PH Blog: pedal power

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.





Comments (76) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Burrow01 01 Mar 2013

    They had a round of the Canada Cup Downhill Championship at Fernie Ski Resort when I arrived one year (in the summer smile ) and the speed trap record was 72 kph if I recall correctly

  • LanceRS 01 Mar 2013

    Great article, i am guessing that there are many PHers out there who started cycling at a time in their youth when it was as close as they could get to driving. There is still that sense of freedom and escape that a decent drive gives you.
    Still enjoying it, although the older i get the less inclined i am to take the risks i used to. The road/track/tree/other solid object looks like it will hurt more than it used to!
    On the subject of speed achievable. My record is 56mph on a road bike several years ago down a slight decent on a dual carriageway. Legs going too fast having run out of gears and very unstable.

  • AndrewO 26 Feb 2013

    I use to road cycle in the peak district, would regularly get into the 50s. Slip streaming lorrys would take me up to about 55mph, all good fun when your young and incident free.

  • Gizmoish 26 Feb 2013

    upsidedownmark said:
    pablo said:
    60 mph on a fire road is still impossible without a massive gear or a massive drop, even descending the big cols of le tour, the pros are only managing 50-55 mph and thats on skinny tyres in an aero tuck position which far exceeds anything you can attain on an mtb.

    There is no fire road from my experience in the UK which is steep enough to get you up to a gravity assisted 60 mph. You would need the reactions of a ninja to stay upright at that speed too.

    I've ridden a few trails/fire roads in the lakes which are quite wide and open but you can still only get to about 35 mph before having to brake for a corner or you spin out and have to just tuck in and hold on. The DH races these days are more technical than those in the past that I remember, back then they used fire roads with only a few sections of singletrack, now the courses seem to be tighter, narrower and feature more man made obstacles so speeds are lower? possibly.... not sure!.... wink
    I'm not convinced it's likely, but it's not impossible. As to the roadies / le tour, I think you'll find a bit higher than that. Sure I saw someone clocked at 120kph last year, and from what I recall, pantani at 79mph on the way down tourmalet some years ago.
    Pantani went up Tourmalet at 79mph a few years ago. hehe

    Someone better than me at maths could calculate the exact slope that would be necessary to freewheel a 100kg combination of Bike + Billy Big Balls Bullsh!tter (wiki says CdA 0.7) at 60mph - and the maths would assume a perfectly smooth surface...

  • 0836whimper 26 Feb 2013

    Yeah, and a roadbike can go 110+.

    But we don't regularly do that on an evening after work..

View all comments in the forums Make a comment