“You can see the dags” – my top ten Strava ride names

Let’s face it cyclists aren’t a very creative bunch. Or certainly not if the names they give their rides on Strava are anything to go by. A quick and dirty tally of my activity feed over the past few days looks something like this…

Morning rides – 9
Lunchtime rides – 5
Afternoon rides – 11
Evening rides – 14
Night rides – 1

Original names are few and far between. There’s one airing the grey matter but given the rider’s a psychologist it’s a tad too obvious. And as for evening pootle and a few hard efforts (you know who you are), you didn’t buy £10k’s worth of carbon fibre racing machinery between you to take it easy for god’s sake! Show some self respect. I think I’d prefer plain old evening ride to those two.

It’s not like we don’t have the time to think up original names. I mean we have enough for drinks stops and cake stops and more cake stops and toilet stops and yet more cake stops. And if we’re riding in a group we’ve got time to talk about stretch lycra, salbutamol, Bradley Wiggins, and to ponder the eternal question: to shave or not to shave. So surely we can spare a few moments to to come up with something that sums up both the ride and our personalities? Here’s my top 10 creatively named rides which if they aren’t on Strava yet damn well should be. Please add yours in the comments box at the end.

  1.  You can see the dags from here
    A ride name that must have originated in the Antipodes where the word dag refers to the dried faeces clinging to the wool on a sheep’s arse. In other words, unshiftable without a 200psi pressure washer  – a bit like grit on a chain. You can see the dags from here is taken to mean that the rider has had such a close encounter of the turd kind (a variant of the name) that he or she could actually count the individual dags. Other variants popular with Northern lad and lasses who do most of their riding on unfenced, upland roads include: smell the lanolin, as in “t’ little feckers were reet close ‘r kid I’ll swear y’ cud smell t’ lanolin;” and lambs to the slaughter aka silence of the lambs where, as the names suggest, the gambol doesn’t pay off, you roll over a hyperactive, day-old ovine and kill it.
  2. Fish in baby oil
    As in, as slippery as a fish in baby oil. I’ll confess this was actually one of my rides. Pride, they say, cometh before a fall and it certainly did in this case. On what would otherwise have been my plain, old evening ride, I attempted to impress two young ladies out walking their dogs, by cycling through the ford barring our collective way, rather than taking the footbridge as they sensibly did. In a splash my tyres lost their grip on the algae-slicked cobbles. I took an early bath. And they had an early laugh.
  3. Up sh!t creek without a pedal
    Water and bikes clearly don’t go together. I lost nothing more than my pride in the preceding ride. This rider clearly lost one half of his drive train. Sh!tty because one tends not to carry spare pedals on most rides. Inner tubes, yes. Tyres even. But pedals, no.
  4. Miner’s lamp
    Pot holes are a pre-occupation (and an occupational hazard) for most UK-based cyclists. Particularly as our dear, non-cycling leader (she prefers walking barefoot through corn fields apparently) is preoccupied with Brexit and not running the country by fixing roads, the NHS, the economy, housing, etc. Such is the scale of the crisis that this and the next two entries are, unapologetically, variations on the state of the roads theme. The Miner’s lamp ride is assumed to draw it’s inspiration from the brass safety lantern, invented by Sir Humphry Davy, carried by miners to illuminate the darkest recesses of the deepest mines. There is, however, a school of thought, which suggests it’s not an ironic reference to the depth of some potholes at all but rather a corruption of “I’m a stupid bugger I went for a night ride minus lamp and had to turn back.”
  5. Speleologist
    Clearly a ride taken by an educated cyclist because speleologist is simply a posh word for a caver – troglodytes who get really worked up if you don’t know the difference between stalactites and stalagmites. Apparently stalactites hang down and you can remember this because they have to hold on tite to the ceiling. Blah, blah, blah. The ride name is widely considered to be another reference to the ridiculous depth of potholes – especially after last winter. But there are some who think it originated from an eye-watering peloton accident where the lead rider braked too hard and the following riders disappeared down a black hole.
  6. Canary
    The state of the roads really must be getting to people because this is the third ride in my current top 10 concerned with potholes. It goes something like this: “if they get much deeper I’ll have to take a canary on my next ride to check for methane.” Like so many rides, there is a possible alternative origin: that the rider was dressed from neck to knee in bright yellow bib shorts and vest and was greeted with the cry “canary” by his fellow riders and sundry motorists. Actually scrub that alternative because, if it was true, the ride would’ve been called Tweety Pie or just plain Twat.
  7. Granny rings
    Not the interpretation you might expect, which is why I’ve chosen this one. Turns out the rider wasn’t in the hills and constantly selecting the small gear or granny ring up front. No, the ride was stop start for a different reason – his actualgranny rings him during the ride to ask if he’s seen grandad who’s got a touch of Alzheimer’s and has gone walkabout yet again. This proves to be a bit of a dilemma for our cycling grandson; does he quit the ride and miss the cake to join the search or hold the phone into the breeze, mumble that it’s a terrible line and that he can barely hear, before making a superhuman effort to get back on? Surely the best solution would be to sign gramps up for Strava, strap that spare mobile to his slippers and follow his perambulations on Live Track?!
  8. Disco inferno
    I’ve a strong suspicion this ride was named by somebody who, like me, grew up in the Seventies. “Burn baby burn it’s a disco inferno” were lyrics from a 1976 hit by an American outfit called The Trammps (yes, with two mms). My hunch is that somebody was grinding up a big hill – definitely not in the granny ring (see above) – and was feeling the lactic acid building up in their legs. You can well imagine their inner voice “ooh the burn baby burn it’s a disco inferno.” Not quite shut up legs but it takes all sorts.
  9. Let them eat cake
    There’s always one ascetic* who sips only water at the stops and sucks on lettuce leaves when everybody else tucks into slices of carrot. Carrot cake that is. He gets back 4kg lighter and 6kg smugger than when he set out and chooses a ride name that really sums up his approach to life, cycling, the Universe. He doesn’t know it (until now) but his fellow riders have an alternative name for the ride that does just that: tosser.
  10. The perfect ten
    If anyone I know calls their ride this, I’ll run them off the road next time I’m on four wheels and they’re on two. Any ride name with the prefix perfect in it almost certainly wasn’t anything of the sort. It’s a sure sign the rider’s straddling something that’s worth close to the price of your house. “I’m telling you (they’re always telling you even if you don’t want to be told) that was a great ride mate. Fantastic wheels those Zipps. And the skin suit, wow, definitely shaved a few seconds of my KoM. I’d say it was the perfect ten.” You want to punch him on the Rudy Project Aero Helmet, but, before you land the first blow, think better of it and instead cycle as fast as you can – without Zipps or a skin suit –  in the opposite direction. With a bit of luck the quick getaway will allow you to steal his KoM. What, I hear you say? The perfect ten?

So you’re on notice: if you don’t at least make an effort to rename your ride I won’t unfollow you but I will withhold that kudos.

*Ascetic (noun) – one who leads a life characterized by severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence.
Synonyms: austere, self-denying, abstinent, abstemious, non-indulgent, self-disciplined, frugal, simple, rigorous, strict, severe, hair-shirt, spartan, monastic, monkish, nunlike, boring (I made this last one up).

Beaufort for Bikers

Calm. The steam from your pre-ride espresso rises vertically.

Today I cycled from Aberdeen to The Lecht ski centre in the Cairngorms and back. Whichever way I pedalled the wind was slapping my face. Which got me thinking about the Beaufort scale.

The scale was devised in 1805 by Francis Beaufort (later Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort), an Irish Royal Navy officer, while serving on HMS Woolwich. Clearly he wasn’t a cyclist. If he was, this is what he’d have written…

0 – Calm. The steam from your pre-ride espresso rises vertically but only because you’re slap bang in the middle of a high pressure system that stretches from Scandanavia to the Bay of Biscay. Night time temperature’s have plummeted to – 12C and the road is covered with 3″ of black ice.

1 – Light air. The drift of bumble bees indicates wind direction which, inevitably, is always directly towards the unzipped neck of your cycling jersey. Other, stingless, insects remain stationary.

2 – Light breeze. Wind felt on exposed skin which is a blessing in summer but leads to chillblains in winter.  Leaves rustle but you think the noise is coming from your chain so you stop pedalling. Wind vanes begin to move – towards you.

3 – Gentle breeze. Leaves and small twigs constantly moving. The dead ones snap off and land in your path. You swerve to avoid a slightly bigger twig just as an articulated lorry starts to overtake you.  The weather beaten flags left up after last year’s poorly-organised sportive are extended.

4 – Moderate breeze. Dust and loose paper raised. The dust gets in your eyes even though you’ve just shelled out £200 for a pair of wraparound, anti-nuclear, eye protectors (formally known as sunglasses). Small branches begin to move but you can’t see them because your eyes are watering so much.

5 – Fresh breeze. Branches of a moderate size move. But you still can’t see them because by now you’ve accidentally rubbed cherry-flavoured energy gel into your eyes in a desperate attempt to get rid of the grit. Small trees in leaf begin to sway. You begin to sway.

6 – Strong breeze. Large branches in motion. You’re in motion. But slower than you’d expect for the effort because, whichever way you head, the wind is always on your nose. Whistling heard in overhead wires and in your helmet. Umbrella use becomes difficult and you begin to wish you’d brought that Gortex cycling onesie instead. Empty plastic bins tip over. You tip over empty plastic bins.

7 – High wind, moderate gale, near gale. Whole trees in motion. You’ve ground to a virtual standstill and dismount to squirt water in your eyes because, while that cherry-flavoured gel tastes lovely, the methadioxydrone, or whatever gives it its taste, stings like hell. Effort needed to see where you’re going.  Effort needed to walk against the wind.

8  – Gale, fresh gale. Some twigs broken from trees. Some spokes broken from wheel. Cars veer on road. Bikes veer on road to avoid veering cars. Progress on foot is seriously impeded so you decide to keep pedalling. Progress on bike is seriously impeded (by twigs and veering cars).

9 – Strong/severe gale. Some branches break off trees, some wheels break off bikes. Some small trees blow over. Some small bikes blow over. You wish you’d still got those stabilisers from back in the day. Construction/temporary signs and barricades blow over but only at the precise moment you’re riding past them.

10 – Storm, whole gale. Trees are broken off or uprooted. Cyclists are broken and upended. Structural damage likely, particularly to the aero carbon frame that you re-mortgaged your house to buy.

11 – Violent storm. Widespread vegetation and structural damage likely. Most of the vegetation ends up in your face. Most of the structural damage is to the most expensive components on your bike. The dérailleur hanger is the only bit that remains unbent.

12 – Storm force. Severe, widespread damage to vegetation and structures. Debris and unsecured objects are hurled about. On the third attempt you finally manage to open the back door to fetch the bike from the shed only to realise that there is no shed. You head back to the house inexplicably humming Somewhere Over the Rainbow from the Wizard of Oz to find the back door has blown shut. You haven’t got a key and there’s nobody else in the house. You utter a string of un-Dorothy-like expletives and sit on the step in your bib shorts cursing while the storm blows itself out.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post please consider donating to my Just Giving page. I’m raising money for Willen Hospice by cycling from Paris to Nice via the Alps. Hopefully not into a headwind!

P.S. You can read about the proper Beaufort scale here and see how spookily similar mine is to the real thing!

T am S y

It is, as headlines go, a little confusing, I’ll grant you that. Certainly not up there with “Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster” which has the simple virtue of telling you all you need to know without having to demean yourself by actually buying a copy of The Sun (wot published it.)

Courtesy The Sun
Courtesy The Sun

And not in the same league as my personal favourite, the Carlisle News and Star’s “Budgie’s Death Now Being Treated As Suspicious” which has the opposite effect and makes you want to take out an annual subscription (at least to the Silloth edition).

Courtesy Carlisle News
Courtesy Carlisle News

No! “T am S y” falls into the cryptic category and as such probably belongs more in the back page crossword puzzle than on a front page headline. The clue is in the gaps. Fill them in with the missing letters and you’ve solved it. Or, if you prefer your clues a little more gnomic, Rupert Murdoch on your bike will give you the same result and also, by a bizarre coincidence,  link the hamster headline with mine.*

Yes, you’ve cracked it: “Team Sky.” Cracked being the operative word because the Team Sky lettering on my very expensive Rapha bib shorts has cracked after just one wash and dry (ahem) cycle. My other pair of even more eye-wateringly expensive shorts haven’t and they were put through the wringer (so to speak) in several ride through laundromats on my epic trip across America. 

I didn’t notice Chris Froome sporting   am Sk  kit as he showed the competition a clean pair of cleats on his way up to the summit finish on La Pierre Saint-Martin. I didn’t see the motorcyclist cameraman getting an arse shot of Richie Porte’s shorts with  “2 s Cent  y Fo ” emblazened across them.

bib shorts
Courtesy my tumble drier (on sportswear mode)

All of which leads me to conclude that Team Sky and Rapha are fobbing off us amateur riders with second rate kit.

Or to put it another way: “Team Sky’s Bib Shorts Are Pants.”

If I want to wear something that needs mollycoddling in the laundry department I’ll buy a G string woven from unicorn fur thank you very much. Cycle wear is going to get sweaty. Fact. And as such it’s going get whanged in the washing machine and tossed in the tumble drier. So make them more durable please. Either that or persuade the boffins at Bosch to design a cycle cycle on the next generation of washers. At least then I’ll be able to freshen up the G string and the bib shorts in the same load.

*Rupert Murdoch’s companies have stakes in both The Sun and Team Sky.

By the way, if you’ve enjoyed reading this and you’ve got a few bob to spare I’m riding from Paris to Nice in a few weeks time to raise money for Willen Hospice. You can donate safely and securely via my Just Giving page. Thank you.

Hairy legs and all

To shave or not to shave, that is the question (with apologies to Wm Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet).

It was always going to happen. In all honesty I’m surprised I’ve lasted a whole year. But it’s time I came out of the closet. Or rather it’s time I came out of my wife’s closet. You see I’ve been in there casting lascivious looks at her hair removal mousse more than a real man really should.

It all started with a trip to the loo at the start of a cycling event last summer. I know a true gentleman is supposed to stare nonchalantly ahead in such circumstances. But I couldn’t help myself. A furtive glance left revealed the smoothest pair I’d ever seen. To the right it was a similar picture. If anything they were smoother still. Silky, in fact.

I looked down, despondent. Mine, by comparison, were hairier than Lemmy from Motorhead. I decided there and then that I wanted  to look like the other boys.

Trouble is I wasn’t sure how to go about it.  Mousse, wax, razor, tweezers, sandpaper? Wax I ruled out for two reasons: one, that it hurt like hell when I tested a sample patch with the molten bit from the top of a candle; two, that I wasn’t sure I could trust myself not to “rise to the occasion” whilst having hot towels or whatever they use flicked dangerously close to my proverbial nether regions at the local beauty salon (assuming they’d even have let me through the door in Lycra). A wet shave I discounted on account of the fact that if I’m as careless as I am with my face some morning’s there wouldn’t be a bog roll long enough to staunch the arterial flow. My electric shaver struggles with a five o clock shadow like an old car with a flat battery on a winter day so I was certain it couldn’t slice through hair that’d been growing continuously since puberty (for the record at least 40 years). And if my Braun man tool wasn’t up to the job then I wagered the good lady’s Ladyshave wouldn’t cut it either. So that was out too. Along with the tweezers which, I concluded, would’ve taken far too long and, though I’d never plucked anything other than a guitar string and a chicken, would almost certainly cause my eyes to water more than a bit. Same thought process applied to the sandpaper. All of which left the mousse as the only viable option.

That was a year ago and I’ve yet to do it. I’m still not like the other boys. A point brought into sharp relief in the gents at the start of the Autumn Epic in Knighton last Sunday. So now, to misquote Shakespeare for a second time, I have to screw my courage to the sticking place, unscrew the lid and give it a go. I’ll keep you posted on progress.

Incidentally, if you’re more interested in riding than hearing about hair then I’d thoroughly recommend the Autumn Epic. I managed the 95 mile course in about 6 hours 15 minutes (6′ 30″ with two feed stations stops). Next year I’ll be going much quicker. Less wind resistance!