Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Long Wait:
High Altitude Training
I note, with dismay, that the latest dated entry of this blog was December 2012! This crushing silence might indicate a lack of activity but that would be far from the truth. It does, however, accurately reflect my procrastination or maybe even writers block! To suffer from the latter, I would first need to qualify as a “writer” and this title is not one I would attribute to these literary offerings. No matter, writer or no, dear reader I am back!

New Bikes!
Following our interesting winter wanderings and long discussions with James of “Correze Cycling”, whose enthusiasm for cycling was acutely infectious, Alan’s mind meandered along the path of alternative bikes! For those loyal readers who have doggedly persevered with the reading of this blog will know, the question of taking up the riding of the bicycle was a blurred decision even at the outset. The prospect of purchasing more, if different bikes, was not one that I, for one, had contemplated. After all, with my granny gear and my qualification as a granny, I had formed an affectionate attachment to my touring bike. Riding it is /was a majestic experience. (Except when I fell off!) Why would I want another bike?
Never underestimate the power of testosterone!
Throughout January and February, Alan could be seen tapping keys and pushing around the mouse and viewing, I like to think, some hundreds of “sportive cycles”. He was a happy man, acquainting himself with manufacturers and their efforts to convince him of the superiority of their product. Meanwhile, happily unaware, that he was reviewing women’s bikes as well, our rides continued around our locale in between the unprecedented rainfall that our part of France experienced during the winter of 2113. These rides rarely exceeded 60 kilometres but performance and stamina continued to improve despite the multilayers of clothing required to maintain reasonable warmth.
By the end of February, Al’s dogged determination could no longer be ignored. Bombarded with technical data, manufacturers’ claims and a deluge of enthusiasm, it was agreed that we would seriously explore the possibility of two old age pensioners purchasing “sportive” bikes. A number of questions required answers:
Would our backs bend to accommodate drop handlebars? And stay in that position long enough to complete a ride!
Would we be able to lift our necks far enough to see where we were going!
Without the advantage of a granny gear, would we be able to climb the hills we enjoyed!
And last but not least, would we look ridiculous!
Mary's Trek Domane 4.5 
The only sure way of answering these queries, was to live dangerously and go for broke. With renewed vigour, Al took on the challenge of finalising our choice and then, more importantly, locating a supplier.  After two months of research, the former turned out to be a good deal simpler than the latter. Trek Domane 4.5, it was agreed, would provide us with comfort and appropriate sizing. (I used to be 5’ 2” but old age has squashed my vertebra by a whole inch, so finding a well-proportioned cycle was not easy).  Many days, emails and telephone calls later, by far the best offer was made by ‘The Bike Shed’ in Cardiff. (It is one of the pleasures of writing this blog, that we are able to compliment people and organisations who go that extra mile to provide an exceptional service.) Not only did the Bike Shed accept the order to supply the bikes, they would allow us to try them out before we agreed to a final purchase. The fact that we lived in France, and would be restricted on our dates for collection, caused no problem at all. With some excitement and even more trepidation, we entered the shop on the 18th March. The bikes looked splendid!  But would we look splendid when we tried them out? The last time we had ridden with drop handlebars was more than forty years ago! And we didn’t want to look really foolish! Anxiety was rapidly banished as our bodies, if not our brains, remembered how to ride this different style of bike. Suddenly I didn’t care if I looked silly; this was a whole new type of ride and the challenges would be very different.The First Ride with Drops
The remainder of our holiday was taken in the beautiful countryside of Wales where the lanes are bounded by hedges. Ploughing into a hedge was not the introduction we were looking for. Nothing against hedges – just that they are rather dense and prickly. So we contained our excitement until we returned to our quiet part of rural France where the roads and the car drivers are a little more forgiving – sometimes! and where we could follow a route we knew. This latter is a hilly “round the block” of about 24 k + 360 metres of ascent and we felt confident that we could successfully negotiate the roads without mishap. (The great thing about a touring bike is that nobody expects you to ride fast. On a road bike you are a target for every other rider on the road! This can be a little daunting so I ensure that, as they pass, they see my wrinkles and Alan’s grey hair!) I digress. Finally, astride the bike for the first time, anxiety increased. What if I couldn’t climb the hill and, heaven forbid, had to get off and walk – the shame! And what about descents? Could I reach and control the brakes? Would I wobble off when confronted by the mutts which always bark as we go past? By this time Alan, with apparently none of these misgivings, was well on his way neither wobbling nor struggling with new gears. If I was to stay in touch I must put my angst well to the back of what brain I have left. An hour later, we had completed the block without mishap and without any embarrassment but, for me, with about the same level of puffing and panting.  We almost felt like real bike riders except that the speed I was doing downhill was the same as Bradley does uphill! Some way to go then!

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