Cycling kit: how low can you go?
I have a weight problem. Yes, I'm carrying perhaps a stone of excess weight – mostly around my midsection – but my main problem concerns how much kit I carry on day rides. What to leave at home?
I think I was the only person out of about thirty riders last weekend who had a bar bag, and only one of perhaps two or three with a rack bag. Most of the others had those little matchbox-sized things strapped underneath their saddles, if they had anything at all. How do they dare?
Last Sunday I completed a Standard Ride, the local CTC's 70 in 6. I had a rush of blood at the start and caught up to a bunch that included the 'fast lads' at the first set of traffic lights. I got dropped on the slight rise near Kiplingcotes. After a flapjack and an emergency guzzle of water I caught up with them a mile or so later (I think they eased off on the descent), but asked that they didn't wait for me as I didn't want to slow them down. On the next significant incline I was duly dropped again and I rode the next 15 miles on my own, with Tom's Hi-Viz tabard a tantalising target as it disappeared around corners and over hills as far as Pockington, where I lost sight of the group. (After which I had an interesting detour around Full Sutton Industrial Estate having misread the route sheet.)
Arriving at Stamford Bridge at about 11.40 (I didn't look at my watch or have time to flip the route sheet over for the homeward journey) I saw the leaders again and was invited by one of them to ride along if I went there and then. So we set off on the return leg in to a headwind and on to the wrong road. A quick turnaround (and a crafty fig roll – together with a flip of the route sheet) and we were back on course.
I didn't think I could keep up the tempo on the next section to the coffee stop. The only time I took the lead was when we were ran at by an excitable Collie that chased us for about a mile – before someone came past me and picked up the pace again. Mercifully, we missed another turn ("slow down" said some other cyclist consulting his OS map at the junction we needed), so I could stuff in a Garibaldi biscuit and latch on to the back of the pack as we turned on to a very narrow lane and carried on – at around 18mph, I was informed.
At Beechwood Cafe I leant the bike against a wall and ordered beans on toast and a cup of tea. I felt sick, and couldn't finish my meal. I was grateful for the length of time we were at the stop, then removed one layer (I knew we had a long hill to climb soon) and off we went as the next group fetched up at the cafe.
At South Cave hill – in fact before it started properly – I went backwards. The rest of the blokes pulled away and Mandy and I cycled along at our own pace. The bike felt heavier than ever and I tried not to use my bottom gears as my tired legs turned the pedals on the drag of a hill. I thought I would end the ride just with Mandy, but her husband and the rest of the group were waiting near the communications mast. I took two bites of my first banana (I hadn't touched the other two) before Mandy whizzed past and I stuffed the rest of the banana back in my bar bag. We were off again.
Even I could keep up now on the long descent from Riplingham/Raywell through Epworth into Cottingham. But the blokes were taking it in turns to lead out the group and I almost used my top gear as we got to the finish with 4 hours and 57 minutes on the clock.
There was orange, fun-sized Mars bars and custard creams at the end, but I drank some of my diluted Lucozade and made a dent in my tuck shop before arriving home an hour earlier than estimated.
Kit and caboodle
Aside from a few glances at my bar bag and rack bag I was asked how I managed with "those things" – I think the chap said – nodding at my trainers. I replied that I did have a cheap pair of SPD MTB shoes, and the underside of my pedals could take them, but that I hadn't got around to using them yet. And no, I wouldn't be getting carbon-fibre-soled shoes any time soon. I also explained about Baby Bailey and the forthcoming expense of all that. I think I was excused.
What a great bunch of people, and they genuinely didn't seem to mind my tagging along, although I did feel guilty about not taking a turn on the front (I was invited to another ride next Sunday, but I think the pace is a bit too quick for me at the moment – 17mph average moving speed Mandy said). Perhaps on the next Standard Ride, 103 in 8.5, I could lead out a group at some stage. But what do I leave behind...?
Added later (any errors on this route are my own):