Sunday, 19 May 2013

Not About The Bike - Whitton Content

Mog got upgraded. The original Planet X carbon fork had sort of started to disintegrate, probably mostly a cosmetic thing, but slightly unsettling nevertheless, you know, carbon eczema, and not a good look either. Cue ENVE.

And then there are the wheels, spangly, mean-looking Ksyrium SLRs with stealth-fighter matt Exalith braking surfaces. And to top it all off, clock the goldy-looking chain. And although you can't see it, a huge, Whitton-friendly 12-27 cassette, oh yes, those two teeth make a difference.

Unfortunately the rider didn't get similarly uprated. And somehow having a bike that's clearly somewhat better than you are is a little, well, unsettling. But hey who's judging? Me, obviously. 

But on the plus side, the bike rides, well, beautifully in fact. Fast, composed, with a snake-like hiss of speed on smooth rides and the balanced poise of a predatory cat on rougher stuff. And while it might be all in the mind, on fast descents, it's 'right' in a way it didn't quite seem to be before.

Which all in all, made it a good call for this year's Whitton.

I last - and first - did the Fred in 2009 on a weekend I remember now mostly for all sorts of other reasons. It was the first time I'd ever ridden over 100 miles on the road and I was pretty wary of the thing - the distance, the climbing, the other riders, despite being decently fit if inexperienced on the road. 

It was, erm, 'interesting'. I found I could climb steeps faster than most people - thank you Peak District - was crap on the flat - ditto - and utterly useless at riding in groups. Fortunately my proper roadie mate, FP Dave, saved my butt on the latter count. And it was properly epic in feel. 

Four years later, I've done a lot more road riding, have - I think - better base fitness and don't find the prospect of 100 miles plus over big Lakeland passes anything like as intimidating. What I wasn't reckoning with was freezing rain and winds and a slow puncture which had been going since gawd knows when until I finally realised somewhere below the Hardknott.

I do vaguely remember hitting something like a big hole somewhere in the first part of the ride - as does the cuffed Exalith rim - and suspect the tyre was losing air slowly from then on in. Me and Wiggo eh, like peas in a pod.

There was the bit at the second food stop where people were shivering pathetically like wet dogs where I'd happily have thrown in the towel if there was an easy option to get home, but there wasn't. A proper eat, drink, eat some more and MTFU moment.

And from then on, bar that frustratingly slow tube change, it was fine. Aced Hardknott thanks to my massive cassette, cruised up Wrynose then rolled gently home. Felt like I should have been broken, but oddly could have gone on. That's good, I think.

I found that  I could still climb steeps faster than most people - thank you Peak District - was still crap on the flat - ditto - and still utterly useless at riding in groups, not a problem as there were very few groups anyway, and those that existed exuded a sort of vibe of random danger. My descending's better though. 

Overall it felt flat. Nasty and unpleasant and unsociable on the whole. The best bit was before and after. Thank you to my support team, how about reversing the roles for next year? Always fancied being a super domestique... maybe without the 'super'. Soup? 

I dunno. Sometimes things just are. How did I become this person who thinks of a 112-mile epic thing as just another long road ride? I blame the bike.