Despite having ridden four different bikes in the last four days (not all mine, although I do comply with rule 12), one thing I did with all of the them was spend my saddle time riding on tarmac. Now, the last couple of winters have been pretty tough on the roads, and what with the accountants well and truly in control of road repair budgets of late (and rightly so!), it’s left some of the roads round here in a pretty sorry state (although my particular favourite pothole just before the entrance to The Mallard cinema was sadly filled in the other day).
At least I thought they were in a sorry state until I cycled in London on Friday. I hadn’t cycled in the UK since my university days in the mid-ninties, but can’t recall the roads being particularly bad (admittedly time and alcohol have left me with more scars than memories from that era – not all bike related). I may count myself as an experienced cyclist, but I fully expected to be intimidated by the traffic, however I found the potholes scarier than being inches from a double decker bus or articulated lorry (slow moving as they were). Even the soft wide tyres of my slow moving Boris bike couldn’t hide the bone jarring ride through the city streets and I found myself having to concentrate quite hard to pick my line whilst avoiding being shouted at by rabid cabbies and working out which lane I needed to be in at the upcoming lights (suddenly I understand the appeal of advanced stop lines!)
Given that’s the state of the streets in the UK’s biggest city, it’s left me wondering what on earth the roads will be like in the
desolate wastelands picturesque highlands of Scotland. I know that descending at speed isn’t the best part of my game, and I’ve found myself being distanced in sportives and races over bumpy surfaces as I lose my cojones (literally), but I was going to upgrade the stock wheels on my LEJOG bike to something a bit stiffer before I set off from Land’s End in order to ensure my efforts are as efficient as possible. I don’t really see much point now as I fear they’ll end up wrecked as I clatter from pothole to pothole on roads I don’t know whilst being too tired to take any avoiding action. Whereas I’ve managed to build up a mental map of dodgy resurfacings on Guernsey’s roads over the years, there’s no way I’m going to be able to learn the apexes to avoid or where to jump at junctions (Vale Church anyone?) on my route to John O’Groats so I don’t really know what the solution is. Maybe I need to get more experience of riding on roads I’ve never ridden before – perhaps I need to hop on the ferry over to Jersey or take my bike to Brittany at Easter and just put in some miles?
Or maybe I’ll save the expensive wheels for racing on roads I do know, but then again my current ones were fast enough to get me to finish line first again today. Modest enough for you Rob? 😉