Last week’s edition of Cycling Weekly (4/10/2012) had a 26 item ‘bucket list’ – things to do before you kick the bucket. I first read this venerable publication about 1962 when it was called Cycling and Mopeds, cost about a shilling (5p, now £2.99!)) and was affectionately referred to by the cycling fraternity as ‘the comic’. It started life in 1891 as ‘Cycling’ and has over the past 121 years had a chequered history closely linked with the waxing and waning of the popularity of cycling. It became Cycling and Mopeds (pedal assisted 50cc motorbikes) in 1957 to try to broaden it’s appeal but this only led to it’s more rapid decline. The editor at the time was hoping that once people had tried motor assisted cycling they would be converted to the real thing. Unfortunately the ‘real thing’ they went for was proper motorbikes and cars. ‘Moped’ was dropped from the title sometime in the mid 1960s.
The 26 items on the CW bucket list are listed from number 26 to 1 so I assume they are in order of some sort of reverse priority or desirability. I’ve Iisted them here starting with CW’s number 1 and notes on whether I have already done them or, if not, whether I’m inclined too.
1. Ride up Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux. This I would dearly love to do. Apart from (if I succeeded) meaning I was super-fit for my age I would find it very moving to see the memorial on the spot where Tom Simpson died in 1967 in the Tour De France climbing the Ventoux. I am of course rather more circumspect today but he was one of my idols and inspirations.
2. Find, buy and restore a bike I wanted as a kid. No thanks. I’m not particularly nostalgic for the old equipment, although it was simpler then. I’m nostalgic for the youth I used to be. That’s what needs restoring if only it was possible!
3. Ride on another continent. This is a possibility. I guess it would probably be the US. Perhaps China or Cuba. I’ve ridden in Europe of course but this only counts as another continent if you belong to UKIP.
4. Ride a big British sportive. Definitely on my list. I’ve done something along similar lines many times in the past before sportives came along. These were reliability trials – fixed marshaled routes to be covered within specified times. I’ve done 50, 70 and 100 mile events and, once, a 240 mile in 24 hour event. But these didn’t have the pseudo-race nature or the organisation and support of the modern sportive. I fancy one of the continental ones that follow the route of a Tour De France stage or one of the Classics.
5. Ride on a velodrome. Done this, many times, racing in both Herne Hill and Paddington track leagues. However, these were outdoor and large ovals with relatively shallow banking. Herne Hill is 450 metres long with 30° banking. Paddington track was longer, about 500 metres I think, with 22° banking. I have not ridden an indoor modern velodrome whihc are shorter and steeper. They do ‘taster’ sessions for all comers at the Manchester velodrome (250 metres and 42° banking) and I might well have a go at one of these. They will provide a bike and helmet if required and a some tuition.
7. Grab a ride in a team car. Not bothered really. I have followed races I have helped organise in a car. This is not the same as being in a team support car of course. If the chance came along I’d take it.
8. Get 50 people into cycling. I think I have got one or two people into cycling perhaps over the years. I’d always encourage people if and when the opportunity presents itself and offer what advice I could.
9. Ride with your kids. Haven’t got any. However, I have ridden with other peoples kids including nephews. None of them as far as I know have taken it up subsequently!
10. Watch a cobbled classic. This would be something like the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix. I’d love to do this. How they race as fast as they do over the so-called Hell of the North is simply amazing.
11. Ride a tandem. Done this. In fact we still have our old tandem, a french Motobecane. We did a bit of touring on it in the 1980s, once memorably in France when the forks sheared just below the crown as we pulled up at St Malo for the ferry home. We had spent the previous two weeks hurtling up and down the Brittany hills and the steep descents into small fishing villages and harbours, fully laden with all our camping gear. So things could have been a lot worse. These days Julia prefers to be on her solo. You need a lot of faith in your pilot if you’re the stoker with no steering or brakes. I will probably do a post here on the joys and tribulations of tandem riding.
12. Do a big cycling ‘do’. Maybe one day, but not a priority. This seems to mean one of the big charity dos when top celeb racing cyclists come along. One I might go to in due course is the David Rayner Dinner which usually has a line up of top pros in attendance. This year these included Ben Swift, Ian Stannard, Russ Downing and guest of honour Sean Kelly, one of the greatest road sprinters and classics riders ever. David Rayner was a promising young professional Yorkshire who died at the age of 27. The charity raises funds to support new up-and-coming riders.
13. Watch the Tour de France, French style. I’ve done this on a number of occasions and can recommend it. I’ve not yet been on the roadside at a big mountain stage and this is something I still hope to do. However, I have seen it pass through several towns and villages and the final stage on the Champs Elysée. Like so many things, watching it on TV diminishes the atmosphere and the spectacle, the whole sense of occasion. Having said that, you see far more on TV than by the road side! The ideal is to watch it in a road side tabac or bar in a town it is coming through, pop out to see it passing, and go back into the bar to continue the argument with the locals.
14. Sprint down the Champs Elysée. I’ve ridden down it a few times but never sprinted it. Not that there would be much difference.
15. Join a cycling club. Needless to say, I’ve done this many, many times (as Bea Clissold (Betty Marsden) would say). The whys and wherefores of joining a club will be the topic of more than one forthcoming post I’m sure. Whether you should join a club or not all depends. But one thing is for sure. Social riding with mates is hard to beat. And there is safety in numbers!
16. Go on a training camp. I quite fancy this. When me and my mates of the Tooting Bicycle Club used to get destroyed in early season road races, the teams that thrashed us and left us for dead were often bronzed and whippet like from a couple of weeks March training in Majorca. Worth it just for the weather, even without your bike.
17. Meet Eddy Merckx. Never done this although I’ve seen him at a distance. I wouldn’t set out to avoid the bloke but not a priority. I’d rather meet Barry Hoban. A contemporary of Tom Simpson, I once saw him riding up the long drag on the Stanningley Road by the fire station on a lone break on a stage of the Tour of Britain. I think he was on his way to a win at Odsal Top. I’m not sure what year it was, sometime in the late 70s I think. I was the only spectator on the entire stretch of road! How things have changed. I wonder if he remembers my solitary rather strained and self-conscious ‘allez Barry’?
18. Go cycle touring. Again, done this many,many times and would highly recommend it. Due to lack of spondolicks we nearly always camped and set off without booking anywhere, usually in France. There are stories to be told! If new to this I suggest prebooked B&Bs or hotels, perhaps even one of the organised supported tours with travelling mechanics and a broom wagon. But there’s nothing like winging it for being able to tell the stories.
19. Ride a long distance trail. Done it but it rather depends what you mean by long distance and what you mean by trail. The one we’ve done that probably fits what CW have in mind is the Sustrans’ Sea to Sea route, 140 miles of minor roads, cycle tracks and paths from the West coast to the East coast. I would definitely recommend this and I will probably seek out some more to do when (if?) I get fit enough. The End to End, perhaps, or a nice warm continental route. Actually I quite fancy doing the Sea to Sea again. But I won’t be doing any long rides off road I don’t think. Too much like hard work, too hard on the bike, and too hard on your bum.
20. Race. Many, many, many times. In fact I’m even thinking of doing the odd time trial again sometime in the next year or two. I’m not sure I would recommend road racing to a late comer to cycling. My feeling is that it is something to start quite young even though you can carry on doing it well into your dotage. Feel free to disagree. I’m sure there are examples of late comers surviving and enjoying it. But I’m thinking of the hundreds of hours and thousands of miles I did in close company club riding in various states of exhaustion before taking to the hurly-burly of bunched racing or the track. Time trialling is a different matter though. You tend to fall off all by yourself.
21. Ride a hundred miles in a day. Why not? What’s the problem? But of course I do now know what the problem is as someone who can these days barely average 10 miles an hour on a bike for 40 minutes. As a youngster I used to cycle to Brighton and back from London with the club setting off at 8.00am on a Sunday morning and getting home for 3.00pm in the afternoon, averaging about 15 miles an hour on the move. When out training we used to ride tempo at 20mph (‘evens’) for hours at a time. Today I find 100 miles an unimaginable distance. But who knows what the future may bring.
22. Ride as many hills from the 100 Greatest Climbs book as you can. Why not? But not for me. I don’t have the mentality to be the cycling equivalent of a Monroe bagger. I wouldn’t mind collecting a few Pyrannean and Alpine cols one day though.
23. Ride with a pro. Done that. Brian Robinson (the first Britain, actually a Yorkshireman like Hoban, to finish the Tour de France and win a stage) and other pros used to ride at Crystal Palace circuit on a Tuesday evening in the handicap events. The juniors on their 86″ top gears would set of first followed at intervals by the 3rd cat, 2nd cat and 1st cat seniors, the independents (semi-pros) and finally the professionals. The circuit was about 2 miles long and all the groups were off before the juniors appeared again twiddling their nuts off. After about 2 or 3 laps the whole bunch of about 160 riders were altogether screaming down the Annerley ramp at 50 mph, fast, downhill and slightly banked. In among this lot were the juniors, legs a-blurr in their restricted top gear and barely in control, and the inexperienced 3rd cat riders nervously twitching and braking in a thunderous sea of whirling wheels, thrashing thighs and elbows. Little wonder Crystal Palace was referred to as the bloodbath. When I say I rode with professionals what I really mean of course is I saw them flash by and into the distance to safer and more profitable terrain.
24. Ride on tubs. Done that. Tubs are tubular racing tyres, The flimsy inner tube is completely enclosed in the tyre which has a base tape around its inner circumference. This is attached to a rim designed to take it (a sprint rim) with glue (tub cement). Sounds crude but makes for very fast light wheels. Typical tyre pressures can be over 100 lbs per square inch depending on conditions. Probably the best tubular tyre for racing in a velodrome is the Olympic Tubular made by Continental. These can be pumped up to 217 lbs per square inch (if you’ve got Chris Hoy’s arm muscles) and currently cost about £200. Problems can occur with blow outs and tyres rolling off rims, sometimes due to excessive heat or incorrect gluing. Either way it can be noisy and bloody. Clinchers, what we used to call wired-ons, are so much lighter and stronger than they used to be they can now be used for training and even racing. But for maximum performance tubs can make an appreciable difference.
25. Buy a piece of cycling memorabilia. I’m getting bored now. Don’t bother.
26. Learn to ride a unicycle. Why?
I’d be interested to hear any items you would have on a cycling bucket list. Feel free to comment!