Luckily it turned out well in the end !

For a few weeks now I’ve been planning to ride the Aylesbury Tour de Vale ride. I booked up thinking it’d be a fun ride, way before I signed up for RideLondon100.

A couple of weeks ago it dawned on me that it would probably make a really good “test run”, for RideLondon100 if I rode the 55 mile Tour de Vale route.

Over the past ten days, everything has seemed to conspire against me. The weather rained hard when I should have been out training, or I arrived home late from work and didn’t get to go training. Then a bunch of other things happened. It seemed all these things were attempting to prevent me even getting to the event.
My front derailleur cable frayed and split, no-where had shoes my size in stock and sitting on my saddle was about a pleasant an experience, as a fox licking something very nasty off a wire brush.

I kind of expected the shoe incident, it’s been a real them to my life and I guess it’s par for the course when you’re looking for size 12 or 13 shoes. For some bizarre reason footware manufacturers simply think that either people with large feet have all the same taste in shoes, or we’re going to smile whilst we cram our feet into shoes that are too small for us !! Totally bonkers. If that wasn’t bad enough footware retailers seem to just shake their heads and say something like “we’ll have another delivery at the end of the week, pop in then !”
When you’ve heard that as often as I have you just think, just admit you don’t stock my size and spare me the sales garb…..

You can spend hours looking online, hoping one retailer or another has some shoes in their warehouse. Everyone was saying “in stock for delivery in 1-2 days”. Which is kind of the same thing as we don’t stock them in your size stupid !!
At last I found a couple of places but one was quite expensive. £150 for a pair of shoes that might not fit and I may not get on with. In my opinion not a good choice.
muddy-fox-cycle-shoeIf you’ve never handled race bike shoes you may not know that these race bike shoes have little holes in the bottom. Into these holes you screw cleats, which clip into your pedals. It’s something I’ve never tried out before, but always wanted to.
I didn’t want to go for expensive shoes in case I didn’t get on with having my feet clipped to the pedals. After three frantic sessions of internet browsing and total confusion, I opted for a cheap pair of race bike shoes from Sports Direct.
I was hoping that if I didn’t get on with the pedal clips it’s not be too much money wasted.
(sorry about the minor rant regarding shoe shops !!)

As if that wasn’t enough to put up with the new saddle (see previous post) was so uncomfortable it was untrue.
I sat on my new saddle just stationery and knew immediately that my bum was objecting to the new ride. Massive frustration, what to do now ??
I then remembered that my mountain bike was pretty comfortable and decided to make my Trek bike into a mongrel and add a Specialized saddle, rather than stick with Trek’s parts company.

The guys in the specialized store in Ruislip were great and looked after me really well. They measured me up and advised which saddle they’d recommend and why. I think I asked them “why not this saddle” about ten times

specialized_toupe_comp_gel_saddleWhat was surprising was they didn’t have a paltry one or two saddles in large sizes, they had pretty much every model in a large. Not really very surprising that I needed a large saddle size, when my bike is the largest frame size they make !
They patiently explained that comfort came from the shape not necessarily from the volume of gel foam coating the saddle.

I made a choice and left the shop. After putting this saddle on my bike I knew it was going to be better. At least now I could sit stationery on my bike without my bum moaning about comfort ( or the lack of ).

Lastly on the day before the ride I noticed my front derailleur cable was frayed. I rand Tring bike shop as I knew they were a Trek stockist and they agreed to fit a new cable for me. Not knowing when they’d get a chance to do it, (short notice) I left the bike with them.
Whilst I was in another store a few shop along the road they fixed my bike. What great service !
It was so much better.
I had noticed the gears had been a bit sloppy last time I rode my bike.
Not having much experience with Shimano 105 shifters (gear change levers), I thought it may have been operator error. However after the bike shop in Tring had tweaked everything it was really crisp.

I was so busy on the saturday before my ride that I didn’t get a chance to test out my new shoes and pedal clips. I was faced with the reality of a 55 mile ride with a new saddle , new shoes and pedal clips I’d never worn before. I was a bit scared.
So many people had said the first few times you ride with pedal clips, you’ll fall off at some point, because your feet are stuck to the pedals, you’ll overbalance and fall the side that you’ve not unclipped.
I didn’t like the prospect of falling over on a nice had bit of tarmac, probably somewhere that lots of gravel, rough bits of roadstone or windscreen glass has collected, just to add to my miserable impact!

Luckily on the one occasion I nearly toppled I managed to regain my balance, other than that, the biggest issue was clipping my foot back in, which I gradually got the hang of as time went past.

tour-de-vale-route-8-6-14-55-mileOverall the ride was a big success, however during the last quarter of the ride I was faced with another massive hill near waddesdon. By then I was so tired I don’t know how I climbed up it !
I was really pleased to finally realise that I was approaching Aylesbury. With a burst of energy I sailed back towards my house and onwards to Stoke Mandeville stadium where we had began our ride.

I’m pleased to say that although I forgot to take any food with me, just my jelly babies and sports drinks – I wasn’t too tired when I got back home.

I’m not at all sure how I’ll cope with riding nearly twice that distance though !
My only hope is that there are way more flat (or flattish) sections to the 100 mile ride, than there were in this 55 mile ride. I know I live in the Chiltern Hills, but I seemed to have rode up more hills than you could shake an energy drink at !

I learnt so many great things on that ride, that I will hopefully be able to take forward to my 100 mile ride.
These included thoughts like don’t get stuck behind a chatterbox, choose very carefully who you use as a pacemaker (you don’t want a snail or a greyhound), watch out for the twits who insist on riding three wide and shouting all manner of things like “slowing” or “on the right” and lastly take a snack with you !!

You’ll be pleased to know that aside from a bit of knee ache I was totally fine the following day after my 55 mile ride.

Please support me by liking my facebook page and also considering making a donation to Teenage Cancer Trust !

Together we really can make a difference to the lives of so many people who need our help

Thank you

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