no only has the bike provided me with the perfect excuse to get out more, but it has also motivated me to try and provide a little structure to my training.

My biking regime has always been one of getting out whenever I can. Well sort of. It’s actually one of getting out when a friend contacts me to suggest a bike ride. I must admit that I have struggled to motivate myself at times to go out on my own.

However, since I got my new bike (thanks go to Keswick Bikes, who are supporting the Rivers Ride), I’ve found I’m willing to go out on my own, willing to find new routes, and more shockingly, am willing to embrace hills.

The last one is definitely the biggest shock. As a larger man, I’ve always avoided hills like the plague, for fear of failure and well, the pain. This included going down them because, in my mind, descending a hill meant I would have to regain the altitude at some point later in the ride!

My new bike seems to have been designed for getting up even the toughest of hills. In fact, on my most recent ride, I actively sought out the hills to see if I could beat them.

So far, I’m pleased to say I’ve succeeded.

Of course, none of this is really down to the bike but rather my improved fitness, thanks to my thorough, structured, and dedicated training regime.


Experience counts

Last time I promised to update you on my experience of changing a tyre and cycling through a ford. It might not be immediately clear why these two experiences are connected, but in this case, it is my failure that links the two.

I’ve already said just how much I have loved cycling since I got back into it. Not only do I get out as often as I can, I also spend far too many hours fixating over lycra and bits of metal that do something or other to help improve the performance of something or other.

However, despite this, I am still a novice, and two recent experiences only serve to emphasise this.

The first came, a couple of weeks ago, when I decided to change the inner tube on the bike I have borrowed from a friend.

I won’t bore you with all the details of just how epic this failure was, but suffice to say, my hands were black, the air was blue, and an hour after starting the ten minute job, I was almost finished.

I would say I felt a sense of satisfaction at this point, but to be honest, I had no idea whether any one of the processes I’d just undertaken was completely wrong and liable for catastrophic failure.

My second failure was all the more amusing – for everyone other than me. I decided to take a shortcut on my route to meet a friend. It was only when I set off that I realised this shortcut included crossing a river via a ford.

I didn’t know much about how to do this – again, my technical knowledge is somewhat lacking – but I had a plan. That plan was to get off the bike and walk over the footbridge.

However, when I reached the ford and saw a ‘gang of lads’ congregating, my bravado overtook, and I decided I’d simply continue through the ford.

I decided the best option was to go slowly but to try and keep on moving. This seemed to work until about halfway through the river, when I looked down and saw the moss-covered route I was taking.

I was probably about two seconds later when I crashed into the river, from a speed of 5MPH, to the sound of laughter from the lads. Thankfully they weren’t recording for You’ve Been Framed. It wouldn’t have been a pretty sight – I look different in lycra to the people in my magazines!

It was only when I got home that I realised my current cycling magazine has a feature of riding through fords (Though, to be honest, I am not sure it would have made the slightest bit of difference if I’d read it first).

These two experiences have made me realise that I should probably get to grips with the technical side of cycling. If only because I don’t want to take an hour’s enforced break, at any point on the Rivers Ride.

Thankfully, there are no fords on the route.