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Friday 22nd February 2013


PH BLOG: PEDAL POWER

Can't drive, can ride - Dan attempts to pedal away the winter blues


Adapt and survive! That's the only mantra one can live by, with or without a licence and in the absence of the latter I've needed to find new ways to enjoy the traditional B-road blast. And, dammit, if that means doing it under my own steam so be it!

Flying PH colours, even on a push bike
Flying PH colours, even on a push bike
Man maths dictates that the approach to any problem is to throw money at it, regardless of whether there's enough to go around, and so, while the Mazda hibernates, I've splashed some cash on a slick-shod, carbon-chassised Trek Madone road bike. One that cost more than twice as much as the Eunos, fiscal denial the only part of money-related arithmetic I've ever excelled at.

I've no intention of inviting a cars versus bikes debate and have never seen a love of both as anything strange. And as you can see, such a thing as a PH cycling jersey proves the point that I'm not the only one. But the view of your typical B-road from the saddle of one of these things is a real education. And though I'm missing my driving you might be surprised how exciting an early morning hoon can be, even with pedal power rather than horsepower.

Superbike riders ditch engines for pedals
Superbike riders ditch engines for pedals
For one thing it's made me a hell of a lot more aware of road surfaces and the variance of grip different types, conditions and even times of the day can offer. At 40mph+ on 120psi slicks with a contact patch smaller than a postage stamp your relationship with the tarmac is an intimate one, the Madone's unforgivingly stiff carbon frame taking feedback to a new level. A run-flat equipped Mini is a Rolls-Royce in comparison but the pay-off is an astounding turn of speed when you've got the legs for it. And a full tank of porridge is cheaper than the same of unleaded.

Powered or not, anyone on two wheels has to have more awareness of this than your average car driver, but from a fast-moving road bike a stretch of road that'd be dull as ditchwater in a car can be anything but. Plenty in the motorsport world are keen cyclists too, Mark Webber well-known for his biking (and typically forthright about doping and Lance Armstrong) and, only yesterday, the World Superbike riders lapping Phillip Island on their push bikes ahead of the weekend's opening round.

Light bike, even lighter wallet as a result
Light bike, even lighter wallet as a result
I can't wait to apply this new-found appreciation of grip and slip to my driving too, my mental encyclopaedia of local roads now increased in its level of detail tenfold at least. There's not much fun to be had on busy A-roads either so the need to discover the road less travelled means I've got miles of new routes filed away in my head and ready to enjoy when I get back behind the wheel.

Me on a bike wouldn't necessarily want to meet me in a car coming the other way but I can only do one or the other so that's alright! I jest of course; as on powered two-wheelers your vulnerability means heightened observation, anticipation, road sense and awareness are other essential skills that will be equally useful behind the wheel.

There are moments in the saddle when I do crave a bit more pace, the Nissan GT-R that flashed by me in a flurry of redlined upshifts as I chased another MAMIL up Whipsnade's Bison Hill putting me in mind of Toad from Wind In The Willows and his dazed 'poop poop!' when buzzed by one of those infernal motor cars. Yep, I admit it, I'd have readily swapped seats for that one.

Track days not quite the same at the moment
Track days not quite the same at the moment
And experiencing a track day at Bedford from the passenger seat was a little emotionally challenging, my determination to ride home ending in the navigational ignominy of miles in the wrong direction and pedalling round Milton Keynes in search of the station and salvation. Roundabouts and tracks are definitely more fun in a car, unsurprisingly enough.

So I can't wait to get back in the driver's seat. But I'm learning a lot from not being in it and it's not all bad. And if you see a bloke riding a bike in a PH jersey and you've got a tasty sounding car don't be shy of blipping a downshift or two and nailing it past. You'll have an appreciative audience.

Dan

 

 

 

Author: Dan Trent
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