I write this nearly 5 months after the last post and there is much to report. I am now 12 stone 5 lbs (much less than the 13 stone target which I hit in March) but this is due to a stay in hospital. All will be revealed in due course. A week after my first outing on my new mountain bike on December 1st last year I was invited to join the inaugural MTB group ride of the Airedale Olympic Cycling Club on Sunday 7th December. This was about 10 miles starting at Apperley Bridge, along the canal to just short of Rodley, over the pack horse bridge and though the woods back to Apperley Bridge before taking bridle ways and cycle tracks to Esholt and eventually back to the start along the canal again. I was pleased to keep up and enjoyed the trip very much.
As the first months of the year passed by I gradually got back on my hybrid and began to build a modest mileage with a view to riding the 48 mile Lincoln Arrow sportive at the end of May. All was going well until I decided, on the 14th April, to repeat the mountain bike route I had done with the AOCC last December. On the track running parallel with the railway alongside the water works I hit a patch of deep mud, came to a sudden full stop and somersaulted over the handlebars, landing on my back. I got up, felt OK, and carried on with the ride. What I did not realise is that I had ruptured my left kidney by landing on the water bottle in the rucksack on my back. I had a slight twinge when I went to bed that night but found I was weeing blood the next morning. To cut a long story short I was admitted the the Bradford Royal Infirmary on Wednesday and spent the next 9 days there. The damage was severe, a 4 on a scale of 1 to 5 for damage, and when I left to go home I had a kidney stent and strict instructions not to cycle or play racketball until the stent came out. This would happen when the kidney was fully repaired, sometime between August and October. As it happens progress has been much speedier and the stent should be out before the end of June.
I also came home weighing 12 stone 5 lb, a loss of 1 lb a day while I was in the BRI. This is mostly fat but some muscle loss too which I am much more worried about. I’ve decided to keep my weight under 12 stone 7 lb (the weight I was when I met Julia in 1973!) until I can start riding, playing and training again, and try to get back up to near 13 stone by putting on some muscle. Apart from some scar tissue the damaged kidney should regain most of the 25% damage and get back to over 95% function. It’s been a bummer as I had to miss two funerals of close family members, pull out of the Lincoln Arrow and a number of racketball tournaments including the NE Counties Championships and also a week’s cycle touring on Islay.Still, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger or, in my case, thinner. The lesson to be learnt here is not to carry hard objects on your back while you’re cycling.
I have posted this here retrospectively (May 28th 2015) as I forgot to do it at the time. This is copied from the post I did on Facebook at the time.
Went out with the Airedale Olympic Cycling Club on an 11 mile mountain bike ride today. There were 6 of us altogether with me bringing up the rear. I’d not met them before but they invited me to join them via Facebook. They were very friendly and made me very welcome. I was amused when I found the young woman that accompanied me most of the time was the club Welfare Officer! I thanked her for her pains by accidentally knocking her off when I hit a large boulder and stalled right in front of her. The pace was brisk at times, especially as it was quite windy. I was last through obstacles and crossing roads so spent a fair bit of time catching up but someone always hung back if necessary to make sure I could see where the route changed. I was familiar with most of it as I’ve been walking these tracks for several years now so there was never any fear of getting lost. I dealt with the slippery and muddy conditions OK and only opted out of one rather technical detour more through tiredness than being particularly concerned about the difficulty. Two of us stayed on the bottom track while the rest took to the hills in Jerrison Wood and we all met up again at Esholt. I got home feeling quite shattered but pleased I had managed OK. I’ve not done as much cycling this last year as I’d hoped (more walking and racketball) but I will start doing a it more now, probably mostly mountain biking through the winter but in the new year I may start going on the club’s social rides on Saturday mornings on the roads. These are between 30 and 40 miles so I’ll need to check on each route before I decide. Then later in the year I hope to go on the Leeds Cycling Campaign’s Sunday intermediate rides as these are about the same length I think. By picking appropriate rides from these two schedules I hope to able to do one decent ride every weekend.
Construction of single track mountain bike route in Buck Wood.
I had my first ride on my mountain bike yesterday morning, about an hour and 20 minutes total on a route through Calverley Woods and then along the canal to Shipley and back on the road. The wooded section was the hardest with very muddy climbs and descents and leaves covering tree roots and rocks. After several days heavy rain the ground in the woods was soaked and very muddy in areas. One difficulty I found is that the thick carpet of dead leaves made the surface look the same pretty well everywhere and covered up the tree roots and rocks. This was probably not the ideal time or place for a novice to have a first ride! I was very pleased with how the tyres and low gears coped with this. It would have been impossible on my hybrid. I didn’t actually fall off but stalled a couple of times in deep mud partly through lack of speed and partly lack of technique and confidence. The section at the bottom of the valley near the river – narrow winding rocky paths through mainly holly bushes – was particular muddy and difficult. After that the tow path to Shipley was doddle and much more stable and comfortable than on the hybrid. The climb on the road up to Thackley was slower than on the hyrbrid, not surprisingly, but no problem given the gearing of the bike. The descent to Greengates was also slower but I still managed 20+ without too much effort. Not really what the bike is built for I guess. Both me and the bike were absolutely blathered in mud – all part of the fun I suppose. I should have given the bike a wash straight away but was too tired and wet so did it this morning. Easy enough with a hose, some bike cleaner and brushes. I left the forks on the intermediate ‘trail’ setting for the ride as I didn’t feel what I did really qualified for the ‘downhill’ setting but I will try all these in due course to see what difference they make. I have begun to look for other routes in my area and it seems I live in a bit of a hotspot for off-road riding. I found this link on the BikeRadar forum with some useful information [Getting off-road in Bradford area]. One of the links goes to a map of a route called the Bingley Bash. Coincidently I was talking to our window cleaner, Darren, who is a keen mountain biker earlier this afternoon and he mentioned most of the places discussed in the forum including the Bingley Bash. Buck Woods and Dawsons Wood are both about 5 minutes ride from home, as is Calverley Woods so it looks like I have plenty to go at. Here is a video showing a group riding some of the Bingley Bash. They seem to great fun falling off and laughing at each other’s misfortune!
Today I collected a new mountain bike, a Giant Talon 0 from Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op in Chapel Allerton Leeds, partly paid for by the very generous collection my work colleagues made for me when I retired just over a year ago. I’ve done some easy off-road stuff on my hybrid bike over the years but it isn’t really suitable when the going gets a bit more rugged and technical so I’ve been thinking of getting a mountain bike for some time. The Talon seemed to be as good a specification as you can get for the money and better than quite a few. Reviews of earlier models suggested that the biggest weakness (and therefore the first candidate for upgrading) was the forks but the 2015 model has the Fox Float EVO CTD (CTD stand for 3 fork settings – climb, trail and descend) which is highly regarded. In fact the price for the forks alone is round £500, about half the RRP for the bike. It is the first bike I have had with disc brakes and the gears seem ridiculously low to a roady but I’m sure I’ll need them! Bottom gear seems to be 18 inches! For the full range of gears see the link below.
I’ve been invited out for a ride round Calverley Woods and the general area by a group of riders from the Airedale Olympic Cycling Club on Sunday December 7th who I contacted for advice on Facebook. I must admit to being rather nervous about this but I will go and at least introduce myself and see how far I get. The ride will be from Apperley Bridge will also take in the Canal to Rodley – Cragg Wood – Nunn Wood to Esholt – and back up onto the canal and take about one and a half hours. I’ll take my bike into Calverly Woods in the next day or two and see what it feels like. This video of a ride there does not fill me with confidence!
Many years ago (about 50 years) I rode a couple of seasons of cyclo-cross, cross-country racing (rather like the running version) on basically road bikes with lower gears, knobbly tubular tyres and a bit of old inner tube tied across the angle of the frame in front of the saddle to make the bike more comfortable on your shoulder when you had to run with it. The idea of cyclo-cross for riders like me – roadies and trackies – was a bit of fun and keeping fit in the winter. I was a bit heavy for the sport and spent quite a lot of time on my face in the mud with other riders riding over me! This was what decided me to take up squash as a winter sport instead, something I’ve revived recently in the guise of racketball. It will be interesting to see how I take to mountain biking. Although I’ve lost about 4 stone in the last 2 years I’m still pretty heavy and it’ll help when I’ve lost another half stone or so. I want to try out some of the mountain biking centre trails such as those at Dalby Forest but I’m sure there is lots to go at in and around Leeds and Bradford.
For the full set of gears on the bike – 24/38 with 11, 13, 15, 17, 21, 24, 28, 32, 36