Pale Rider

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Last night, I picked up my new bike from Neil Morrison. He did the London Triathlon last year, and has invested in a “proper bike” for this year’s race. The result is that I get to use the white stallion pictured above. I take it as a good omen that the bike originally belonged to Terry.

Neil proudly pointed out (and pumped up) the Michelin racing tyres he had fitted to the mighty beast; they look impossibly thin, like they won’t possibly keep the bike upright, but they do their job magnificently, even if the price is that you can feel every single bump. I made a mental note to avoid any form of slatted drain in the road.

Otherwise, it has no lights, the back brake doesn’t work very well and the front brake doesn’t work at all. In addition, I don’t yet own a helmet - so naturally I decided to cycle it home from Neil’s house in the dark anyway. Mostly I stuck to the pavement and didn’t cycle much faster than a brisk walking pace to avoid any trouble, but I did get one chance to crank it through the gears and see what it could do.

Holywell Street in Oxford is a dead-end for cars and, as such, is always pretty quiet. By the time I reached it on my way home last night I had familiarised myself with the controls (and the toe clips) and was beginning to get twitchy for some speed. The lights at the top of the street were green, so I slipped the bike into its strongest gear and stood up on the pedals.

I was stunned at how quickly I got from one end to the other. The road surface has recently been replaced, so the ride was almost silent once I sat back into the saddle. It was like flying! Fortunately, I resisted the urge to spread my arms and proclaim myself the “king of the world” but the sentiment wasn’t far off.

For a brief moment, I could see the appeal of the sport and that maybe, just maybe, all those hours of pain in the saddle might be worth the high to be gained from flying on tarmac. I was brought back down to earth (almost literally) when I reached for the front brake and discovered that it still wasn’t working, and then wrestled with the back brake, which only just managed to prevent me from making a more dramatic entrance onto Longwall Street than I had planned.

Despite my foolhardiness, I made it home in one piece, as did the bike. I’m looking forward to taking it out on the road in earnest once I’ve got myself a helmet and had the brakes fixed. I’m still a long way from completing the Olympic distance road race (259 kilometres – about 150 miles), but I’m a good bit closer than I was yesterday.

I'm also a lot closer to competing in a triathlon; my entry for the London Triathlon has been accepted. I have a starting place - whether or not I can convert that into a finishing place remains to be seen.


There have been several other new developments regarding Team Ultimate Olympian for the London Triathlon. Timo Kindred, who completed the event at his first attempt last year, has very kindly agreed to join the team and will be splitting his sponsorship between Sobell House and his usual charity, Hemihelp. We’re delighted to have you on board, Timo, even if you are still young enough to go in the 25-29 age group race.

Tim Sorrell (a.k.a. Swiss Toni) has officially entered the event and has also been busy trying to find out a) how we can go about setting up an online donations page that doesn’t involve someone like Just Giving taking a 5% slice of your generous donations (click on the 'terms and conditions' link at the bottom of the homepage), and b) if there’s a sprint triathlon somewhere convenient with an open-water swim that we can have a practice go at before the main event.

There has been some fighting talk from a pair of Simons – Bentley and Ferguson – both of whom have suggested that they might fancy doing the triathlon. Frankly, I think there’s about as much chance of either of them taking part as there is of me winning the whole thing, but I hope one or both of them may yet prove me wrong. They need to make their minds up pretty soon - entries close at the end of February.

I’m in the process of organising another event for the summer that might be more to the taste of the armchair fan. On Saturday 28th May, I will be doing the 50km walk along the Thames path from Lechlade back to Oxford. Thus far, about ten people have suggested they’d like to join me, and anyone else who fancies doing it is more than welcome to come along.

I anticipate covering the distance in about six and a half hours, but, for those of you with a gentler approach to life, there are plenty of good pubs along the way. In the coming weeks, I will be drawing up and posting out some sponsorship forms for those who want to take part. Drop me a mail if you want to join us.


Statue John said...

I see there's a nice looking statue on the route of the 50km walk! Shall bring the camera.

You all have my masseeeeve respect for even attempting the triathlon. Look forward to hitting the road on the bikes (once i've gotten over this lurgy...)